Chateau Xenia Catnip, 2022

Xenia takes her duties as Catnip Queen of New England seriously. In the photo, she exhibits the poise and dedication all professional nippers should show while testing the new year’s crop. It’s fresh from the greenhouse where the new vintage has been resting and curing after the Harvest.

The next step is to mix with some of the prior years’ vintages to moderate the impact, soften the earth tones, and add fruitier after-effects. Chateau Xenia designer nip is known for being superior to typical commercial nips. It is the quality purveyor of fine nips to many of the finest nip dens in the United States.

Despite flabbergasted humans and dogs, Chateau Xenia is exclusively for cats. Only serious inquiries, Please.

Beginnings

Lofty aspirations at sea start with basic jib tending. “Watch that luff.” or  “We’re coming about. Time to shift the jib soon.”“Ready About!”

Plain language as we reach the buoy and are ready to moor the boat, “go forward and dowse that jib.”

Sometimes just a bit of anger when the crew is tardy with the sail on a heaving foredeck.

Soon it’ll be mainsail, halyard, and sheet.

How Things Work Around Here

OK, listen up! To be clear, it’s not convoluted. It’s been known to Carreras cats and dogs back to prehistoric times. Santa Clause delivers toys to humans. His cat Santa Claws distributes to cats, and Santa Paws ( the dog elf), provides for the dogs. I understand that somewhere way back, an expedition to the North Pole was launched to confirm all this. Trust me; I’m a cat, and we know these things.

It’s different for cats and dogs. Cats are supposed to be bratty, indifferent to their humans, and disdainful of the stuff in their food bowls. People expect snotty behavior from us. Dad would take me to the darned vet if I were all sweetness and light. It would be like Santa’s reindeer not eating lichen and demanding celery. Yuck!

Dogs, on the other paw, are expected to obey. Cats are partners with humans. You guys drank the Cool Aid. You behave or get old dried reindeer poop in your stocking. 

In your defense, I know you’re still a pup. You have to learn now. I get first dibs on bows and wrapping paper under the Tree. 

Cats rule, and dogs drool!

Winter’s Slow Progress

Sometime around the middle of December, the activity in the shop will drop off. In contrast to just a few weeks earlier when the shop teemed with work, it now has a sort of calm peace about it.
I’ll go through and do a thorough cleanout to get rid of all the dust, chips, and shavings, but the scent of varnish, tung oil, and wood will remain.

I am too busy until about the sixth of January to think about this lull. But after that, as the winter sinks in and wears on, I crave the relief the shop routine brings. Just to be clear, January and most of February wear on me. I can think of not a single particle of value in those months that comes without hard toil -hard toil with a snow shovel and snow blower at that.

Why mention this now while I am busy? Because if there is to be a single sterling moment during that time, it comes from thinking now of projects that need development during that lull. Now I’m looking at things I see that I’ve never done but would like to try. I now think of portraits I’d love to be challenged by. And now, I am thinking of trying new materials and techniques.

The lights will be on in February late at night as I sit in the shop fiddling with something new. The neighbors might wonder what the hell is going on. I’ll be making slow progress in my craft and keeping the worst of winter at bay.

The Project Box

This time of year sees a flurry of shop activity as I finish the year. I am anxious because I have not seen the bottom of the project box for a month. What’s that, you ask? It’s a large tub full of “possibles”, pieces I want near because I will use them “soon”, and projects waiting for something. What are they waiting for…well sometimes it’s motivation, or they may be waiting for me to solve a problem with them.

Rather than call this my project box, I could call it the dubitable box – because, in some cases, it’s doubtful that I’ll ever finish what’s in it. Some box components waiting for assembly have resided in the bottom of the tub for at least a year. Sometimes I feel guilt for those incomplete works. When guilt creeps in, I avoid looking at the project box.

If the box gives me anxiety, why don’t I spend more time moving unfinished projects to the bench and towards completion?

My alibi is that the bench is covered with projects, and the waiting projects will have to take their turn. There, see? I can be assertive when I need to be.

72 words to revenge

My Catalan ancestors pegged it as a dish best eaten cold. But my grandmother’s Hungarian ancestors replied that Hungarians preferred it hot.
My father summed it up, “right away is best. But opportunity, ability, and patience work well.”- a nice mix of Catalan patience and Hungarian eagerness.

But mother, whose ancestry spans three continents and four seas, told me the man who seeks revenge digs two graves.

So many choices and traditions.

Rosemary

We’ve been buying trimmed rosemary plants at the market for several years as pre-Christmas trees for use right after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, in our wood-heated home, they won’t last all holiday season, so they are in the house for about two weeks and then get moved out to the greenhouse.
When we began doing this almost a decade ago, we didn’t have an inkling of how the plants would do inside for extended periods, and the results were dead rosemary plants being stripped of their leaves and getting tossed.

There is so much volatile oil in a small rosemary bush that, technically, you might consider one a dangerous fire hazard. But, of course, all those rosemary leaves are full of volatiles and oils, making them an excellent herb. Those branches and stems are as well. And they are great to put on fire. Safely, please.

I am confident that the one I bought this year was about half the size of the previous rosemary plants. Yeah, everything is smaller and more expensive this year. Usually, I can put a string of lights or two and some decorations on without the plant looking like it was hung about with strange holiday excrescences. As you can see from the photo, it’s a bit overwhelmed by just two sets of lights. But it looks attractive in a darkened room.

In about two weeks, we’ll take the lights off and place it in the greenhouse for the winter. Then, in spring, I’ll repot it, and the six or so large rosemary plants we’ve grown will line the garden edge. We never have a shortage of rosemary, and the plants make attractive additions to the garden.

Musing on the question on decorating the holiday home? Try one of these rosemary plants with some lights and decorations,
Don’t have a greenhouse? A sheltered porch should do. And you’ll gain an ongoing source of rosemary for your kitchen.

Lotto

Thanksgiving has a pretty well-established routine around my house. There has been minimal variation in it for about thirty years. My wife is a night shift nurse who typically works on or around holidays, so the ritual is that I cook and the family eats. Some of you might favor the argument that this is a pretty awful deal for me. But I am delighted with our arrangement. I love the stability. We could go so far as to say I am Thankful for it.

I vastly prefer my routine to the madcap carrying on of the 1960s on Boston’s Beacon Hill when, while interesting, Thanksgiving could be a madcap exploration of the bizarre. Or the later staid experiences along the coast of Maine, where Thanksgiving was a somber affair under the stewardship of the Cap’n – my first father-in-law. The former experiences were one crazed nutty experience after the other, and the latter was its serious reflection in a strange mirror.

Things didn’t settle in until I married my wonderful night shift nurse, and we began to create stability out of the chaos.

A type of lotto game originated among Chinese working in the gold fields called Packapoo Ticket. The game was popular from Australian Gold workings to California. Twenty Chinese characters are on each card, each a potential winner or loser. But, of course, only the creator of the pack of tickets knows the winning character. There is a lot to be said about excitement in life. And a lot to be said for new experiences. But life as an ongoing Lotto game wears on you.

So I am about to prep the birdie, make the stuffing, and get the sweet potatoes ready. Happy Thanksgiving.

On Tattoos

I do not sport a tattoo, and by force of habit will never put an arm or chest under the needle. Why? I had a Merchant Marine father who wore a large one on his right arm and firmly discouraged tattoos. Once again, you ask, Why? According to my father, tattoos were used by police to identify suspects. And being so many people either have unique designs that are easy to spot, ” it has the names and dates of the last Rolling Stones Concerts.” Or have the same dozen designs, ” he had a big Harley-Davidson tattoo on his right arm.” You become easy to either identify or misidentify.

From his history as a seaman visiting hundreds of ports, my father believed that police were reductionists; you have that tattoo; therefore, you did the crime. While disagreeing with my father on many issues, I had a high opinion of any statement he made regarding seamen and life at sea. The Carreras clan has always been salty and wet, and our oral tradition on things maritime is strong.

I do not object to tattoos for others; they can take their chances being pulled in by the police in Samoa as suspected pedophiles, thieves, or drug-addled purveyors of disputed political platforms. But until they enact legislation banning the darned things, it’s an individual choice.

As you can see, I have no strong opinion on the matter at all.

The Great Turkey Piñata

Over the years, I’ve seen some funny stuff done to Thanksgiving turkeys. Big birds with extra legs “grafted” on, toy aliens breaking through the breasts of the turkey, and birds with potent marijuana rubs. Delivered to the table for carving, these holiday turkeys distract from anything that might have been done to side dishes.

All these thanksgiving turkeys were spectacular, yes, but safe. I recall one Thanksgiving in the sixties when the turkey was weird and almost lethal.

To start with it has to be remarked that holidays were not big at the Folkie Palace. Most habitues went home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so there was usually only a cadre on hand who couldn’t afford the trip, were unwelcome at home, or had other pressing reasons to stay on Beacon Hill. The principal winter holiday was New Year, and the less said about that, the better. Not that many of our recollections of those blowouts were very clear.

However, it looked like we’d have a pretty full house in one year. I was unwelcome at home after a fight with both parents. One of my friends had moved back in due to marital problems, and most of the other regulars similarly had reasons that they’d be around. This encouraged our erstwhile chef and sometimes spiritual leader, the Monk, to plan a great blowout of a feast. Wishing to involve as many of the residents of our little end of Grove Street as possible, he thought big. Yes, there’d be an incredible dinner, but with a crew of our “experts in spectacle,” the plan was to make an impressive thanksgiving display.

The idea developed was a gigantic turkey piñata filled with candy for the neighbors, their kids, and passersby. For days we mulched newspaper, smeared and mixed white glue, and molded the birdie. It filled the living room, and eventually, the project had to be completed on the roof because it was too large to fit through the window – our original plan.

After a while, our experts conferred and concurred that the bird could not be broken apart to release the candy by normal means. In making it so large, we had structurally reinforced the construction. It would take a bazooka to blow this birdie to bits. This was where our pyrotechnics experts got involved and the beginnings of all our woes with the project. The Folkie Palace was ransacked for every firecracker, cherry bomb, or other fireworks available. We placed charges strategically, ensuring that the birdie would blow when lit.

We stuffed the paper mache bird full of candy on Thanksgiving morning and prepared to lower it into the street below at sunset. Then, completing this task and believing we had covered all our bets, we went downstairs for the feast.

The Monk had gone for traditional for the feast, no extra legs, aliens, strange sauces, or tricky devices. So there would be plenty of leftovers for days to come. The dinner was anti-climatic, considering that all the while we were eating, we imagined the fun that turkey piñata would be.

As soon as we finished, we hurried to the roof and checked our preparations. The Canary acted as the official timer and started a ceremonial countdown to sunset. At that precise moment, we lowered the giant piñata towards the street, and the crowd waiting below to beat at it with baseball bats.
It was, of course, the battleship of piñatas and barely yielded to the assault. So we decided to ignite the charges. The following events are disputed among the witnesses, but the consensus is that fire and smoke first came out of the turkey’s mouth. Next, the wings appeared to flap, and a giant puff of exhaust was emitted from the tail. Finally, the bird seemed poised to fly off but exploded into a shower of paper mache and candy. The crowd had begun to panic at the smoke and flames but thoroughly enjoyed the barrage of candy. Our giant exploding Thanksgiving piñata was a great success.

Someone ratted on us. Later that evening, Officer Cappucci knocked on the door. While he had no proof, he strongly suspected we were behind the great piñata explosion. It was suggested, firmly, that the City Department of Sanitation find Grove Street in a state of extreme cleanliness on Monday morning, or unavoidable repercussions for littering, shooting off fireworks, creating a public nuisance, etcetera, etcetera would be lodged. And that’s how we spent the weekend following Thanksgiving, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning our block of the street. When the police cruiser swept by Monday morning, Grove Street gleamed.

%d bloggers like this: