When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, we hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, and etched on vacant places are half-forgotten faces of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox – love this quote.
I watched the new version of The Sound of Music the other night and realized once again what an “old dog” I am. Carrie Underwood is incredibly talented and certainly beautiful, but nothing can top Julie Andrews, arms flung wide, swirling on an Austrian hillside (or Hollywood sound stage) belting out “the hills are alive”……sorry. The remake of Miracle on 34th Street was well done, but Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara simply broke the mold the first time out. It’s like coming out with a new Twinkie. How can you recreate a golden fluffy cakey outside, with a gooey middle, providing all the non-essential worthless calories and yummy goodness and do it justice, now really? BTW, where are all the Christmas movies this year? I don’t mean the Hallmark or Lifetime movies, not that they aren’t entertaining, but I mean the Christmas movie marathon group like The Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, or the Bishop’s Wife? The movies that go perfectly with a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a cold December Sunday when you have twenty presents to wrap. Where’d they go?
Snow is coming, tra la. I’m singing now, but I have a feeling when I have a need for something at the store over the next few days, I’ll be singing a different song. It’s frrrrreezing outside, quite literally. All our plants are covered, as are our pipes and we loaded up on bottled water, candles, flashlight batteries, and essentials along with half the town early this afternoon. The sky has discarded its usual blue attire for a dark and somber gray, and winter is about to make its footprint known on Northern California. From what they’re saying on the weather it could at least provide a dusting as low as 500 feet. Wow. What a weather year. I really think the Mayans knew something was going to go on about this time in history. Just plain odd.
Californians, for the most part, have no idea what to do when the white stuff piles up on the ground. Generally they just roll about on the highways playing bumper cars with the other drivers. Back east or in the Midwest snow is no stranger, and what to do when a whole lot of it shows up overnight far less of a puzzle. As I’ve said many times, I lived in Massachusetts. During the winter having no garage, our early a.m hours were devoted to locating the largest bump in the front yard, unearthing the car, and praying the engine would turn over so we could get to work.
Boston could get bone chilling cold during a snow storm. Five days a week I was scheduled to show up for work at the American Cancer Society on Newberry Street whether the sun was shining or ice covered the roads. Before leaving the house I layered on coats, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves and boots over my work clothes. On particularly frigid days longies were pulled on beneath them. It was amazing I was able to ambulate. In spite of the padding, the icy fingers of the wintry wind managed to insinuate themselves between the tight weave of my wool jacket enticing goosebumps to ripple along my skin. The first winter there I don’t think my toes thoroughly defrosted until the spring thaw.
It’s not as though I’m unfamiliar with cold weather. Growing up in Nova Scotia our winter sessions in school were often interrupted by snow days. Sitting on the tall wooden stool in my grandmother’s kitchen ear to the radio, I’d wait with anticipation to hear the announcement of school closures. In the event it was a thumbs up, my sled would be in the ready propped against the house and my snow mittens and hat piled on the table. If the snow was not blizzard conditions, I was allowed out close to home to make snow angels or erect a family of snow people (notice politically correct) to be finished off with carrots and coal purloined from the bins in the basement. As the first fluffy flakes began to drift down to the ground a while ago, I found myself nose to the glass with that same feeling of excitement I felt when I was five.
Driving in the snow, however, is an entirely different proposition. Less excitement, more fear. Slipping and sliding, often colliding with someone else doing the same. I’m not a fan of winter driving. In West Virginia I ended up sideways in a ditch. In Massachusetts I glided across an intersection close to home in Wakefield, and down an embankment barely stopping at the edge of the lake.The lake was frozen solid but somehow I wasn’t reassured the ice was strong enough to sustain a large yellow station wagon. I needed to breathe in a bag afterwards, while my two little ones in their seats behind me carried on as though I’d taken them on a ride at Disneyland. Several hours later, one tow truck, and a very late dinner, soon sucked some of the wind out of their sails.
In the early 1980′s we owned a cabin in Bass Lake, California a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains above Yosemite. It was beautiful there at the time, relatively undiscovered. Our cabin bordered the lake, with two decks and a boat dock leading down to the water’s edge. In the summer, the children swam and water skied and during the winter we got away for weekends in the snow when possible. Occasionally we had our holiday meals up among the tall trees. One winter we packed up all the Christmas presents, strapped my mother and the tree to the luggage rack (just kidding, although my husband threatened it a time or two), gathered up the kids, two dogs, and one disgruntled cat and headed for Bass Lake for Christmas. Roads were treacherous. Towards the end of our trip it became necessary to pull on chains if we were to travel further. Standing at the side of the road , I remember being awed by the beauty of the redwoods carrying their burden of snow and the incredible beauty all around us. One of my “near perfect moments” as I call them. After four days in the woods, we packed up our opened gifts and after many attempts to get the car to move, found ourselves completely snowed in. In the end, we didn’t get back to ground level for another three days after the snow plow dug us out. We used up much of the seasoned oak under the tarp at the side of the house, played numerous games and put together jigsaw puzzles, most missing pieces. My mother and I made meals constructed of turkey this and turkey that. In the morning, we used what eggs were left to make huge stacks of pancakes dripping with syrup and melting butter. It was one of the nicer holidays I can recall with my children with no phone, TV, or friends to distract them, and totally unexpected.
I woke up this morning to find snow falling and a winter wonderland beyond my windows. Here are some pictures to share.
In the spirit of “mock” things, this was sooooo good and totally the best use of leftover pork loin I’ve found to-date. As there are only two of us I save half a loin and freeze it for later. This was really good so you could cook a whole loin and use it in this recipe or follow my lead.
Crockpot Mock Chile Verde with Fajita Rice
2 cups leftover cooked pork loin (I used chile verde)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 jar Guy Fieri’s Green & Mean Salsa Verde (or your choice)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 pkg. Rice Roni Chicken Fajita Rice, prepared
1/2 cup chunky salsa (red)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 Avocados, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Place onion, pork, chicken stock, salsa verde, garlic powder, cumin, marjoram, and black pepper in crockpot. Cook on low for 9 hours, stirring once or twice.
Just before serving slice avocados and sprinkle with lime juice.
Cook rice according to package directions. Place 1/4 of the rice in the bottom of four bowls. Ladle pork and sauce over the top. Top with chunky salsa, rreen onions and generous dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serves 4.