Thursday, December 26, 2013

It was not Vienna - but...

On Christmas eve we went downtown to look at the lights in monument circle. It was not Vienna but it was quite satisfactory for the American mid west.
Everyone and has dog was driving around the circle and there was quite a traffic jam. It was well below freezing and much too cold to walk.
We had drinks at the Conrad hotel and then dinner at St Elmo’s. The service was not so good but the steak was very good – and Gwenyth loved the fiery – and legendary - shrimp cocktail.
We had our Christmas lunch at 5:30 PM on Christmas day. This is how it usually works out as we are always slow starters on Christmas day. The turkey oven was a howling success as was my remote temperature gauge - which told us exactly when the turkey was ready.
Gwenyth already has a turkey oven and a remote temperature gauge on her shopping list.
On Christmas night we watched Lincoln – or rather I watched Lincoln while Cate and Gwenyth dozed.
We have had a report from PK who is – as usual - sailing in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. The seas are very lumpy and the smaller boats are having a tough time. This would not bother PK who has sea water in his veins – as well of course as a fair amount of Jameson.
We are leaving soon for Montreal. I shall endeavor to report on our progress during our sojourn to the frozen north.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Yes they all stood

So far Sissi has knocked the Christmas tree over only once – but when she did so she managed to ruin one of our new blinds and scratch the paint on the wall. She got quite a fright so perhaps will stay away from it now.
We went to the Messiah on Saturday night and it was quite a satisfying performance. There was a choir of 100 or so and they were very good. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is very good indeed. And as we were told by Steph – everyone stands for the Hallelujah chorus.
Last night we invited our next door neighbours over for dinner. Apparently it was a success because they stayed until 12:30. I made goulash soup followed by roast chicken with patates batasi - and it was my best ever. I think I finally have the oven worked out.
Tomorrow we are going to St Elmo’s steak house – which I think is the best steak house in Indianapolis – and where they serve the famous shrimp cocktail with fiery horseradish sauce. Last time I had this I could not finish it and had to drink a gallon of iced water to cool myself down.
We had something of a heat wave over the weekend and all the snow melted. There is no more snow forecast - so regretfully we will not have white Christmas. But we will probably have some in Newfoundland.
At the end of our trip we are staying for two nights at the Fogo Island Inn – which is on Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland. To get there we will have to drive about 400 kilometers and then take a 45 minute ferry ride – but apparently it is worth it. We shall see.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tomorrow may be turkey day

We bought these ducks in Charleston
The Christmas tree was even heavier than I thought – and we had to lift it up to get it into the tree holder thingy. I very nearly busted a foofle valve – but we did it. I am so glad we did not get a bigger one. Next year it will be smaller – and we are even (shudder) thinking of getting an artificial tree – for the sake of the environment.
Sissi tried very hard to climb it but the branches are too dense – or perhaps she is too large. She clearly remembers a time when she was a small cat and was able to climb our trees in Vienna. Those days are long gone.
In Vienna I had accounts with Amazon in the UK and Germany. I thought I had deactivated these but when I bought my Crockpot online a few days ago I apparently bought it from the UK. WTF?
I got a confirmation from Amazon UK telling me that they had received my order for a Crockpot costing $44. The shipping cost was $66 and the estimated customs duty was $22. Shriek!
Fortunately – they could not get payment from my credit card – because it was my Austrian card which has been closed – so could not process the order.
But here’s the thing. I cannot for the life of me find my way back into the UK account so that I can make it inactive. I obviously did to place the order – but every combination of user name and password will not get me back in.
I have not yet bought our Turkey. I am counting on Costco not selling out. I was planning on waiting until Saturday – but may crack and buy it tomorrow. The thought of staring into the Costco fridge and finding it bereft of Turkeys fills me with great dread.
Gwenyth arrives tomorrow night and if she is up to it we will take her to our local pub for dinner. We have a full day planned for her on Saturday – it includes Costco and Fresh Market.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's just astonishing

Our Christmas tree arrived today. It is 9 feet tall and weighs about two tons. I will need Cate’s help tonite to unbox it – get it upright and stick it into our special handy dandy Christmas tree holder.
Even so –ordering it online  was much easier than when we bought our tree in Vienna. There we had to buy it from the farmer in the park – drag it two blocks to our apartment building – and carry it up four flights of stairs. And it was more expensive than it is here.
I don’t know what I do with it after Christmas. In Vienna I used to burn it but I can’t do that in a gas fire. I will ask the neighbors – there may be a county collection process.
I have finally finished the planning and booking process for Montreal and Newfoundland. My major difficulty was finding a restaurant for New Year’s Eve in St Johns. I eventually – after much pleading and cajoling - got into the restaurant in the Sheraton hotel where we are staying - but then I found out that they close at 11:30 PM. And the hotel overlooks the harbor – but that is not where the fireworks are – they are miles away on another lake.
We might content ourselves with a drink in the bar.
I am astounded to note that Australia has won the Ashes. For those Americans who do not know what the Ashes are – it is bit like the world series in baseball – in that only two teams play – and in this case it is Australia and England  and the game is cricket.
It is the most important sporting clash between these two nations and there is nothing that any citizen of either country wants more than to beat the other team. It is visceral.
Anyway – despite all predictions – and after being crushed  by England in the last series – Australia has beaten (no – demolished) England in the first three tests (out of five) and has regained the Ashes.

It’s just astonishing.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Well the snow did not happen as forecast – but we got a lot last night when it was not expected. I had to take Cate’s car for its first service this morning and the roads were diabolical. However – motorists were driving very carefully and there did not seem to be any problems.
Apart of course from some of those people who drive monstrous pick ups and seem to live in a world of their own – a world which in which they are invincible and which is devoid of traffic rules or common sense.
I would not want to be in  a collision with one of those mothers!
My main concern is the front and back porches and walkways. It has been below freezing for days so the snow has frozen and is very slippery. I discovered that my snow shovel is no good for ice – I will need to get a better implement.
I have been putting extra seed out for the birds – but all I am getting is sparrows. Last night late there was a rabbit out there eating the seed. I am guessing it must be pretty tough for rabbits around here in winter so I am happy to feed them.
Everyone here is says ‘Happy holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’. I think it is a bit weird. Even I – as a non believer in supernatural beings – still accepts that it is Christmas. That’s just what it is called and has been for some considerable time. So why not say Merry Christmas?
I noticed when fiddling about inside my blog that this is my 1000th post since I started blogging in August 2008. Jumping Jehoshaphat!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Would you want to shit in the dark?

Last night I made a salmon and bacon quiche and this was much better than the first one I made with asparagus – although I used too much salmon.  I used some Australian native spices and these added a little something special. I can add this to the list of ‘Nice things I can make for Cate’.
We are expecting up to 5 inches of snow tonite – and I had not realized what an impact this would have on the local residents.
I went to Marsh to buy the ingredients for vegetable soup and the place was absolutely heaving. There was one shopping trolley remaining when I arrived -  and the lines at the cash registers were incredible.
I thought that perhaps I had missed the announcement about the Rapture but the woman at the checkout said – resignedly ‘It’s the Apocalypse – it’s going to snow so people are expecting the end of civilization as we know it’.
She was not impressed but I cheered her up by telling her how quiet it would be next week – after the Apocalypse.
Jeezus – have these people never seen snow before?
We used to go out in blizzards in Vienna.
Speaking of which – my storm lamps and storm radio have been delivered and have been set up -  so I am ready for any emergency.
And I am pleased to report that the cats appear to have adapted to the relocation of their litter tray and food dishes to the basement – as far as I can tell. Monika did miss the litter tray by about 5 metres on one attempt but I am writing this off as teething troubles and her lack of spacial skills.  
Now I know that cats can see in the dark – or am I making this up? - but anyway I bought some motion sensor lights and put these in strategic positions down to and in the basement. Perhaps this is crazy – but would you want to shit in the dark?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

This could be a bad idea

I was fascinated recently at Costco by the concept of a Turkey oven – which I realized was just a spare oven for those special occasions when you have to cook so much that your kitchen oven is just not big enough. We had this problem in Vienna where we had a tiny kitchen and an oven to match.

We saw this spare oven concept in action when we visited our relatives Madge and Merv in DC for Thanksgiving  and I was stunned by the facility of being able to cook everything at the same time – but in two separate ovens. Brilliant.

When I think of all the times I have had to cook things separately and try to keep them warm…..

So naturally I bought one for Christmas and it arrived from Amazon today.  I am looking forward to giving it a trial run next week when Cate gets back. I am thinking a rack of lamb – which abound here – and were so expensive in Vienna it made your eyes water.

I also bought a slow cooker. My son Lenny has been telling me for a long time that I need one of these and we saw one in action over the Thanksgiving weekend – when it was used to cook pork for pulling. We had Tortillas with pulled pork.

The tortillas themselves were made by the Mexicans who live next door. They are good friends of Madge and Merv and when they found out that M and M were making tortillas they said – you will not be able to make them the proper Mexican way – so they made them and brought them in hot in three separate batches.

Anyway – pulled pork was another taste sensation for me – and was accompanied by some of the best salsa I have ever had (from Costco). So Cate and I decided there and then that Lenny was right about slow cookers.

Anyway the slow cooker arrived today – and had parts missing – so I am sending it back to Amazon. I will get one from Costco next week.   

My quiche was OK but not sensational. I used ham and asparagus. William has given me some excellent ideas for improvements and I shall test this on Cate next week.

Today I have moved the cat’s litter tray and food  dishes to the basement. At the moment they are just inside the back door – which is in a little alcove next to the kitchen. This – we have found – is not the ideal place for either litter trays or food dishes.  

I lay awake last night thinking about all the reasons why this is a bad idea but have done it - and will just have to tough it out.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Strange things have happened

We have settled back into Indianapolis – well I have anyway. Cate has gone to Brussels. Because of the weather on the east coast the flights were delayed and she has a really crappy hotel in Brussels - so is not happy.
I used my new snow shovel on the weekend and it works just fine. I have decided against buying a snow thrower just yet and will wait and see what happens.
I have however today ordered from Amazon a couple of battery powered lamps because I am sure at some stage this winter we will have power outages.
We do have a gas stove an gas fireplaces so should be able to survive most situations.
Gwenyth is arriving next week and is bringing all the ingredients to make Lamingtons and Pavlova. Essential things are Copha and tinned Passionfruit and I simply cannot find these here. I hope someone will tell me if they are available.
We are planning on having the neighbors over and will be able to a assail them with these gastronomic necessities.

Tonight I am making my first Quiche. This is a continuation of my plan to expand my culinary repertoire. I do not expect to encounter any problems – but am doing this while Cate is away just in case. Strange things have happened in my kitchen.