Cider Press Hill

Happy New Year

Thursday, 5:09 pm

By Kate




clear night

I hope that you all have had a wonderful holiday season this year. And my finest wishes for a good 2009.

Life in my little house has been relaxed and most pleasurable this holiday. It was a little topsy-turvy at first, but all turned out nicely. We’re cozy and warm and well-fed. The lad received a few cookbooks for Christmas and he has been practicing on me. Just an unfortunate learning experience or two along the way, but in the main, oh my. Last night, for example, he made me steak marsala and it was to die for. The night before it was rosemary chicken with a honey/balsamic vinegar glaze with horseradished potatoes. Horseradish in potatoes, you say? delicious. I shall regret sending him back to school. Meal times are just too much fun. Having someone cook for me is simply a luxury beyond measure.

Does anyone have any New Year Resolutions? I used to have a long list of them every year, but learned that a long list was unrealistic. The only thing it was good for was to make me feel terrible when I didn’t achieve most of them. So, I’ve scaled it back significantly. In terms of blog resolutions, I think just one—try to blog more often. In fact, I will try to post every single day in January. Not sure how well that will pan out, but if I get through January, then I’ll tackle February.

The one resolution that I made in 2008 turned out well. It was simple—read at least one book a week. I used to be a voracious reader. Somewhere along the line, that stopped and it was a good year when I read a half a dozen books. I think there were a couple of years in there were I was doing well to read 2 books. I think part of that was because the public library is in the most inconvenient spot on earth. Otherwise, books have grown rather expensive over the years and I can’t afford to walk into my favorite bookstore to get ONE book and walk out with an armful every month. I have a lack of discipline when it comes to buying books. Best to stay out of the bookstore, which I did. Plus...I didn’t have any more room to store books. I still have boxes and boxes and boxes full of them in the attic.

Well, in May, I decided to purchase an Amazon Kindle e-reader with the whispernet mobile technology that allows me to download books wirelessly from Amazon and a couple of other places that offer free public domain books. I wasn’t sure that would be a whole lot better than walking into a bookstore, but at least it solved a couple of problems—no more piles of books scattered all over the house and no need to lug a book or two along with me wherever I go. Oh, and I could get a book the second I wanted it. Instant gratification is lovely, especially after the waiting lists at the library, which often extended beyond 4 weeks.

This has worked out very well for me. I now have a growing library contained in this little device and it goes with me wherever I go. It’s amazing how much reading I can get done standing in line waiting. Since last May, I’ve acquired 73 e-books from Amazon and 33 free public domain books. The total book cost involved for the last 8 months has been $227 for 106 books, which makes the average cost per book about $2.15. Not bad. And, of those 106 books, I have read 31 of them. Plus another 9 that I checked out of the library.

So, for the last 8 months, I’ve read 40 books and that comes out to about 5 books per month which is slightly more than 1 book per week. I still didn’t quite meet my 2008 New Year’s Resolution for the year, but I came pretty darned close. I should exceed it this year.

The best part is that I am reading voraciously again. And I’m reading authors I might never have discovered. 2008 has been an absolute feast.


Life is fluid

Sunday, 2:16 pm

By Kate




heavy snow

Last night came close to being a calamity. Or less hysterically and more proverbially, it just delivered a bowl of sour lemons and well, we made some of the most delicious lemonade. And less cryptically, The Dad pitched a whiny fit over the phone into the lad’s ear and begged him to please come to his house for Christmas because the lad is almost grown up and he’s hardly ever had a real Christmas with him. It was up to him to decide.

The lad chewed on that, or stewed over it, for an hour or so before he came to me with the news. He was rather upset. He felt as if he was being placed in the middle of a dispute whereby, whichever choice he made, he was going to break someone’s heart and he was just miserable over it.

My immediate response was to flip out. I was so angry I would have pole axed the man if he’d been within reach. But, being so angry was not helpful and it just made the lad feel worse and I quickly zipped it and told him I needed to leave the house for a little while to clear my mind and think it through. I told him it wasn’t his fault and I wasn’t angry with him and we’d fix it.

So, I got in the car and ran a few errands and got a cup of coffee and sat and thought. Sorted my feelings out.

1. Yes, I was so angry I could taste bile.
2. Yes, it was a shitty thing to dump in our lap five days before Christmas after all plans had been made and agreed to.
3. Yes, he has a point. He hasn’t spent a Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with the lad in many years. This is something we should have addressed a lot sooner. I’m not sure I’d have agreed. That made me feel small.
4. It was decidedly wrong to ask the lad to make the choice rather than talk it over with me. Like...maybe a month ago, at least.
5. I’d still like to pole axe him.
6. How do I turn it around so that we all get what we want?
7. Bastid.
8. See #6.
9. Why am I so attached to the date of December 25th? Hum… I don’t really think I am, actually. Double hummmm....
10. Okay, he’s going to his Dad’s house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and, if I’m correct in assessing motives, this is going to both please and annoy The Dad.
11. Okay, the annoy part isn’t as satisfying as pole axing him, but it’ll do in a pinch.
12. Mainly, the lad doesn’t have to choose between us and that’s the most important thing. Some day in the not too distant future he will make choices about holidays and who, if anyone, he spends them with. But not in this way.

I returned home and found the lad pacing miserably.

“You’re going to your Dad’s house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. You don’t have to make that choice, sweetie. It’s okay. He hasn’t had that pleasure in a lot of years and I know that I’d hate it. I don’t like the way this has been done, but let’s do what we do best...something different. It’s the Solstice Eve and tomorrow is the Solstice. What the hell? Why not?”

To say that the lad was surprised might be an understatement. Also relieved. And instantly happy. And suddenly really into the impromptu preparations. Except…

“But I haven’t done my Christmas shopping yet. I don’t have anything to give you.”

“That’s okay. It’s more fun to watch you open stuff. But if you feel the need....gimme Amazon gift certificates. I have a serious Kindle addiction to feed.”

Instant smiles. Can do. Not a problem. He scurried off to consult his laptop.

“I hope your Dad and I don’t give duplicate gifts this year,” I said when he returned.

“Well,” the lad said, “I know that he’s giving me an iPod.”

I think I started banging my head against the wall....

“No way,” he said, “you’re kidding, right? O man, that’s rough.”

“What kind?” I asked.

“Just a basic iPod,” he said.

I made a snarky sound and my eyes glittered. Oh they did. I’m not proud of it, but man did my eyes glitter. Evilly.

“I have nothing wrapped,” I said. “But let’s be green. Who needs wrapping paper, anyway? Wanna open a couple of things tonight?”

Cool. He sat down on the sofa and waited while I dug around in my closet. He closed his eyes and held out his hands...rather widely apart. “Put your hands a little closer together. It’s not that big a box.”

He laughed and I put a small card into his hands. An iTunes gift card. He whooped.

He closed his eyes again and put his hands close together. “A little farther apart this time. It’s a bigger box,” I said.

I placed a small box in his hands. He opened his eyes and turned it over several times. Nothing on it to suggest what was inside, though he knew.

Out came an iPod Touch. Huge whoop.

“Turn it over, sweetie. It’s engraved. I tried to keep the mush factor to a minimum.”

Just a simple “Merry Christmas! I love you, Mom.” Nothing too embarrassing.

And that was it for the Solstice Eve shindig. We played with the iPod for quite a while. Just an amazing gadget and I SO want one now.

“Should I tell Dad that I got an iPod Touch?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so. Don’t spoil it for him. It doesn’t hurt to have a spare, you know? This is our secret.”

This morning we got up early and made a huge breakfast with enough coffee to float a battleship. We played Christmas music and some appropriate Jethro Tull (Ring out, Solstice Bells). The snow started falling again. We made a crackling fire and finally settled down to open more stuff. And we had a blast. Different is not a bad thing. No matter how old they get, it’s still all about the kids. I loved watching the expressions that played across his face. I love cooking with him. I love picking music with him. I love listening to his stories. Well...I just love him. And having a good time with him.

We did fine. The Dad will have his day, too. And he was very surprised this morning when he learned what we’d done. It wasn’t what he expected. He wondered what the lad received and there was no mention of an iPod Touch. The lad winked at me as he left that off the list. Now he’s playing with his new toys and the Dad told me that he very much appreciates my decision. And incidentally, there were no other duplicate gifts. I did point out that it would have been a lot kinder if he had talked with me first without laying that load on the lad. Being asked to choose between parents is a hard thing and it just about tore the lad to pieces. Just not very cool. He was quiet about that, but maybe he gets it now. Dunno. But, it all worked out and I believe that we all have gained what we wanted...or needed.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, 1:39 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

The apple pie is cooling on the counter (and smells delicious) and the banana bread is in the oven. The carrots are just beginning to steam—they will end up buttered and dilled. Then, long about 3:00, I’ll be heading out to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m hoping not to embarrass myself too badly with the banana bread. It’s rather experimental. Somewhere along the line, over the last year, I loaned out my bread loaf pan and it never came home. So, my options for banana bread were a regular 8x8x2 inch dish or a new and untried pan with 8 individual sized loaves. I opted for the 8 individual loaves. Dunno how they’ll turn out. It’s kind of risky to try something brand new for Thanksgiving dinner. But whatever. It’s real banana bread with real bananas and it already smells utterly ambrosial.

From what I hear, the turkey is rounding the last half hour lap, the gravy is almost done, and the potatoes are about to go on the fire. We did all the prep work last night, so it was a pretty easy meal to put together today. Sounds as if I have enough time to get cleaned up and presentable. I’m a messy cook. Just glanced at myself in the mirror and I’m wearing a lot of flour....

Interesting observation: The grocery store was cashing in on last minute Thanksgiving shopping yesterday. They charged $6 for a five pound bag of potatoes. That’s double the normal price. People were not pleased. Gotta wonder what possessed them to do that.

Anyway. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating. There are a lot of things in the news these days that make one nervous about the future and there are certainly those who truly don’t know where the next meal will come from. It makes having a full table shared with friends an especially sweet moment. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

And, of course...we have a new President!! Just had to slip that in somewhere. smile


July 4th 2008

Friday, 3:31 pm

By Kate




mostly sunny

Happy Birthday, America!

The above is, of course, an image of our Constitution. It’s a beautiful old document and the language used is equally beautiful. And, I might point out, so is the handwriting.

You can read the document in modern type here. It’s a good read and everyone should at least once in a lifetime. No, really. It is not without its flaws, but the the good thing about our Constitution is that its flaws can be re-addressed and fixed. By the will of the people. That, to me, is evidence that it’s a living document, not one fixed in time and meaning, as some would argue.

For a fun time, go see how much you know about the US. Here’s an online Independence Day Quiz. There are 30 questions, 20 of which are found on citizenship tests. I managed to get 29 out of 30 and I’m too embarrassed to tell you which one I got wrong.


The non-Easter Easter

Friday, 3:23 pm

By Kate





At about this point in the lad’s vacation, thoughts turn to returning him to school. This was definitely NOT an Easter break because his classes begin bright and early on Monday morning. Which means...he has to return to school this weekend sometime.

From my point of view, the question is which would be easier driving...Saturday or Sunday? It’s a 12 hour round trip, either way. So much for Easter in either case. I tend to think that roads might be less congested on Saturday than the return trip on Sunday evening. And since I am skirting New York City, I think that could make quite a difference.

As far as the lad is concerned, returning Saturday is fine. His roommate won’t return until Sunday afternoon, nor will most of his friends, but he does enjoy having his room to himself and spending Easter alone doesn’t seem to phase him in the least. Spending it in the car is just about as exciting. In either case, it’s kind of a non-holiday event.

I dunno. We haven’t decided yet. I am annoyed that schools didn’t take Easter into account, but the spring break isn’t designed to be an Easter break. So, whatever, I guess.


Happy New Year

Monday, 4:58 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

I should be getting myself into the kitchen, any minute now, to fix a dish to take across the street tonight for New Year’s Eve celebrating. Isn’t that convenient? I don’t have to drive anywhere. I can walk to the party and I can walk home. Not more than 100 feet, either way.

I’m making stuffed potato skins. Yum.

Before I go, however, I thought I’d share this article (via Talking Points Memo) from the Washington Post about a dumb dinosaur industry that is working tirelessly to assure its own extinction. You just couldn’t come up with a more horrible business plan than aggressively suing your customers, while offering no alternatives that remotely address 21st century technology and convenience. Yes, we’re talking about the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). They are now suing individuals who ripped legally purchased CDs to store and play on their very own computers. Sharing those songs is not the issue. Just having copies of songs from your legally purchased CDs on your computer (and probably other portable devices) is, they claim, illegal. Good luck with that. Like we’re all going to drag around with a CD player and our entire CD libraries so we can listen to our tunes whenever and wherever. The thing I want to know, that the article doesn’t get around to addressing, is how the RIAA found out that the guy they’re suing had copies of his CDs on his computer. I’d really like to know to know the answer to that.

Tomorrow, I shall be back to the regularly scheduled programming with some odds and ends.

Hope you all have a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve.


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