Holiday Letter 2022

Two years ago, a strange virus turned the world on its head. Talk about a paradigm shift! Things that were completely unheard of then, are now the standard. People work from home, or Maui, dialing in on high-speed networks and taking meetings by Zoom. Grocery stores shop for you and put your groceries in your trunk. Meals are delivered to your door. There are over one-hundred different media channels. And, with the pandemic winding down, we might have expected much to return to the way it was. Well – you can never go home again. Those were the good old days. For those of us who started out on telephone party lines, bus routes, milk deliveries twice a week, and had three channels of TV, 2020 and 2021 were just plain scary.

But we're Baby Boomers! We can handle the transition from big black phones with wires attached to the wall to Smart Phones. In our case, we still shop for groceries and go into restaurants for takeout. Since we're retired, we work from home anyway. Welcome to our Brave New World.

The Spring High Point was a Christmas gift from Sheila of tickets to the Alton Brown roadshow. I've been a fan of Good Eats through most of its run(s) and the chance to see him live was almost as much fun as a teenager scoring tickets to a Taylor Swift concert. We grabbed dinner out (We really did.) and hunted up the Ferguson Center. The theater was full and the program fun and entertaining. I've learned a great deal of food science by watching Good Eats and now we've enjoyed watching a culinary showman make a magical performance out of smoking wings.

Our next adventure was a road trip to Colorado to see the western Bogott family and meet the Italian teenager who was spending her junior school year with them. We always try to find unique places to stop when we make long trips, and we had two in mind for the outbound leg. Our first stop would be in Hurricane, TN at the Loretta Lynn café. After a long day, we approached the small town at the precise moment that a frog-strangling gully-washer struck. It was a true deluge, but we found the restaurant. Ah well, it was the adventure, more than the food. (Momma always said, 'If you can't say something nice, say nothing.') Nuff said about Loretta's place. The next day we set off for a small town just west of Oklahoma City. The town of Okarche is host to Eischen's Bar and Saloon, literally the oldest bar in Oklahoma. (Here's where fact and myth merge. The actual bar is reduced to a few burned out pieces that survived a fire. The pieces are on display in the new location.) But the restaurant is a fabled destination, anyway. It's claim-to-fame is a deep-fried whole chicken, slices of white bread, pickles, and onions. When we arrived, one high school ball team was already there. Two more sports teams of young people arrived, along with an endless supply of other locals seeking dinner. What a piece of Americana.

The following day we drove to Albuquerque for an overnight and then hit El Modelo before heading the last 4 hours to Cortez, CO, and the kids. I've eaten at 'ElMos' every opportunity I get since 1959. It's been in business 93 years and is still going strong, providing takeout to the Hispanic community and generations of loyal followers. We loaded up on stuffed sopaipillas, tamales, and burritos and headed NW.  

We had arranged to stay at an AirBnB a few miles from the kid's house. It made the visit much less hectic for all, it still being a school year. We attended T ball games, tended the beehives, helped with some repairs, and made a road trip to Manning's Greenhouse in Kirtland, NM, about an hour and a half away. This is a huge nursery system with 22 hoophouses of every conceivable type of flower, vegetable, and herb. Mind you, this is in the middle of the desert, (think John Wayne westerns.) We bought starts of a variety of tomatoes and chilis. More on the transport and success of the plants later.  

When it was time to leave, we packed our seedlings in a cooler and headed toward our first return-trip destination, Alma, KS and the Alma Creamery for cheese. But, as we crested the Great Divide, Linda suggested we take a detour to see The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. This was almost a 'you can't get there from here' moment when our GPS directions led us to a 'Road Closed' construction site 100 yards from our destination. It took a 3-mile detour to get to the other side of that roadblock, but visit Garden of the Gods we did, before heading to our overnight destination at Lamar, CO.  

We still had a long-delayed time-share to burn, so, in May, we chose a resort in WV and headed out. On the way there we drove on a stomach-turning mountain road over the Appalachian ridge, only to find that a 4-lane alternative had been built since our map was printed. At any rate we found ourselves tucked in a lost corner of WV and spent the week on short hikes, looking at babbling brooks and great scenery. We took a drive to Dolly Sodds Wilderness (the only wilderness area east of the Mississippi) and toured it in the fog. We suspect it would have been spectacular. That day it was just wet and white. We drove into Maryland to an Amish market that serviced the local community instead of the tourists. They served a great sandwich, and we stocked up on some bulk groceries that can't be found in the big city. We visited the headspring of the Potomac River in a little-known park on the way home from the market. At the end of our week, we took the 4-lane road out and almost coasted home, suffering only about 20 miles of traffic on I-95.  

We've been experimenting with hydroponics for a year or two and bought a larger unit to try tomatoes. Before leaving for WV, we planted seeds and were greeted with small plants on our return. Once home, we also planted the chilis and tomatoes we had brought from New Mexico. We had no idea that 2022 would become 'The Year of the Tomato'. We were deluged with tiny orange cherry-sized tomatoes. Sun Golds are the best!

In 2019 BC (that's Before Covid) we had signed up for a Viking Cruise from New York City (New York City??) to Nova Scotia and down the St. Lawrence to Montreal, via Quebec. It was to be our 50th Wedding Anniversary cruise. Obviously, that didn't work, and the cruise was canceled, and we rescheduled for 2022.Hey; after 50 years, what's one more, right? The time to cruise came in late September, but we had a myriad of hoops related to vaccinations, boosters, and permissions through which we had to jump first.

I could waste pages talking about the details of our cruise. Instead, I invite our Christmas readers who care to visit my blog at http://karlbogottwrites.com. There you will find our cruise in great detail, complete with pictures. Just touch the BLOG tab on that page and look for the 5-part Anniversary Cruise.

After a lot of sweat, swearing, and despair we checked all the COVID boxes and headed on our cruise. We had an unknown stowaway, Hurricane Fiona, who would haunt our first week, chasing us North and taking away our port visits to Nova Scotia. Curse you, Fiona! But we fulfilled one of our goals, to sample poutine at its source, Quebec. And, on a sunny Quebec afternoon, we did. You can read about that in my BLOG, too.

We're blessed to see Sheila and Andrew's daughter, Natalie, at least three times a week and watch her change from child to pre-teen, cooking with Grandma, participating in school performances, being in gymnastics, caring for two adopted cats, and expanding her education. She attends a private school that stresses learning basics. The processes of learning have certainly changed, but she's into history, culture, and mathematics, at least a grade ahead of where we were, somewhere in the depths of the past. We couldn't be prouder of her.

Back home, our hydroponics and New Mexico transplants were taking over. We'd had years of lots of blooms, but no tomatoes. This year I read the book and tickled the blossoms with an electric toothbrush. Tomato City! I estimate that we've harvested over a thousand orange cherry tomatoes from NM and a hundred or so from the hydroponic garden. We've had 30 or so medium sized yellow tomatoes from NM and the Big Jim (Anaheim) and Poblanos, while late starters, are still producing up until the first freeze. Oh, we have Sweet Chili Peppers, too, but that's another story for another day.

In brief (well, it wasn't really brief) it's been a much better year than the last two. Our health remains good, the kids are healthy, and the grandkids are growing like weeds. If every year were as eventful and fruitful as this one, I'd like to live thirty more with my wonderful lady and a family we're tremendously proud of.

Ya'll have a wonderful holiday season, now. Y'hear?

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Friday, 23 February 2024