it has been an interesting few weeks around the castle!
unlike with thanksgiving, i had a warning that i was going to be the christmas chef. after seeing how the prior holiday was planned i decided that i needed to take control over christmas dinner instead of christmas dinner taking control of me.
the only negative input i got on thanksgiving dinner, despite me putting it together, with practically no notice, on thanksgiving eve, was that i didn’t make enough gravy. everyone thought it was great; they just thought that i didn’t make enough.
susie’s family have this tradition on the day after thanksgiving and christmas days which requires a great amount of leftover turkey gravy; they use it to top pancakes!
i guess it’s a ritual that’s been handed-down these many years.
and with the prince coming in from, at that time, soon-to-be-submerged fernley, nevada, copious amounts of gravy would be required.
to make sure that we were going to have enough gravy, we took a drive up to watsonville to hit the hostess day old bakery. as with the other stores in this chain, they sell southeastern mills gravy products.
i have had great gravy experiences with se mills’ country and peppered gravies and their cheddar cheese sauce; all made with water.
i have not used it, but i have heard that the turkey gravy is very good, too.
i used that with the practice turkey.
ron required a practice turkey on december 22.
why roast two turkeys when you can roast one?
but, i saved all of the drippings from the practice turkey and the stock i cooked down from the neck for the final bird.
i was also able to use the carcass to further make a rich stock.
i roasted the carcass, along with the neck from the final bird, in a really hot oven for about 40-minutes, adding a quartered-onion, some baby carrots, celery and garlic at about 20-minutes into the process and tossing in some rosemary, thyme and sage in the roasting pan in the last 5-minutes.
i boiled that in spring water for hours, filtering and reducing until it reached a rich, brown color and lump-free in viscosity.
the next day, i showed-up at the dollhouse with a turkey, roasted prime rib, dressing (my best ever!), cranberries (my best ever!) and mashed potatoes (i was told barbie insisted on bringing the side-dishes; the green bean/toasted onion ring/cream of mushroom soup-casserole-thing; and something else. she brought: mashed potatoes and special dressing for the prince.) and two containers for the gravy-fixin’s; one containing the stock that i had been reducing for hours; the other the contents of one of the gravy mix bags and some cornstarch.
through slight-of-hand, i warmed-up the stock, slipping in spring water until it came to a boil, mixed some cold water into the dry ingredients, mixed the slurry into the stock and the gravy was gravy!
i could have made a better gravy with just the stock i made, but i had to sacrifice quality for quantity.
not only was the gravy a hit for dinner (so was the turkey, dressing and cranberries), but it was also raved-about (as i am told) during breakfast for the boxing day pancake custom.
on christmas eve, as ron and i were heading out to the hog’s breath in carmel-by-the-sea for a christmas toast, a bobcat strolled out from our backyard and across the street.
the image is the best i could get without being attacked.
proof that the wildlife around here is, indeed, wild!
i spent new years eve, one of the few that i have not worked as emcee or party host for the last 30-years, with helen (i mean: whatshername) in san josé.
new years day seems like so long ago now, now that we have emerged from the other side of the storm!
the storm hit us full-force on friday, january 4 at about 0400 hours; at 0730, power stopped being delivered to the castle.
the image is that of "bird rock", an outcropping about the size of some of the mansions around here being sucked up by a giant post-storm wave.
i spent the first couple of nights at the castle; we still had hot water and it wasn’t that cold. i was trying to look at it as a camping adventure.
but, by the time it was time to try to get the business up and running without the assistance of good-old a/c, staying in the castle all night didn’t sound as much like a camping adventure as it did a sentence.
so, we started accepting rooms offered to us by lone oak richard, who happens to own: the lone oak lodge over in monterey. a great place to stay when you are here in cypress coast country.
but, trying not to overuse richard’s gesture of goodwill, and trusting that pg&e wouldn't let its faithful customers down, i was alternating nights between the castle and the lone oak.
by the time i spent my last night at the castle, before the return to power and glory, it was becoming quite cold; colder than outdoors in the manner that empty houses get during the winter.
when i go to bed to sleep, even during winter, i usually have just one light blanket to go over the sheets and another light blanket to go atop the first blanket in case it is really cold. i had four blankets covering me that night and i was still a little on the chilly-side!
eventually, ron chased me up to san josé to take up space in helen’s (remember whatshername?) spare bedroom.
while i was up there, my brother mark was on his way to the central coast from nevada. we met just down the road from whatshername's to recycle some non-ferrous metals and he and jojanna followed me back to the peninsula.
lo-and-behold: power actually came back up in the castle on thursday afternoon at about 1600 hours – one-week and 9-hours after it last breathed life into the drafty building.
i have no idea why, but pg&e left one of the major roadways passing through pebble beach, an emergency route needed by firecrews and ambulances, had they been needed, blocked by a tree that fell and took two power poles and the wires and cables it suspended with it. they must have had their reasons.
the image is that of the downed tree and power poles and lines, which stayed this way for a week before pg&e removed them and restored our power.
mark’s time here was like a whirlwind: here one minute and gone the next.
it was great to hang with him for the few hours that we had together and to show off a little of what i have learned about the area and be the consummate tour guide that i am.
surf was up while they were here, so they got to see some surfers (those locals not invited to mavericks, just up the coast in half moon bay, that same day) work the 25-footers off of "ghost tree" on the 17-mile drive and check out the mysteries of "the restless sea", where two, and sometimes three, currents merge in a great maelstrom of waves coming in different directions.
this image is that of "the restless sea" taken a day before the storm reached us. if you click on the pic you can zoom-in enough to see one current coming at the camera and one coming from the left.
since mark left, i have spent my time trying to get melrose media back online (oh yeah. we didn’t get dsl back, which comes in on the fax line, until saturday night!) and uploading pictures that i took in the aftermath of the storm.
my photo gallery is here. from here you can check out the various albums, each taken at the location named in the title of the album. all of the storm pictures were taken on the day after the storm, except for the one titled “damage”.