I’m done

The last seven days have been a whirlwind of activity here at the Geek household. Last weekend was full of IT support activity for a charity auction fundraiser at Mrs. Geek’s school. Then I took Monday through Wednesday off from work to make sure that I didn’t die after putting on our first Thanksgiving ever here at the house. Monday was three hours of grocery shopping, Tuesday was two, plus some cooking prep work and cleaning. The cooking really started in earnest on Wednesday, with last minute house cleaning running toward midnight. The work ahead of time made for a relatively leisurely Thanksgiving Day.

We had a total of eight adults and two kids for Thanksgiving Day. I’d committed to doing a turkey, some veggies, and provide the beverages. Here’s the bill of fare I came up with:

  • molasses-brined smoked turkey,
  • homemade cranberry sauce,
  • stir-fried sweet potatoes, and
  • cornbread dressing

It all came out pretty much without a hitch. I brined the turkey for about 18 hours using a molasses brine by Bruce Aidells and then smoked it for about 9.5 hours (starting at 7am).I tented the breast with a triangle of aluminum foil after about 3.5 hours when I finally inserted the probe thermometer and discovered that it was already at 125 degrees. That tent really helped because the breast finished at about 168 degrees. The color was great, and the thigh meat just fell off the bone when I carved the turkey. (The turkey is in the picture at the top of the post.)

I also found a great recipe for cranberry sauce. It calls for “two cups of Pinot Noir or other dry redwine.” Pinot noir can be a pricey proposition, but I found this Castle Rock Williamette Valley Pinotat a local wine shop for $10.99 that the staff swore is drinkable (and they are right). Otherwise, the recipecalls for fresh ginger, candied ginger, sugar, cumin, and five spice powder — I substituted a little ofAlton Brown’s homemade chili powder for the cumin and five spice. The result is the jammy Zinfandel of cranberry sauces.

Of course, cooking down two cups of pinot noir into a sauce is not without perils. We have a natural gas/carbon monoxide detector in the house, and it is sensitive to more than just natural gas. We’ve set it off with aerosol propellant, and with cleaning solution that hit the gas heater. It turns out that a little evaporated alcohol in the air also does the trick. Being loud enough to almost literally wake the dead, it was a bit of shock to hear it at about 10:30pm on Wednesday night. Knowing that it had gone off also did not help me sleep that night — I awoke at least once wondering if I smelled gas.

In all, the meal came out great. All our guests enjoyed themselves. It was a Thanksgiving for the books. Ok… I’m done now… I’m done for probably the whole weekend.

a plague upon this house

Ummm… hi. It’s been a few weeks since my last entry. I wish I could say that I spent the whole time engaged in post-election revelry, but no. A plague of sorts was visited upon our house. It was a head cold that’s been making the rounds here that mostly makes you feel tired for two weeks. I got it first, and it took a nibble at Mrs. Geek. Being a teacher with a much more vibrant immune system, it only bugged her for about a week.

There was some time for a little fun here and there. There have been some interesting culinary experiments. I also got to attend a very enjoyable Scotch tasting. I got the chance to do a little writing for Geeks of Doom. I’ve also connected with several old friends and acquaintances on Facebook.

I’ve been trying to puzzle out the popularity of the Twilight phenomenon. I have not read the books, nor have much desire to. I just marvel how the books are causing a maniac amount of heart flutter in both 10-14 year old girls, and their thirty-something mothers. When did a vampire become suitable steady boyfriend material? I have to think that in this chaste, latter day post-HIV world, this is some weird cross-cultural pollination between Interview With A Vampire and Sixteen Candles. Lestat as Jake Ryan? Possibly yes — an impossibly sexy high school hunk comes to a somewhat awkward but virtuous girl and wants nothing more than to read her mind… and promises to perpetually change himself by not giving in to the base desire to suck her blood… all while reassuring her that she really is good enough for him. He’s the “good” bad boy that makes women of a certain age and temperament melt.

Give me Christopher Lee in the Horror of Dracula any day.

election tensions

I am feeling much relieved that the recent Referendum on National Direction and Leadership is now over, and the country appears to be in hands that I trust.

This is not to say that Election Day was not without some intrigue in my family. Among my friends on Facebook is my cousin J. and his wife K. K. put up a status saying “K. is glad that J. voted first so my vote cancelled his.” This left me puzzled. J. is an IT executive, and K. is a homemaker, though a school teacher by education. That makes it seem that J. might vote Republican and K. Democrat. Looking at where they are from, J. is from a predominantly Democratic area and household, whereas K.’s Dad is a stark raving conservative Republican in one of those sleepy, semi-rural areas that foster good Republican values. In short, I had no clue who voted one way, and who the other.

Later in the evening, I asked my Mom about it. She comes from solidly Democratic stock. Her Dad worked in the coal mines in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s and was a United Mine Workers local President for a time. She said “I don’t know. I thought K. was saying that she’d vote for Obama. If I find out that J. voted for McCain, he’s going to get an earful from me! He’s forgetting where he came from! He would not be where he is if it wasn’t for the Democrats.”

I hope that I haven’t created tension around the holiday table this Thanksgiving or Christmas.

our house acts like a living thing

Now that we’ve been in our house for a year, I can say that our house behaves a bit like a living thing at times.

The bathroom door is a good example. It tends to stick every Fall until we get a good, long rain — I know because I had to shave a little bit off the bottom of the door frame about this time last year, and now the top stuck this year. We had our first good rain of the Fall a few days ago, and the door stopped sticking over the weekend.

I know that this occurs because of where and how our house is built. We sit on top of a bed of sandy soil mingled with layers of clay. We don’t have a basement or a slab, so different parts of the house rise and fall as the soil underneath the house expands and shrinks due to moisture. It makes for cracks in the walls that grow and shrink during the year, and doors that sometimes stick.

Is this slightly annoying? Yes, but ours is generally a good house. I’m willing to put up with it, if it’s willing to put up with me.

liberal angst

Media outlets are talking about a lot of liberal and Democratic unease as we count down the hours to the closing of the polls on Tuesday. Are the leads in the polls real? Is it actually going well? Is Barack Obama the guy who is finally going to close the deal for the Democratic party?

There are a few thoughts that I like to keep close that help me keep an even keel. First off, the Obama campaign has taken the notion that elections are won on the ground to heart. Democrats have too long relied on surrogates like labor unions to turn out votes. The New York Times ran an article a few weeks back about Obama field operatives trying to find voters in Elko, NV. I’ve been to Elko, NV. I doubt that there is a more Republican place on Earth. Secondly, Barack Obama is a surprisingly tough, disciplined fighter. He won the primary election for his Illinois Senate seat by getting all of his opponents voter petitions disallowed for signature irregularities. He was discounted by “big media” pundits at every turn; he was too black or not black enough, he couldn’t raise enough money with Internet donations, he was too weak and too intellectual to take the fight to John McCain. Yet, here he is, days before the election, ahead in the polls.

True, he’s not “the Empathizer in Chief” on the campaign trail the way Bill Clinton was… but as Bill Clinton said recently at a campaign rally “during the recent [financial] crisis, Barack Obama called his own people, called my people, and called me and said ‘Tell me what the right thing to do is, and I’ll figure out how to sell it.'” That is definitely something we need in the tough times ahead.

Am I uncertain? Yes, but I’ve been uncertain since I voted for Barack Obama in the primary several months ago. He’s been in more than a few tight spots since then, and that’s had me worried at various points. But he’s proven several times that he’s smart, he’s tough, and he’s got good people who know what they are doing. If anyone call pull this out and win (big!) on Tuesday, it’s him.