Yesterday was kind of fun, in an all-American “burn lots of gas for the holidays” kind of way. We wanted to take my oenophile in-laws to one of the local wineries. Unfortunately Chateau Ste Michelle was a victim of the morning’s high winds and was on emergency power.

We took a quick vote and decided that if the winds were still this high, it was time to go have lunch in downtown Seattle somewhere where we could see high water in Elliott Bay. After realizing the 520 floating bridge was clogged, we made the long pilgrimage around to I-90, which was experiencing some high water on the eastbound lanes, and made our way down to Anthony’s Pier 66. I had to drop them off, park the car, then walk down to a Starbucks (thank God for Starbucks) to get change for the meter. Anthony’s was good—decent shrimp gumbo (though more soup than stew) with an Orchard Street Jingle Ale on draft.

George: “Whackos in Minivans”

George writes about his and Becky’s experience driving back from Vermont to Massachusetts in the middle of the Christmas snowstorm last night:

We started the morbid road game of tracking the whackos passing us at 50+ mph.  Not just SUVs, add minivan drivers to that list.  We watched a minivan fly by, only to see them off the road in the median about 10 minutes later.  A 3-4 hour trip turned out to be 7, but we made it home.

I’ve had a few trips like that one. One with my parents from southeast Virginia up to Lancaster County, PA, and one a few years back from northern Virginia to Lakewood, New Jersey. What should have been a four hour trip was about twelve hours, starting with two hours to travel fifteen miles on the beltway. Needless to say, I was quite happy not to be driving anywhere in snow this year. We’ve even had respite from the rain out here.

Presentses, my precious

Almost forgot. I gave Lisa a few presents this year to make up for a couple B-school Christmases without: an All-Clad 8 quart pot, a Cuisinart mini-prep, and a couple books on dogs to make up for the fact that we didn’t manage to get any puppies under the tree. We’re still working on finding a breeder for the Bichon Frise puppies she wants to get.

Emptier house

I just got back from taking my parents and sister to the airport. It feels weird not having a totally full house. Lisa’s folks will be here for another week, so we’ll be able to taper off slowly.

Now that our five-guest experiment is back to two, I can report it was mostly a success. One thing we figured out a few days in is that it’s a lot harder to get seven people moving in the morning than two or four. We had a long list of activities, but each morning by the time everyone ate breakfast and showered it was almost time for lunch.

We’re off to do a bit of after-Christmas shopping. Should be fun, he said grimly.

Happy holidays from Jarrett House North

I probably won’t do a whole lot of blogging for a while. Michele is stopping by later today, and then begins the Christmas traditions—seafood dinner Christmas eve, big meal and presents Christmas day, and general stupor in the afternoon. Y’all have a good time and remember to love one another.

Brent: NetNewsWire Pro Beta

Brent: “The NetNewsWire Pro public beta is up.”

If you like NNW Lite as much as I do—and you know you do—you owe it to yourself to check out the pro version. The weblog editor is a work of art, if still a work in progress (still waiting on news item categories, for instance—but it does have multiple blog posting capabilities and supports MetaWeblog, Blogger, and Blosxom APIs).

In case you were wondering, I’ve done about half the posts in the last two weeks using NNW Pro. The other half were done through the browser or using my own Manila Envelope. The future for that tool? Another day…

Cheeselords hit the big time

Long time readers of this blog will recognize the Suspicious Cheese Lords from my sojourn in DC last January. For the uninitiated, this is the pick-up men’s Renaissance vocal ensemble that I sang with in Washington for some very cool gigs, including a Smithsonian Associates program on the music and times of Chaucer, my C-SPAN debut (at the signing of Carl Anthony’s book on Florence Harding), and many programs at the Franciscan Monastery in DC, among others.

For a while, their domain was dark, but now is alive and well, and bearing news about an upcoming recording to be distributed through Amazon (and, to my, by a certain Sergeant-With-Arms). I’m tickled prouder than pink. I’ve heard bits and pieces of the master before it was mixed, and I have to say that the guys have attained a musical standard previously reached only by certain British choirs. That they attained it after my departure should be taken purely as coincidence.

I should note that I took the photo on the cover during Lisa’s and my trip to Italy; it’s the interior dome of the cathedral in Siena.

Update 12/31: No it isn’t! Details

Thinking about Jefferson

Just finished reading Mr. Jefferson’s University (along with its other virtues, it’s mercifully short). Wills makes the case, which is well known to all aficionados of the history of the University except those who graduated from it, that the buildings of the original Grounds did not spring fully formed from Jefferson’s mind but were substantially influenced by the work of others. In particular, Wills calls out the work of Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the US Capitol Building, who was said to have provided Jefferson with a folio of elevations for the pavilions of the University. Wills makes the case that, even if the façades were Latrobe’s design, Jefferson’s genius was in the original vision and the adaptation of the architectural ideals of Palladio (and one supposes Latrobe) to the realities of the hillside site.

Reading the book made me homesick. I went back to the Holsinger Archives at Virginia’s library web site for a UVA fix. Nothing like a little hundred-year-old photography to realize the enduring character of Jefferson’s vision.

Vacation day 2: more arrivals, cooking…

My parents came in right on schedule this morning, and I brought them straight to the house (where they oohed and aahed appropriately). The day was mostly catching up, as my parents toured the house for the first time and we did some shopping.

The main event so far, appropriately enough, has been dinner. I took two chickens and, with the Lucadamos’ help, got them soaking in a brine solution (half cup each of sugar and kosher salt or sea salt, some black peppercorns, then enough water to cover the chicken) where they waited, refrigerated, all day.

At dinnertime, after I made Lisa and my mom some Blood Orange Cosmopolitans (a Mario Batali recipe), I pressed my dad into service slicing potatoes in thin slices, which I then laid down in a single layer in the bottom of two roasting pans. I then took the chickens out of the brine, cut the backbone out of each (reserving it for stock), flattened the ribcage with the heel of my hand, and laid each on top of the roasting pan. I then threw them into a 500° oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. I filled a pot with water and added a little sea salt, then turned the heat on. When the timer rang, I moved the chicken around, pulled out some of the crispier potato slices, and set the timer for another 15 minutes. At that point I threw broccoli into the pot, covered the chicken on top with foil since the skin was starting to go a little mahogany brown in some places and kept watching the temperature until it hit 155°, then pulled them out and served everything. The chicken was good, though I could have brined it longer, and the wine Lisa picked saved everything.

Hurry up and get here, Esta. We need someone else to cook and wash dishes… 🙂

After dinner reading: Garry Wills, Mr. Jefferson’s University (thanks to Greg for the recommendation).

Vacation day 1

It’s nice not to have a ton of stuff to worry about today. I’ll be running to the store to get a chicken for roasting for dinner, then to the airport to pick up my folks. The sun is actually shining today for them in welcome. Should be fun.

Dancing Santa: a koan

I went to get Thai takeout tonight. After a series of errands and a long day at work, I was tired. There was a Dancing Santa doll on the front table at the Thai restaurant. With the music and chatter, I could only hear the bridge of “Jingle Bell Rock” and mistook it for an eastern Asian hymn. I stared at the Dancing Santa until I was enlightened: Dancing Santa is a Bodhisattva. It has foregone enlightenment so that I may have it.

The hostess brought me a glass of ice water. I drank deep.

A fleuron is a typographical symbol that looks like a flower.

My inlaws arrived this evening to start the holiday season. My parents arrive tomorrow. Blogging will be scant.

Houseblogging through the pain

No, not pain from the beer, pain from getting the spare bedroom ready for my parents. The bedroom had a full size mattress and box spring, and a bed frame, in it. And a big sheet of drywall. Too big to fit in the garage (which is already full of crap). Too big to fit up into the attic. Lisa cut the drywall in half. I dragged it up the attic stairs. I had to get the room empty for a queen size air mattress (double height; we’re not barbarians).

But where was the full size bed to go?

Well, after several months of kvetching over where to put the clawfoot tub that we had ripped out back in July and had sitting in the front of the garage (in my car’s stall, thankyouverymuch), we finally made room under my workbench. And, contrary to expectation, the tub was eminently shovable. So we moved some more stuff around, put the mattress, box springs, and frame in the garage. Then drove my car in.

Words fail me. I know this afternoon I was waxing transcendent about Pärt, but this is a whole different kind of transcendence. There will be no pine needles on my car in the morning. And with that thought, this pained houseblogger is going to bed. I have inlaws coming tomorrow and I’ll need my rest. 🙂