Friday, November 27, 2009

Spiral Christmas Trees: Relics of Disco? Or Spaceport Beacons?

The day after Thanksgiving is known for two things: Black Friday sales in the stores; and Christmas displays lighting up in front yards. Headlines about the commercial side of today have phrases like "door buster sales:" and occasionally "doors busted during sale."

Somehow, that sort of excitement hasn't happened in Loonfoot Falls. The busted doors thing, that is.

Loonfoot Falls' household Christmas displays, on the other hand, came to life last night. And, if this year follows the pattern, there will be more lights shining and flashing along the streets as the next couple of weeks pass.

Some households put something new out each year.

The Engelbrechts, for example, added two corkscrew-shaped LED Christmas trees in their front yard. Flashing ones. One blue, the other white. Not a simple ‘on/off' flash, either: first one set of the LEDs light up, then the other. They run through their cycle three or four times a second.

I can't decide whether the abstract tannenbaums look more like decorations from the Disco era, or landing lights salvaged from a spaceport somewhere. Don't get me wrong: I like the things, but they take a little getting used to. Especially the white one. It's bright. Very bright.

I see that advertisements call those spiral trees "Pre-Lit LED Outdoor Spiral Christmas Tree Yard Art Decoration" Which seems redundant to me. I mean to say: have you ever heard of a yard that wasn't Outdoors?

Then there are the lighted wire animals: but that'll wait for another day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

H1N1 2009, Pigs, Turkeys, and Small Town America

I see in the news that H1N1 2009, or swine flu, is on the decline, at least in America. I can't say that I'm disappointed. I got over that cold I had last month, and am quite willing to go through the winter with no flu: swine or otherwise.

The schools here in Loonfoot Falls are inoculating students, starting next week. One of my nephews is getting the shot: and not looking forward to it. Not many people like being stuck with needles. In this case, though, it's probably worth it. One of the boy's friends came down with H1N1 recently, recovered: and assured my nephew that it's a miserable bug to have.

"Pig farmer" probably isn't high on anybody's list of glamour careers: but hog farming is big business in this part of Minnesota. And, an important part of Loonfoot Fall's economy. Which may be part of the reason why this paper hasn't been using the term, "swine flu," all that much. Besides, around here, the pigs are more likely to catch it from people, than the other way around.

Or would be, if the hog farmers weren't so careful with their herds.

Then there are the precautions turkey operations take.

Many of America's forty six million Thanksgiving turkeys start out around here. Approaches to the turkey barns generally have signs warning people off: Nobody that doesn't have business there, and is disease-free, is allowed near the gobblers. Regulations aside, there's a big investment tied up in each bird.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tofu Turkey: No Kidding

You may remember Howard Leland, proponent of the 'natural yard,' member of the Asclepias Society member, and defender of zombie ants.

He's decided that he won't contribute to the annual slaughter of turkeys this year. He told me that he's going to feast on a concoction of tofu, sage, rosemary and thyme. No parsley, though. The recipe also calls for vinegar (balsamic, not that ordinary kind), red wine, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, and a few other ingredients.

Turns out, "balsamic vinegar" isn't vinegar at all. It's not made from wine, but from grape pressings that get boiled down and aged. The source I used said that it got popular in America after chefs at upscale restaurants started using it. No wonder balsamic vinegar was new to me. I'm more a Captain Blimpo Lindenburger kind of guy.

I'd have thought that starting with five blocks of well-pressed curdled soybean milk would be enough soy product: but Mr. Leland showed me the recipe, and soy sauce is there, on top of the hefty dose of tofu.

And, I learned that there's a commercial product called Tofurky®: Made, naturally, in a very vegan way with no "genetically engineered foods." That must take some doing, since soybeans have been a domesticated plant for about 31 centuries now.

I had a very interesting talk with Howard Leland, learned how enthusiastic he is about his latest project, and suggested that he see if he could make vegan tofu turkey: with cranberry flavor mixed in before baking.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Holiday Decorations I Can't Forget

This is a very special time of year for stores. Shoppers are greeted by plastic pumpkins and inflatable spiders; paper mache turkeys and pilgrim hats; and ersatz evergreens with red, white, or silvery foliage and pre-mounted lights.

Retailers hope that they can sell this year's Halloween stuff, to make room for the next two big holidays.

The Loonfoot Falls Valderrama's manager, is no exception. They've got some fine-looking masks that could be the Scream mask's insanely happy cousin, with a metallic red finish. Then there are the plastic pumpkin buckets: dozens of them.

Dina Nelson, of Dina's Diesel Diner, by the Interstate, got her holiday stock on the shelf: including a very retro-looking plaque with an eagle and a turkey in front of a stars-and-bars shield.

Deuce Hardware's replaced garden supplies with snow shovels, de-icer fluid, bird feeders, and Christmas lighting equipment: including an inflatable snow globe. Somehow, "inflatable" shows up a lot in descriptions of holiday paraphernalia.

Rasmussen's is trying to keep this season's Titanic Transmogrifiers on the shelves in its toy department. They don't evoke the same warm, fuzzy feelings as outsized wooden nutcrackers and Christmas elves: but they're selling like hotcakes.

The downtown Coalworth store's gift section had something that caught my eye: "Nightmare Before Christmas" figures. Now I can't seem to forget a pair of them, Jack and Sally. I'll admit that Jack, dressed in a Santa Claus suit, is colorful. But they're rigged with little cables so they can be hung on a Christmas tree.
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