sketch diary 2/14. Snow Day.

February 14th, 2007 | Uncategorized

snow day closeup

Today I almost killed my visitor from London, Helen Sandler.

171 Responses to “sketch diary 2/14. Snow Day.”

  1. sk from uk says:

    bloody hell!
    you are really taking helen through the vermont initiations….
    first snow shoeing
    then deer bed-admiring…
    now snow burial
    what next?

    take care helen
    hope you make it back to blighty in one piece….

  2. Michelle in Vancouver says:

    I love the style of your sketch diary art, it always reminds me of Quentin Blake’s illustrations in Roald Dahl’s books… I wish it were that snowy up North where we live… all we have right now is miserable rain

  3. beth says:

    YAY FOR SNOW!! I was just recalling a roof rake experience where I lost my balance and fell face first into 5 feet of cold, fluffy snow. Since it was so fluffy, I couldn’t get a grip on anything so I lay there yelling and essentially doing the front crawl with my snowshoes sticking up out of the snow. All the while my partner laughed her head off from her perch *on the roof* with a regular shovel. Glad to see you both survived!

  4. Maggie Jochild says:

    Foomp — just perfect! A gift for language that extends to onomotopaiea. (I’m not going to go look up the spelling, someone will correct me right away if it’s wrong.)

  5. cybercita says:

    that made me laugh out loud!

  6. Lisa Guidarini/Bluestalking Reader says:

    HAR! Thanks for giving me my only life after a truly crap day.

  7. Amberooni says:

    Alison, I’m glad to see that your inherent handsome-ness (is that a word?; I just made it one if not) in that ear-flap hat shines through in this cartoon…
    I’m sure Helen was so impressed with your bravery that she didn’t notice that you almost killed her.

  8. greenegret says:

    What’s a roof rake? Is that an actual thing, or were you just being innovative to suit a need? Reading your blog has firmed my resolution to never, never live anywhere that snows. Ever. Although snowshoes look sort of fun…

    Besides, aren’t you supposed to avoid edges of roofs in case icicles fall on you and pierce your eye or something? My mother grew up in Ohio, and she has all kinds of horrible gory stories about that sort of thing. Uggh.

    Be careful, y’all.

  9. Feminista says:

    Now greenegret,it’s not always bad in snowy climes. Back when I was a girl growing up in E.Lansing,MI,we got our share of snow on the ground and on the roof of our 50s ranch-style house. We never had a roof rake and we never lived in fear of avalanches from above.

    Even in the famed winter of ’67,the worst in a century,we didn’t get buried. School was closed for a week,and I wanted to get back so I could participate in the freshman-sophomore debate clinic on whether or not the US should be bombing North Viet Nam.Budding activist that I was,I perused the New York Times daily for Harrison Salisbury’s lefty columns on Viet Nam; I was glad I was assigned the anti-war or affirmative side.

    Anyway, the snow was so deep we couldn’t leave the house for 3 days; fortunately my mom had stocked our pantry with plenty of canned goods. We heard on the news about a woman who was taken by sled to the hospital to deliver her baby(snowmobiles had yet to be invited).

  10. Feminista says:

    Oops,the last word should read “invented.” I wouldn’t invite them either.

  11. Arte es Vida says:

    Note to Self: Only spend time with AB indoors. Stir fry optional.

  12. Frances says:

    Glad you both survived!

  13. Nora says:

    One of the things I remember about living in Burlington, VT lo these many years ago was that you could check out tools (rakes, shovels, etc) from the local library. This fun fact has nothing to do with your story except that, in my mind’s funny little Dewey Decimal System of associations, tools, libraries, Alison Bechdel, and Vermont all fall into roughly the same category. Which makes this story a great bit of syncronicity — the perfect FOOMP, if you will.

    In other news, I should never be allowed out onto the internets after midnight.

  14. Birka says:

    Thank you! I had a good laugh. It`s so much like home (norway) where the snow at times goes through the roof. I didn`t know anything of Vermont before I started reading this blogg. I only know Minnesota where my mother comes from. This is not only a really really good personal logg but helps us europeans to get to know remote areas of the states a little better.
    I love those sketch diaries, and DTWOF, and the blogg, and all those comments of many interessting people. Alisony you are so good in packing many emotions in only a few pictures!
    thanks you again

  15. meg says:

    I shoveled all day yesterday; last time at 10:00 pm, but no match for the foot after foot of snow shoveling down from the sky.

    At 5:00 am I woke to my carbon monoxide detector giong off – the furnace vents were blocked with snow, and the gas was backing up into the house. Opened windows, went out and shoveled the vents clear, and am currently taking a short break from shoveling out the drive. Plowed in – the berm from the snow plow up to (if not over) my waist; the snow banks are well over my head.

    My alarm finally stopped going off, and I could finally hear the tenants’ alarm chiming in its melody. They apparently didn’t have the sense to open the windows and air the place out. Ah, what fools these mortals be! Tromped downstairs to let them know that they were poisoning themselves, and opening windows might be a good idea (the woman said ‘yeah, its been going off for hours’ Do these people even *think*?!?).

    And, yes, roof rakes are very real. Ok, back to it – I’m moving like an extra in a bad zombie movie by now, but where needs must, the devil drives.

    I’m glad we’ve got winter, but did it all have to come ibn one day? *sigh*

  16. Elaine says:

    Yay! At least the pair of you are adressing the situation in the proper Anglo- Saxon terminology;) Fuckin’ hell, indeed!

  17. chewy says:

    Way to start the day with a hearty laugh.
    Sleeted all day yesterday in Western Mass. Weirdest thing, it was like shoveling sugar, all crystalline.

  18. judybusy says:

    Great sketch! Usually the biggest danger from raking one’s roof comes from making contact with power lines to the house, so you were lucky with just a mini-avalanche, I’d say!

    Greeneegret, there are such things as snowrakes. When you get a lot of snow, it helps keep the roof clear of it to avoid ice dams. These form just at the eaves and cause water to back up under the shingles and ruin your inner walls. We had an epidemic of these ice dams due to unusual freezing/thawing conditions back in 1996. I’d never seen or heard of a snow rake til then, and I grew up in Minnesota! I have yet to buy one, and haven’t had any more problems.

    Feminista, snowmobiles have been around a long time. I knew they were by 1967, because my folks were very much into them and I did it a lot as a kid. The first one was apparently created in 1937 by a Canadian named Joseph-Armand Bombadier.(Just for the record, I did NOT know this off the top of my head, but had to google it because, well, just cuz.)

  19. silvio soprani says:

    Amberooni, I agree. Hail to the Hat!

  20. Ginjoint says:

    Hey! A roof rake?! I never heard of one, and I grew up in Chicago. Cool idea. Yesterday it took me an hour to dig out my car (still in Chicago), but all I could think about were the poor folks in NY, and where the hell do you PUT 12 feet of snow?! That is unbelievable.

    Greenegret, here in downtown Chicago a lot of the skyscrapers will have signs on the sidewalk saying “Danger! Falling Ice!” Nobody pays any attention. I guess the consensus is that it’s as good a way to go as any.

  21. little gator says:

    I have a roof rake.

  22. Deb says:

    LMAO! I never heard of a ‘roof rake’ before. We don’t get alot of snow in Oregon. If it does snow……..1/4 inch, the valley literally closes down…..and life comes to a halt! LOL

    I love the snow. FOOMP! LOL

  23. jmc says:

    I just this morning received an email sent to a group of friends in which the sender offered to let any and all recipients borrow her snow rake precisely because she had noticed an ice dam forming on her roof and didn’t want any of us to be in danger of same.

    I love winter, I love the snow. I’m going cross-country skiing this afternoon on a cold, sunny day in Wisconsin.

  24. Aunt Soozie says:

    If you go to Vermont, I hear tell, you can borrow one from the library.

    Meg…uhm…my carbon monoxide detector went off last night too. We only had a few inches of ice, not heaps of snow to block the I don’t know what vents. I assumed it was a low battery problem or some other malfunction. I took it down and pulled the batteries out, then I put ’em back in and sat it on my dresser. It was all quiet again.

    I guess that wasn’t too bright…was it?
    Okay…gotta go open some windows.

  25. Chewy says:

    Is Soozie feeling woozy?

  26. DW says:

    I want to move someplace where they never heard of a roof rake.

  27. Feminista says:

    Well,judybusy,that’s news to me about snowmobiles in the 60s. And I have relatives in the Twin Cities,too. I never saw one until a visit to the Traverse City area,the upper part of the lower peninsula of MI,in 1977. I’d been living in OR since ’71 and was visiting my parents that winter (I think one’s blood thins out after being away from a cold climate**grin**).

  28. Louise says:

    greenegret and Ginjoint–the two of you might appreciate this especially:

    I’m a native Southerner and had very little experience with snow until the first winter I lived in Chicago. The infamous “Blizzard of ’79” occured over three days, the middle of which was my 15th birthday. It just kept coming and coming and coming. My whole family had a steep learning curve that winter, especially after that crazy blizzard. How to dig out the car, how to navigate icy sidewalks, how to dress for all that cold. That damn snow lasted until late April.

    I tell ya, it was a shock to our systems.

    Here it is almost three decades later, and I’m still in Chicago. I love the snow, even though it clogged up the city and shut a bunch of things down the other day. (I hear you, Ginjoint, about digging out the car.) But for those of you in NY, it’s a whole different story. My heart goes out to all y’all.

  29. Feminista says:

    Oh,and Happy Susan B.Anthony’s birthday to all. May we live long enough to have a national holiday in honor of a woman or women. I have a long list,starting with S.B.A,Rosa Parks,Alice Walker,International Women’s Day–March 8, August 26,Dolores Huerta,Winona La Duke.

    I understand in CA Cesar Chavez’ birthday,March 31,is honored,and in Berkeley Public Schools March 8 is a school holiday. Si se puede!

  30. meg says:

    Aunt Soozie – Clearly you were experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, as evidenced by your confusion and lack of clarity of thought. My tenants, on the other hand, are idiots*. They had been warned – repeatedly – about this possibility if the vents got blocked by heavy snows, including a warning late last night. Luckily, the detectors throughout the house are hard wired, so they couldn’t just pull the batteries.

    Now, I don’t know about your detectors, Soozie, but many (smoke, CO, or even Cylon) have different tones/lights/etc to indicate whether or not it’s a low battery situation or a more alarming situation. Don’t pull the batteries until you’re sure sure sure!

    As of this morning, there are seven people from the Burlington area in the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Now go open a window!!!!

  31. meg says:

    about that asterik…

    * One of my tenants was wonderful in helping me shovel out – he even cleared a path to the compost bin for me. All kudos to him!

    Oddly enough, he’s the ‘unofficial’ tenant – the brother of another tenant, sort of illegally living there with my semi-permission (I would have been far happier with the situation had my official tenant *asked* before moving him in). And he’s the only one of the three that’s *ever* helped me shovel. *shrug* go figure.

  32. shadocat says:

    I’m with D.W.—I want to move somewhere where they never heard of roof rakes…

    Unfortunately, my gf HAS a roof rake (only because she grew up in Wisconsin) This is the first year we’ve ever had an excuse to actually USE the damn thing, and she’s been scampering throught the neighborhood, raking roofs randomly, whether they’ve asked for it or not.

    I however, have been spending my time searching the sky for that fiery orb that used to be there, brightening my day, and melting the ice off my car (what did they call it; the sun?)

  33. meg says:

    Shadocat – please tell your girlfriend she’s more than welcome to rake *my* roof! I’ll even bribe her with oatmeal raisin cookies…. 😉

  34. Jen says:

    Hi Greengret, re: icicles– Here in Ottawa they have these temporary huts that go under the eaves of the Parliament buildings at the entrance-ways & side paths so that the politicans and policy wonks and tourists (oh my!) don’t get nailed by an icicle or sloughing snowfall like AB & HS. I think it would be more fun if they were just outfitted with hard hats & avalanche transceivers though…

    re: snow machines/snow mobiles/ skidos: I think prior to the 70’s they were too ineffiecient interms of fuel/ speed reletive to sleds, weight. Now in northern Canadian towns they are the pref’d means of transport (although there are still sleds and dogs a la the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest). Bombardier (the company) is still the leader in the industry apparently…

  35. Jen says:

    I had mentioned dogsledding with half a mind to shamelessly plug a friend’s blog… and then with half a mind absent didn’t mention it:

    Good little films and stories about the Yukon & sledding and skijoring and dogs who love to pull stuff

  36. I guess technically I almost killed my hapless visitor Helen twice, because my furnace vent got drifted over too, like Meg’s. I noticed a weird smell before the carbon monoxide alarm went off, and figured out the problem. I’ve been a terrible hostess, strangely oblivious to these real threats–avalanches, asphyxiation. Today Helen and I were laughing about this (well, sort of) and how instead of listening to the radio or something useful yesterday, we’d been busy blogging. So it’s interesting that there actually is some practical information here in the blog, from Meg, about the carbon monoxide danger. Though her post was probably too late to save us.

  37. little gator says:

    shadocat-your gf could get herself in trouble. IMproper raking or raking a damaged roof could cause worse damage than snow.
    She should stick to rooves* whose owners give permission.

    Not that Id get in that kind of trouble coause i hate raking the roof and would only do my own.

    In winter my compost bin is inches from the back door. *shiver* And i only use the bin in winter. In spring it gets dumped on the pile.

    Alison-do you plan to keep trying or just give up and let Helen live?

    Ny co detectors have not gone off. Now if I could just get the squirrels out of the attic and basement….

    * my 10th grade English teacher would be so proud of me for spelling it that way. Are you reading this Mr. Macauley?

  38. Chris (in Massachusetts) says:

    RE: Ice Dams

    These things can kill you. If they get in the walls, the ice can infiltrate electrical outlets, when they thaw, shorts can start fires.

    In my own experience, when I was living in Rutland (taking care of my elderly mother) the house had two bathrroms downstairs (and the attic was an apartment. The prick that walked on two legs had illegally converted the house to apartments. But I digress…)

    So, the bathroom off the kitchen was the laundry room, washer and electric dryer. Dryer plugged into a 220 volt outlet.

    So, one winter day, I go to do laundry, open the door and saw that the 220 outlet had half an inch of ice ALL OVER IT!

    I was in the basement and pulled the electrical breaker in about 30 seconds.(and given my arthritis, that’s pretty impressive!)

    So, everything eventually thawed, and after a few hours with a hair dryer blowing into the outlet, I flipped the breaker. The house did not burn down.

    After that, we left that door open for the duration of that winter, and all the subsequent ones.

    I gotta say, seeing that iced over outlet was one of THE MOST scariest moments of my life. (and I have had some mightily scary moments.)

    Kudos to Alison for not killing her houseguest.


    Place your bets!

  39. Ginjoint says:


    I’m just sayin’.

  40. meg says:

    Let’s see…. avalanches, asphyxiation, what could be next? Ague? Acid baths?

    Asthe current Public Safety Officer, I do feel it’s my duty to remind you that while Alison was lucky enough to smell *something*, it wasn’t carbon mnoxide. CO is odorless – me, I would have slept on had it not been for the detector’s alarm. And slept on and on, I guess.

    At least until my cat decided she was hungry. A more reliable alarm I couldn’t wish for – though I suppose if *she* had succumbed to the deadly fumes, my family would be having one of *those* discussions right about now.

    You know, what shall we do with the body? 😉

    CO alarms are cheap. Get one. And, for Peep’s sake, if it goes off, don’t just hit the ‘reset’ button and roll over!

    * still amazed – and not in a Good Way – by my tenants. ‘Yeah, it’s been going off for hours’ – and didja ever think there might be a *reason* for that?!? Sweet Ever-Loving Peep!*

    (and with that, dear readers, I tender my resignation)

  41. Blue says:

    Hi, I know this isn’t relative or anything, but I was just wondering if you’d ever come to the land where it never snows – New Zealand? (or at least, not often…).

    I tried writing and getting some stores on board but you’re very difficult to contact (understandably) and I’m posting this in a last-ditch effort type of thing – if anyone else from down-under wants to add their voice, it would probably help!

    It’s not so much that I wish to bully you into a visit but more to find out what your plans are in that area – I know you’ve done some extensive tours in your hemisphere – ours would probably appreciate a little bitty one. Or two. The success of your book here has been phenomenal and has really pushed the whole genre right out into the open. If you’re not sure, just take a peek at that location tracker thing on your main page and tell me you don’t have fans down here!


  42. Maggie Jochild says:

    Shado, I’m loving the visual of someone scampering with a roof rake.

    Feminista, THANX for the birthday head-ups. Susan B., I’da “dated” you for sure! Also want to add, today is the B-day of Matt Groening, Art Spiegelhaus, and Galileo. Comics and heretics — or is that redundant?

  43. Ginjoint says:

    By the way, I’ve had carbon monoxide poisoning – the headache involved was unfreakin’beLIEVable. And I get migraines, so I’m kind of used to head pain (which is why I didn’t immediately suspect carbon monoxide; I just thought I was having a round of really whompin’ migraines.) Vomiting was also involved. (Sorry. I’ll say no more on that.) As I was calling my father to have him come take me to the ER to have them remove my head or SOMETHING, ANYthing to relieve the pain, my mother put two and two together. The cats and I evacuated.

    The next day the HVAC guy said, “Your furnace has issues.”
    “How should I address its grievances?” I asked.
    “With a new furnace.”

    What’s spooky is I remember what a difficult time I was having waking up in the mornings. It was autumn; I only had the furnace on at night, on a low setting. But apparently, the more I used it the worse it got.

  44. little gator says:

    Speaking of ice dam prevention, who else has a roof wire?
    It’s a wire, wobbling in zigzags over the edge of roof and into the gutters. It heats up when switched on, melting channels so meltwater runs off instead of getting dammed up by the ice.

    We leave ours in place year-round, as it’s harmless when not heated. Heating a dry roof can be a fire hazard. Our weird neighbor takes his down in the spring and puts it up in the fall.

    This is the guy who mows his lawn every wednesday and Saturday from April through October whether it needs it or not. Sometimes after dark with his yard floodlights on.

    I have an odd water stain in my bedroom ceiling(pre roof wire)
    One way it looks like a woman’s breast, and the other way it looks like on old-style glass milk bottle. This has to mean something.

  45. little gator says:

    TMI: in my previous home my bedroom had a ceiling stain that looked like a profile of FDR, complete with cigarette holder.

  46. Aunt Soozie says:

    Thanks Meg.
    I hear you.
    I did read the back of the detector when I took it down and it had all kinds of information on it. It beeps for CO, for fire, for prior CO, and for low battery, and for malfunction and, well, it talks to you.

    If there’s a fire it beeps three times and then says…”FIRE, FIRE”…in this odd calm female voice…if it detects CO it beeps four times and then says, “WARNING CARBON MONOXIDE”…

    It seems that it was “chirping” for low battery but, I’m not positive. Maybe it’s time to buy some new detectors as these came with my house…and..uhm…I won’t tell ya what I did to the wired in alarm that was here and that went of everytime I used the oven…just know that there are some wires hanging outta the ceiling downstairs.

    I still have two other battery operated alarms intact…plus this talking one.

    I’m ashamed to say that I do know of a woman who died in her home of CO poisoning. She had a wood burning stove and it wasn’t venting properly. I know it’s not a laughing matter. I’m glad that AB is still with us. I won’t speak to Helen’s health as, you know, it’s been awhile since Alison’s last post and I don’t know if she’s done something else since then.

    But, I won’t be flip about or abusive of my alarms anymore.


  47. meg says:

    Ha! Aunt Soozie, we had those same type of alarms in Peace Corps – use the KeroSun (running on purloined jet fuel) too much and you’d get the VOICE. Battery alarms are perfectly fine as long as the batteries are working – after all, even the hardwired ones come with battery back-ups (in case the power goes out, natch).

    >I won’t speak to Helen’s health as, you know, it’s been awhile since Alison’s last post and I don’t know if she’s done something else since then.

    Perhaps provisions are running low in the snowbound house on the hill and we’re looking at a re-enactment of the Donner Party? 😉

    Good thing Alison’s a vegetarian! Or at least she *was*….

    (cue maniacal laughter)

  48. Riotllama says:

    My mother tells me stories of growing up in Buffalo and walking to high school with berms of snow from the plows taller than she was. And she’s 5’11”.
    What does an ice dam look like? now i’m all paranoid and trying to see into all my gutters. We just bought this house and it has soem drainage problems we haven’t solved yet.
    Also, how the hell do you get squirrels out of the walls?!! they’re insane and it sounds like they’re eating the plaster!

  49. Kat says:

    The practical info for those living in snowy climes (eek, spelling??) is interesting and all, but what I’d like to know is: Did you and Helen exchange Valentine’s cards?

    I would love to know what an Alison Bechdel Valentine looks like. Hand drawn? Store bought? A little slip of shiny paper with Spiderman on it, like little kids?

    I work with little kids, and I was so pleased that at least a couple of them actually MADE their own Valentine cards yesterday, rather than handing out the Spiderman variety (or Disney, or whatever pop culture insanity has infested their little brains….)

  50. greenegret says:

    DW, I live in Phoenix, and I grew up in Houston, and went to school in Virginia (where it does snow, but didn’t much while I was there), and I most certainly never needed a snow shovel, let alone a roof rake, in any of those places. I was actually born in Michigan, where it does snow, but I can’t remember much about it, just enough to decide that Phoenix is the right sort of place for me. It for sure never snows here. We may have to worry about Brown Cloud (pollution and dirty dust cloud kicked from the desert), but never carbon monoxide.

    About the icicle thing – my second cousin apparently did get an icicle through the lip in Ohio – I’ll spare you the hideous details. That story made an impression on me. Watch out Helen – next thing you know, Alison will be showing you the pretty icicles to admire… 😉

  51. Deb says:

    Oooooooooooo I’ve learned never to ask…….”what next”? The universe has a way of surprising me of something else.

  52. Deena in OR says:


    If that isn’t hard earned wisdom of the ages, I don’t know what is. A bit like answering “How’s your day going?” at work with “It’s been a quiet day.” at the assisted living. It’s the surest way I know to ensure a hectic remainder to the day.

  53. Ian says:

    Deb n’ Deena, I’m too superstitious to answer those questions. You can guarantee something will make it all go pear-shaped.

    I *loved* the use of “blimey” and “fuckin’ hell”. The dialogue in AB’s ‘toons is what I love the most. Those two expressions made me laugh as I *still* say blimey when it’s not socially acceptable to use fuckin’ hell. There’s a cogent point floating somewhere round my brain about the changing use of phrase dependant on the level of suprise and acceptability of use but it’s not coming together …

  54. Kendall says:

    I love the FOOMP, I love the earflaps, I love imagining ANYBODY eating chocolate, yes, AB looks very Knightly, this is the way to spell onomatopoeia (didn’t have to look it up, I’m an English teacher), and at this moment I love living in Houston, where nobody has a roof rake and we only get CO poisoning from air pollution in the summer. How about you all come on down and warm up during the winter, and I’ll come visit you in the summer?

  55. Jana C.H. says:

    Richard Byrd tried to spend an entire winter alone in the Antarctic in 1934, and his faulty stove almost did him in. When he ran it to keep marginally warm, it poisoned him with carbon monoxide; when he turned it off to breathe, he froze. His male ego made him hate the idea of being rescued, so he refused to ask for help when he made his regular radio contacts. At least Alison and Helen don’t have THAT problem.

    Jana C.H.
    Polar Exploration Buff

  56. Karearea says:

    I hear you Blue, if we could get AB down here to visit I’m sure she’d stay. Hmmmm, I could see her safely ensconsed in a villa in Ponsonby, maybe Grey Lynn, only to see the snow when she decided to visit Queenstown or maybe for skiing at Ruapehu. And as a teaser shall we say that we just enjoyed some sunny days in the Bay of Islands area, gorgeous green-blue water and sunny, warm days??????? 🙂 I’ve enjoyed her work for decades (gosh that is scary to write), before I came to my senses and moved to New Zealand. I know she must have a following down here!

  57. Alex K says:

    Roof wires. Yes. “Gutter cables” where I learned about them.

    We’re renovating an old house and our electrician is baulking at the idea of placing, at roof level, an outside electrical socket (controlled by a convenient kitchen switch) into which a gutter cable could be plugged year-round. When the snow falls, flip the switch (which also triggers a small light to say, “I’m on, don’t forget to turn me off after the thaw”) and feed power to the socket and thus to the gutter cable.

    This makes sense to us. We had it in Pittsburgh, where we once lived. It worked well.

    But the house under renovation is in western Hungary (where, yes, heavy snow DOES fall) and no one there has ever heard of such a piece of kit, and and and. Point our builder to Austrian websites selling Dachrinnenheizung? Austria? Just over the border? He responds with mutterings about the lunacy and untrustworthiness of azok az Osztrakok, them bleedin’ Austrians. Nevertheless, we shall prevail.

    Chris in Massachusetts: Thanks for the warning about water into electrical equipment. A truly frightening story!

  58. Chris (in Massachusetts) says:

    OK, ice dams.

    First off, for the most part, you can’t see them. They’re under the layer of snow, where the heat from the attic melts the snow, it flows down the roof line and then it freezes when there’s no more heat from the attic, and then more snow melts and then freezes, and so on and so on. Eventually, the water has no where to go, save up and under the shingles, where it eventually gets past the top of a shingle and flows UNDER it, between the bottom of the shingle and the top of the roof under that shingle.

    It’s VERY hard to so insulate your attic so that no heat flows through the roof to the snowpack. Two choices are either really heat the attic so that snow melts rapidly and drains away, or leave a window open in the attic so it’s as cold inside as out. Either solution is fraught with peril.

    Roofwires are a good idea. As is the roof rake. Keeping the roof relatively snow free works pretty well. It doesn’t have to be completely free of snow, just most of it. Eventually,m the Sun WILL come out and do a lot snow melting.

    Oh, and it’s also a good idea to get the snow off as soon as possible. That stuff can get heavy as it compacts and it can really stress the underlying roof structure. That’s not good. Finally, getting as much snow off the roof also alows the Sun to passively heat the place. Every watt of sunlight hitting and warming your house is one less watt of energy you have to pay Exxon for.

  59. Aunt Soozie says:

    I love that it’s Alison saying “blimey” in the end and Helen saying, “fuckin’ hell”. And you gotta love the change in Alison’s facial expression from panel one to panel four…talk about non-fiction…she’s so funny…isn’t she?

  60. carol p says:

    you gals are talking a completely foreign languge to me. here in Johannesburg I dream of floating on the dam all day at work because it’s so friggin’ hot!
    but holiday in Vermont taught me how to sculpt in snow which is AWESOME! snow ploughs are frightening, too noisy and powerful and they arrive unannounced. and when snow fell off the roof and crashed I thought we were being burgled.
    met a great gal called Kit in Burlington, who kept whipping her kit off for pictures. guess I’ll be back …

  61. judybusy says:

    Chris in MA: I think ice dams are really visible. Ours appear as, well, dams of ice, up to several inches thick at the edge of the eaves. This blocks the water from dripping down, and then it creeps up in the manner you describe. And god, do we all need spring to come or what?! I think it’s hilarious we are having this very lengthy detailed discussion about ice dams.

    And Aunt Soozie, thanks for pointing out the change in expressions! I am finding I get so much more out of AB’s cartoons with so many eyes on them via the blog. I’m sort of a fast reader and miss so much the first time around!

  62. jmc says:

    I’m not super in-touch with the Wide World o’ Warren, but isn’t Beatty considered something of a perpetual sex symbol? I sorta remember that in Dick Tracy he had nice eyes, but that was, what, at least 15 years ago.

    Anyway, I write to ask about hats with earflaps. I have one, but I find that unless I do the uber-dork thing of tying it under my chin, it actually channels cold air past my ears. Does this always happen, or do I just have a poorly-designed hat?

  63. meg says:

    O, I’m chubby!

    I have *so* longed for this day!

  64. Helen from London says:

    OK, so i’m at burlington airport and a Jetblue flight just landed from JFK which is going to be my flight out of here, about an hour and a half late. Or that’s the theory. Yesterday people sat on a Jetblue plane on the tarmac for 10 hours at JFK with no food except chips (that’s crisps to the Brits, not french fries) so wish me luck.

    It’s been great meeting all of you on the blog/s. Thanks for the big ole DTWOF wellcome. To summarise my responses to the comments: I worked out that it was not a normal Vermont snowfall when Alison said: ‘I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE IN MY LIFE!’ And the lady at the bank said, ‘Even the old folk can’t recall anything like this!’ so that proved she wasn’t lying.

    Chocolate: i bought a Cadburys Creme Egg at the local store in Richmond, VT, because i was excited to see them. But a careful read of the wrapper showed it was made in England FOR HERSHEYS. What’s going on? Most of the time we were not eating such crap choc though. We had organic.

    Snow-shoes … not sure why i said they were like tennis rackets as they are much more like skis. I must have subconsciously expected them to be like tennis rackets from some Antarctic B&W movie or something.

    Ooohhh, flight call!

    Helen x

  65. Rosie says:

    OK – Not sure if I should thank you for not killing my sister or be mad at you (look! I’m talking American!) for nearly doing so.
    And why can’t I play the film of Helen in snow shoes?
    Hope you’re OK.
    Love, Rosiex

  66. eris says:

    All of these educational posts about dealing with snow just confirm my intention to never leave the sunny state of California where I have lived my entire 48 years. (Except maybe to go somewhere even more tropical, like Hawaii or Fiji.)

    I went hiking yesterday in my shirt sleeves, neener neener neener! Alison, come visit here and I will take you surfing or kayaking or wine tasting or something.

    As for No Name – I’ve never understood the folks who feel obligated to take the time to post how much they hate somebody’s website or blog. (I got a similar one in response to my website, the BellyDancing Librarian.) What do they think you’re going to do? Curl up and die because they don’t like you? “Oh, you’re right, my website’s a pretentious piece of crap, so I’ll take it down posthaste, thanks for alerting me!”

  67. Amberooni says:

    Have a safe voyage home, Helen from London!

    jmc, about the tying of the ear flaps–if I had an ear flap hat, I would have to tie it under my chin. I don’t have very large ears, put they do protrude from my head quite a bit, so that’s why. Hmmmm…wonder if there was a similar way I could tie my ears down? That would be nice. I’ve heard of people using something sticky to hold ears that stick out too much (or, more than average) to their head. Of course, there’s always plastic surgery, but I can’t afford that. Plus I’m afraid of surgery.

    infatuated chubby dyke

  68. TeratoMarty says:

    Amberooni, earflap hats always tie under the chin; they would look kind of funny with the earlaps (what my family calls those hat-appendages) tied to the earlobes. Their function is to lap over the ears and keep them from freezing off, not to affix the hat to your head as such. One of my uncles holds his protrusive ears down using Fixadent, btw.

    Incidentally, also not a chubby dyke (not that there’s anything wrong with plump women). Kind of a medium-build guy. WTH crawled up No-Name’s butt?

  69. Lezzie Energy Geek says:

    Chris, I agree that ice dams are related to attic insulation (Ice dams happen when heat escapes from the house, melting roof snow. The melted snow rolls down to a cold spot on the roof and turns to ice), but it isn’t hard to properly insulate an attic. Use expandable foam or caulk around any holes – like around electrical wires, plumbing, skylights, chimneys etc — then make sure that the insulation doesn’t leave any gaps. Voila: Heat stays in the house, no more ice dams.

    Also: If you’re heating the attic or using a roofwire, you’re doing more than your fair share to support your electric company and heating fuel company. You’re losing the living-space heat you paid for, out the roof, and then paying again (to run the roof wire or to heat the attic). In the long run, that’s more costly than insulating the attic. Fix the cause once and you won’t have to pay for all those solutions forever.

    One more thing, if you’ve got ice on an electric outlet or on anything else inside the house, it may be that you need to insulate behind it.

    Sorry to go on about all this, but I hate to think of any of you good folks unnecessarily running up your energy bills or dealing with the cost of repairing ice damage. Stay warm out there!

  70. little gator says:

    infatuated yes
    chubby yes
    dyke no

    Ha ha no name you missed one!

    Not to mention that I’m a compost fiend with a condescending vocabulary and a roof rake. And unremarkable ears.

  71. Amy Rubin says:

    Apologies for side comment: Hey Rosie!! Rest assured: Helen has a perfect day for flying — I spoke with her at the airport. Good weather, flights on time. Love to you and the boys, big and small. xx

    Thanks everyone else. Sorry for breaking in, but if you knew Rosie, you would too.

  72. meg says:

    re: Snow

    I grew up in Vermont – last time we had anything this bad I was six or so, and we were snowed in for a week. In Northfield. My dad and his friend snowshoed to the liquor store for provisions, and then dropped the bottle on the kitchen floor to general dismay and much cursing.

    Safe journeys, Helen!

  73. JonC says:

    What a storm! We had nearly 30 inches in 12 hours down here in Warren VT. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.

    Umm. Feeling a bit shy here as a first time poster but had to express my admiration for the artist and especially her amazing memoir. Thanks for that. Very much. I mean it.

    Infatuated — Yes
    Chubby — Not particularly
    Demographic — Breeder with some wonderful chubby dyke friends.

  74. JonC says:

    Also, I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one half-buried in the snow (and very stuck) with my roof rake upraised and snow down my shirt.

  75. meg says:

    I wanna roof rake! I just shoveled off the extension roof – four feet or so of snow (the main roof had avalanched onto the extension roof). All fun and games, if a bit exhausting, until I realized that under the snow was a lovely layer of ice, about a quarter inch thick, floating on a thin layer of granuluar snow over another layer of ice.

    I felt secure enough when I was anchored up to my thighs in snow, but since the object was to remove the snow from the roof – well, you can see the problem. I could clearly envision a sheet of ice breaking off, sliding beautifully on the snow underneath, and carrying me with it pell mell over the edge. Ok, there was a lot of snow under me, and it was only a first floor roof, but *still*.

    It didn’t happen. I did lose a shovel in my neighbor’s yard – it started sliding and I thought it best to allow it free will – but I’ll get it back in spring. No worries.

    O, and as for infatuation (I’m still just so thrilled to be called ‘chubby’) – Alison has a nice mind. I’m all for that. She’s also really polite, which I also support.

  76. unseen says:

    I wish I had the energy to rake my roof. I am just so discouraged by shoveling the stuff on the sidewalk and driveway. Actually, the kid was supposed to rake it during a snowday, but he “loaned” the shovel to a friend who now has no clue where it is. Shadowcat, can you send your girlfriend over? By the way, Shadowcat, wasn’t it only supposed to be “flurries” today? There’s another inch of “flurries” at least out there!

  77. Rebecca B. says:

    I second Blue’s motion for Alison to visit the antipodes! An Australian/New Zealand visit would be just the ticket, we have lovely countries for you to explore…

    I learn so much from this blog…having never even seen falling snow, and living somewhere where summer days can mean 40 degrees (104 fahrenheit), i had no idea of the existance of roof rakes, or carbon monoxide poisoning in your house, or the potential perils of snow on the roof. Thank you for helping me learn something about life on the other side of the world, so I become less fond of the idea of snow, and stay in sunnier climes.

  78. PixieLauren says:

    Ohh! Was there a troll calling us all chubby, infatuated dykes?

    That sounds mighty sexy to me! Bring on the chubby, infatuated dykes! Where can I get one?

    (Oh, and, a note to Kat: my kids make their Valentines every year. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Thankfully, they want to make them — They don’t beg for those storebought ones. My son is almost 11 and he still made cards this year!)

  79. Kat says:

    Yay, PixieLauren! I’m glad there are still kids who do it themselves. Its so much more interesting. I was particularly unimpressed with the ones whose parents (cuz the kids are 4) didn’t even personalize the Valentines. They left the “To:” part blank and just filled in the “From:”……what the hell!!!
    The homemade ones were the best.

    Yes, there was a troll. I was under the impression that the best way to handle the troll was to completely ignore it…..has anyone else heard that? Why valedate troll’s desire to mess with us?

    …..I still want to know whether an AB Valentine would be hand drawn and oh-so-clever……I bet it would…..

  80. Kat says:

    whoops, “validate”

  81. Garlicpesto says:

    Lezzie Energy Geek took the words right out of my mouth. Preventing ice dams by properly air sealing and insulating is the most reliable, energy efficient solution.

    More info:

    And when it’s time to replace your furnace, boiler, water heater, wood stove or anything else that harbors a flame, make sure the new one has sealed combustion so you don’t have to worry about asphyxiating yourself, your cats, or your houseguests.

    Be safe and warm!

  82. Amberooni says:

    TeratoMarty, I wasn’t going to tie the ear flaps to my earlobes, was that how it came across in my post or were you just speaking hypothetically?..I’m con-foosed…but you know, that makes me think about how sometimes if you wear heavy earrings they can streeeetch your earlobes down, and I saw a commercial once for something you could attach to the earrings so that they wouldn’t drag your earlobes down no matter how heavy they were…

    as for the AB Valentine, can ya’ll imagine getting a hand-drawn valentine from Alison? wouldn’t that be just dreamy? but you know what, I bet she would get a lot of business if she started selling greeting cards. (is that evil? am I a greedy, capitalist monster for thinking that?) Or perhaps she could do free e-cards?

  83. Kat says:

    oooh, Amberooni, you provide lots of food for fantasy…..
    I don’t want to distract Alison from her work of writing another great book, though…..

  84. cybercita says:

    welcome, jonC! there are other breeders here, not to worry.

  85. Ellen Orleans says:

    With so many lesbian and gay guys having kids, we have to find a new “once derogatory, now reclaimed” term for straight folks.

    Half my queer friends are breeders these days. Half my straight friends have bypassed propagation. Any suggestions?

  86. sarmigezetusa says:

    i found your old strip books, strips dated 1987-1991 in a public library in stockholm and wondered if u were still alive&active ^^
    nice job, i loved your comics

  87. Deena in OR says:


    I dunno. Then there are those of us late bloomers that had kids, then realized our orientation and had to turn in our “Straight, but not narrow” lapel buttons.

  88. meg says:


    Alison used to have a tchotckes line (cards, calendars, mousepads, magnets, T-shirts, coffeemugs, bumper stickers, and assorted stuff) but I think it ended up being too much dealing with stuff for her. At any rate, it ended – at least seven years ago, and probably longer.

    I’ve still got the t-shirt, though! 😛

  89. shadocat says:

    Meg, I’m sure my gf would rake your roof too, If I let her(which I won’t)–However, I’d do just about anything for some oatmeal raisin cookies..

    lil gator, I warned her about randomly raking rooves, but she’s very chummy with the neighbors, and is sure they won’t mind—so if anything happens, it’s all on her.

    She’s a Northern girl alright, shoveling WAY more snow than she needs to(the whole block?). But wintertime makes her happy, so she’s all in her glory…I, in the meantime, sit at the computer, looking up real-estate deals in Baja, Mexico, “so pretty”,I say;” so cheap to live there “,(falling on deaf ears…)

  90. Ellen Orleans says:


    During the Amendment Two mess here in Colorado in the early 90’s, “Straight But Not Narrow” buttons were a big hit. One of my more edgy queer friends wanted to revise the button for the uptight gays who kept popping up–“Narrow but Not Straight.”

  91. Lezzie Energy Geek says:

    Hey Garlicpesto, thanks for the backup!, aye? The bible! I bet you’d like too. Yes, gotta love a good closed-combustion system (healthiest for indoor air). But even these systems need to breathe, so you can too. So keep those outside vents clear of snow and ice and live to blog another day.

  92. Librarian Grrl says:

    Allison ambushes unsuspecting Anglo with avalanche!

  93. Frances says:

    This is a wonderful blog! – you’re all so witty (apart from the troll) and I’m learning a lot about insulation, roof rakes, etc. And hello Rosie!!

  94. Ian says:

    On the ‘what to call straight people’ debate now brewing I have never forgotten a very camp work colleague calling them ‘hetties’. I didn’t know whether to roll my eyes or find it endearing …

  95. Pam I says:

    Hot damn the Cake re-emerges – or rather the competition – go to the strip for 16th Feb:

  96. Pam I says:

    Late confession – I had never heard of this Pie till this blog. Now I’ve looked it up, for UK readers I’d guess its close to Lemon Curd Tart.
    Story – a very upmarket friend with very posh accent once had a problem getting a shop worker to understand her specific cake desire. Repeating her request at normal speeds didn’t make it clearer, so she said, very carefully and slowly and of course very loudly with rising bad temper, so the whole shop could hear: “I said, do you have any LEMON TURD CARTS….. ”
    Exit, pursued by bear.

  97. Maggie Jochild says:

    Wonderful, Pam! And you’re right about the comparison in flavor between Key Lime and Lemon Curd pie-ish confections. When I can afford it, I order lemon curd online — it’s the best ever on toast, etc.

    Librarian Grrl, you are one gifted alliterationist (alliteralist?) How are you with assonance?

    And I’m very surprised not a single person found a way to joke about ice dams vs. dental dams…

  98. AnnaP says:

    I would like to find a chubby with (pointy) ears sticking out alot kinda women also.

    And anyone calling ME a breeder will be punished, I`ll cancel their birthday or something.

  99. little gator says:

    I’m one of those nonbreeder hetgirls.

    Should I look up the web recipe I foudn for lemon curd?

    You mix lemon juice, eggs, sugar and butter and cook them till they reach a certain temp on a candy thermometer.

    The recipe insisted only fresh lemon juice would do, but I tried both kinds. To my amazement everyone including me agreed the one made from bottled lemon juice was better.

  100. Lezzie Energy Geek says:

    I hate to break up this food discourse, but I must clarify re: my closed-combustion system comment. (For the intrigued: “Closed-” or “sealed-” combustion means you get your air supply from outside instead of your basement.) The reason I suggested keeping even this system’s vents clear isn’t about carbon monoxide, but about heating fuel fumes escaping the unit and entering your indoor air. Anybody who uses a closed-system boiler to heat your house may have experienced smelling a little whiff of heating fuel if you happen to be near the unit when the pilot ignites. That’s because closed systems aren’t entirely closed to your house. So, if snow cuts off the outdoor air supply and exhaust pipe, the system still can interact with the air in your house to a certain degree. This doesn’t make me love these fab systems any less. But let’s get back to thinking about, um, tarts. Chubby tarts.

  101. cybercita says:

    i have a fantastic key lime pie recipe if anyone wants it…

  102. Silvio Soprani says:

    I am happy to that the Blog has reached one of those sublime moments of equilibrium: half of us are emoting tech-speak about “closed-combusion systems” and the other half are exploring that wacky world of Pies.

    By the way, I believe in the United States the Key Lime Pie finds its source in those unremarkable little imperfect spheres of pale mottled yellow-green called “key limes” which are found growing in the Florida Keys (for instance, on Key West.)

    In fashion circles, the color “lime green” is so bright as to be almost psychedelic, but the Key Lime is not so striking. (But it tastes great in the pie.)

    The disappointment that I have often had with Key Lime Pies is that they are usually too sweet, and I miss the meringue that traditionally tops the “Lemon Meringue Pie,” a completely different experience.

    The Key Lime Pie is more custardy.
    I have yet to encounter one that does the tradition proud (although having not grown up in the tradition, I only have my imagination to guide me.)

    Having said all that, I feel compelled to maintain the equilibrium by offering some technical HVAC tidbit, but alas, I am ill-equipped for that. (Although I did finally watch APOLLO 13 on tv last night and found it fascinating. They had a problem with their heat vent and they were in dire peril of CO2 poisoning. Does that count?)

    Cybercita, would it be wrong of me to encourage you to post the key lime pie recipe? We have proved time and time again that the foodists among us will not be exiled to other Blogs. Helen has left our midst (but perhaps she lurks yet? in which case, all the more reason to indulge our culinary impulses…I think it is clear that she came down on the side of the Stir-Fry rather than the Roof Rake.)

    Ah,Cybercita, please post it!

  103. Maggie Jochild says:

    I second the request for the recipe. And your recipe for gravy, cybercita, if you have a good one.

    You are right, Silvio, about the balance. We are insatiably curious about How Things Work, but we are also orally fixated here. No surprise that Alison’s work attracts us when you see it in that light.

    To follow up on your attempt to honor both sides of the conversation and referencing Apollo 11, Silvio, I’ll copy in here something I sent out in my last private newsletter. You’re a good crowd for it: I have been snared, I admit, by the current media hoohah surrounding Lisa Nowak, the astronaut who put on a wig and an adult diaper and drove 900 miles to do some kind of harm to a perceived romantic rival. It’s not the love angle aspect that interests me, and not the diaper-wearing (she must have gotten used to existing in her own urine during space flight, doncha think?) But — remember how in the movie “Apollo 11”, the crew must jury-rig other items on board to create a carbon dioxide scrubber? I mean, the ingenuity of folks in this field must be higher than average. So, keep that in mind as you consider what was found on her when the police stopped her (what Letterman called a “starter abduction kit”): A BB gun, pepper spray, a steel mallet, a large resealable plastic bag, 4 feet of plastic tubing, and duct tape.

    See, I bet now you’re trying to solve the puzzle, too.

  104. Librarian Grrl says:

    Maggie Jo Child – I’ve not tried my hand at assonance. Hmm, let’s see. Alison appears as a brave knight while shining her light in the dark night. Hmm, assonance is a lot trickier than alliteration!

  105. Deena in OR says:

    How did I get through four years of higher education at a liberal arts institution and marriage to an English major without learning the definition of assonance? I love this blog.

  106. Ian says:


    Maybe your attention was fleeting
    Or engaged in lecture-time sleeping?

    Doesn’t Key Lime pie have pecan nuts in it? They’re meant to be good nutrition for depression apparently.

  107. little gator says:

    lemon curd:

    ona linked pages the author explains that this is more work than the usual way(whatver that is) but the way it’s mixed before cooking prevents bits of curdled egg showing up in the finihsed curd. It’s the only recipe I’ve tried, and I love it.

  108. mlk says:

    Ian, I don’t know of Key Lime pie having pecans in it. If you’re looking for help with depression, try pecan pie. very sweet and, as you might guess, pecans are featured. it’s traditional here in the States at Thanksgiving (after pumpkin pie, of course) and one of my favorites!!

  109. Kat says:

    Ian, I’ve never seen key lime pie with nuts in it…….I suppose you could grind them up for a tart crust? Like some recipes do with almonds?

  110. Feminista says:

    Key Lime Pie

    IF you can get ahold of the *bottled key lime juice*,the recipe on the packaging makes one fine,not too sweet, pie. Back in ’88, my late spouse and I made two from that recipe when we were visiting some of his relatives who lived on Ramrod Key,and they were excellent. I still have the photos of the finished pies. We used a graham cracker crust,topped with meringue. Some locals use a whipped cream topping.

    Another idea is to substitute key lime juice for lemon juice in your favorite lemon meringue pie recipe.

  111. cybercita says:

    hello all,

    it is with great pleasure i post my recipe.

    key lime pie


    8 double graham crackers, crushed
    4 T sweet butter, melted
    1/4 cup sugar

    blend together in a glass pie pan and pat it into place. bake it at 425 for about 8 minutes, watching carefully so that it doesn’t brown too much. let it cool.

    reduce the oven to 325.

    mix together

    2/3 cup lime juice — use about 4 or 5 limes {i use regular old supermarket limes and have never had any complaints}

    grated zest from 2 limes {use a microplane grater, they’ll change your life if you haven’t got one yet and you grate a lot of citrus rind and ginger}

    1 can full fat sweetened condensed milk

    4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

    until thickened. pour into cooled pie shell {i stick it in the freezer to hurry this part up} and bake at 325 for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the custard is set but still jiggly. cool to room temp and then chill.

    serve with raspberry coulis:

    1 pkg frozen raspberries, thawed

    push them through a fine meshed sieve to leave the seeds behind.


    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    a few drops orange flower water, if you have it
    a little grated lime zest
    1 teaspoon lime juice

    and whipped cream.

    you can add a handful of walnuts or pecans to the crust — put them in the food processor when you’re crushing the graham crackers.

    this is my standard dessert at thanksgiving.

    maggie, do you think i could post a gravy recipe here without outraging all the vegetarians?

  112. Maggie Jochild says:

    Cybercita, pretend like you’re French or Cajun — you know, “first you make a roux…” It’s okay to eat anything if you claim ethnic roots. Or — you’re Jewish, right? That ought to work, too.

    LOVE the raspberry coulis and the zester tip. Such revolutionary sounding terms.

  113. cybercita says:


    what kind of newsletter do you send out? can i be on your mailing list? my address is this name at yahoo.

    perhaps i’ll send the gravy recipe to you at your email address… you know, alison’s alter ego being such a vegan and all.

  114. cybercita says:

    hi silvio,

    i’m continuing the waverly conversation here, since i don’t think helen’s readers would be too interested.

    as far as i know the waverly was, when hair was being written, a movie theater. {i just checked my blue guide, but couldn’t find any infomation about it.} i remember when i first moved to new york and was watching six degrees of separation there. will smith made a call from a phone booth outside the theater and the audience went wild. big fun.

  115. Lea says:

    ah, we’re back to zests…

    but please do use untreated limes if you use any zest for cooking.

  116. greenegret says:

    Pecan pie is wonderful, but the very best is sweet potato pecan pie. Mmmm!

    And Cybercita, I’d love to see your gravy recipe – mine never comes out right. But then, I’m proud to state that I’m a true carnivore. Hopefully the veggie folks will be tolerant.

  117. meg says:

    re: falling ice and snow

    One of my friends had her car crushed during this last snowstorm when ice and snow avalanched off a roof onto it – smashed the windshield and caved the top of the car in.

    and it’s snowing here again! Luckily, it looks light and fluffy and not much of it… I’d be fine with it if one of my shovels hadn’t disappeared yesterday. I was shoveling out my neighbor; put the shovel down for a few minutes while I moved the truck, and – hey presto! – it grew legs and walked away. Peep have mercy.

  118. Silvio Soprani says:


    I read your last post too fast and was picturing you shovelling out your neighbor in a pile of snow…you put down your shovel…your neighbor’s legs emerged from the pile of snow and he/she walked away… I think I need another cup of coffee!!

    cybercita, DO post the gravy recipe. For the vegetarians among us, they can study your method and extrapolate a THEORY of gravy that will work in a vegetarian recipe.

    I myself am an omnivore. (I did spend about 10 years as a vegetarian, and actually it was that substitution method that taught me so much about cooking. When you try making pancakes and quiches without eggs, and gravy and stuffing without animal fat, you do start to understand that all cooking requires certain food elements, but some can pinch-hit for others.)

    Maggie, I must confess that the contents of Lisa Nowak’s car do still puzzle me, especially the four feet of plastic tubing. The connection you made about astronauts being very inventive in a crisis does intrigue me. But why the tubing?
    Now the duct tape I can understand. I have a friend who never travels without duct tape because it seems to be the universal solution for almost anything.

    One more thing about the Key Lime Pie…earlier I made an error when I said that key lime pie seems to be more custardy than lemon meringue. Actually, I meant just the opposite.. The ones I’ve had (not home made) have either been rubbery like jello, or else too airy, like mousse. I guess I just prefer the texture of lemon meringue, but I am going to try cybercita’s recipe and see if I can find that Right Pie. [do not read anything political into that statement!]

  119. cybercita says:

    at the risk of upsetting all of the intellectuals and vegetarians here, i am bowing to peer pressure and posting the recipe for gravy.

    the way i do it is this. take all the turkey parts,
    like the heart, neck, and gizzard, plus some turkey
    thighs or wings that you bought extra. if not
    available, just use chicken. put them in a saucepan
    with an onion with a clove or two stuck in it, a bay
    leaf, a carrot, some celery or celery root, a few
    smashed garlic cloves, peppercorns, and some sprigs of parsley.
    put in a few cups of water and poach this slowly while
    the turkey is roasting. don’t let it boil. skim off
    the scum as it goes. let it poach for about 3 hours.
    strain it, pressing the veggies to extract the juices.

    saute the liver in some olive oil and smashed garlic.

    chop the gizzards, heart and liver and shred the
    neck. set aside.
    when the turkey is done, take it out of the roaster
    and pour the pan juices into one of those fat
    straining cups. pour a couple of tablespoons of the
    fat back into the pan, flip in some flour, and make
    your roux.

    when it’s nice and brown, add the defatted pan juices
    and the stock and cook it until it’s done and
    thickened. add the chopped up meat. salt it if it
    needs it. you can add some dry white wine, some
    brandy, and/or some lemon juice to flavor it. you can
    also add heavy cream.

  120. Kat says:

    As for Cybercita’s Key Lime Pie recipe:

    If there are Brits reading this, use digestive biscuits for graham crackers.
    It would probably be about 16 of them….maybe? Maybe fewer…12?

  121. cybercita says:

    i often use leibniz butter biscuits for the crust. i made the pie for friends in germany once and couldn’t find american style graham crackers. those were such a splendid substitute that i often use them anyway. they are probably easily obtained across the pond.

  122. little gator says:

    sigh. Speaking of duct tape, my dog ate part of a roll of it. We are waiting to see whether she can poop it out herself. If not, it will be scary and expensive.

    And yes, I have already consulted with her vet on what to watch for.

    Some of it’s passed already. Too bad it was bright red. euuuuuwww.

  123. Ian says:

    The base for Key Lime pie sounds very similar (as does the filling only sans soft cheese) to cheesecake. The base for which I always use digestive biccies.

  124. Silvio Soprani says:

    Little Gator,
    So sorry about your pooch. Unfortunately, duct tape is not biodegradable! (Well, it would not be much use as tape if it were…)

    I did not know you could not easily get graham crackers in Britain. What is a “digestive biscuit?” (sounds a little scary…)Is that a brand, or is that a generic term, like what Americans call “cookies”?

    My late mother-in-law invented a recipe for biscuits (for you Brits, not the sweet desert we Yanks call “cookies,” but the baked dinner bread) using oat brain instead of wheat flour. It also contained powdered milk and honey. They don’t rise much, but they are low-fat and quite tasty, really.

    Anyway, we used to line a baking pan with those oat bran biscuits, put in a thick layer of blueberries & honey, and then a top layer of the biscuits, and call it “blueberry cobbler.” A really nice, not sickly sweet dessert.

    But I still want to talk about the four feet of plastic tubing. What in the world was she planning to do with it? An enema? A tracheotomy? siphoning gas from other cars in case she ran out of money on the trip? help me out here.

  125. Deena in OR says:

    Hmmm. An air supply, perhaps? Scary, though, because if that was indeed the intention, it wouldn’t provide adequate exchange. (shudder)

  126. Silvio Soprani says:

    p.s. I forgot to mention that you bake the whole pan of blueberry cobbler in the oven and then serve portions with vanilla ice cream.

  127. mlk says:

    Silvio, I don’t know about the tubing, duct tape and such — was never good with puzzles like that and can’t even find the post that has all the clues. BUT . . . this is what Wikipedia has to say about digestive biscuits:

    The digestive biscuit was invented at Mcvities in Edinburgh in 1892 by Alexander Grant. They were advertised as aiding digestion, yet subsequent scientific research has concluded this as untrue. This means that consequently it is illegal for them to be sold under that name in the USA. The Original Digestive biscuit is still the ninth biggest biscuit brand in the UK

    The typical digestive biscuit contains coarse brown wheat flour (which gives it its distinctive texture and flavour), partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar, wholemeal, cultured skimmed milk, partially inverted sugar syrup, raising agents, and salt. A biscuit averages around 70 calories, although this sometimes varies according to the factors involved in its production.

    Digestive biscuits are frequently eaten in the UK with tea or coffee. Often, the biscuit is dunked into the tea and eaten quickly due to the biscuit’s tendency to disintegrate.

    Each year, 71 million packets of these are sold in the United Kingdom, which corresponds to 51 biscuits eaten per second. Digestives are also popular in cookery for making into bases for cheesecakes and similar desserts.

    Notice that they’re used to make bases for cheesecake and, presumably, key lime pie.

  128. Kat says:

    For people in the SF Bay Area, Andronico’s carries McVities Digestives. They come in a blue and red package, and will be in the specialty aisle with marmalade and other European things.
    I’ve not found too many Americans who really like them, but they’re very good. A little bit sweet, but not too. Nice if you want a cookie but don’t want sugar shock. They’re absolutely ubiquitous across the pond, and many more adults eat them than do American adults with graham crackers (don’t know about anyone else, but graham crackers always remind me of snack time at sunday school…..).

    …hope I’ve been helpful….it can be useful to be a Brit kid raised in the states…..when its not confusing……Here, I’m weird for all the Britishness…..There, I’m just an American……ugh….

  129. Maggie Jochild says:

    MCVITIES!!! Now I know why they got that odd name — the things I learn on this blog. At political dyke potlucks in the SF Bay Area during the 1970s and 1980s, you could count on someone bringing a package of McVities (along with the ineviable tabouleh and Calistoga), and I got quite a taste for ’em. They also had a variety that were chocolate coated, which became my Favorite Cookie of All Time.

    There were generally former Brits and/or South Africans in any good-sized lesbo revolutionary gathering in those days, with a brilliant grasp of class and race. Like Madonna, I began picking up their way of speaking because it was so expressive — like, sussing out a situation, scheduling meetings (pronounced shedule), idear instead of idea, snogging, or spelling colour with, well, like that.

    I’d thought of the airway idea(r) for the tubing — now we know, from Deena, that it’s “not adequate for exchange” — so well-informed we are. Probably Diaper Girl knew that — unless it was the big-sized tubing such as is used on my albuterol inhaler machine here at home? The diameter of the tube would also determine whether it could be a binding material (possibly one that would not leave marks?) or for flogging (ditto). Or, given her own bladder choices, perhaps a means of venting out her captive’s excretory fluids during a period of confinement. I also ponder the steel mallet — there are so many mallets to choose from, why steel? Especially given that her aggression otherwise leaned toward BB guns and pepper spray, which are non-lethal.

    Recipes and conundrums, associations and substitutions, zest, assonance, and chubby tarts. Waverly is also a kind of biscuit, you know (cracker for the Brits). The Keys, as in Key Lime, are often code for “gay male” much as San Francisco is here in the U.S. Duct tape is very popular here in Texas for removing warts. Next…

  130. cybercita says:

    maggie, the choccie coated digestives are called hobnobs. i think i caused a temporary shortage when i was traveling in ireland…

  131. Deena in OR says:

    Maggie, Kat,

    Much of my childhood was spent in northeastern Canada and Bermuda. I often find myself using “Britishisms” in everyday speech that no one else gets. Zebra crossing, anyone? Or knowing the alphabet from A to Zed?

  132. Danyell says:

    Michelle – I was totally thinking that same thing about the Dahl books, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

    I like the language swap at the end. This mini comics are so great. ^^

  133. Joanna in Vancouver says:

    mmmm…McVitties…I, too went a little nutty for them while in Ireland – the ultimate were the ones with the layer of caramel in between the biscuit and the chocolate – kinda like a twix, but better…I always keep my eye out for them in shops, but have yet to find them on this side o’ the water..

  134. Joanna in Vancouver says:

    oops – Mcvities

  135. Pam I says:

    As the discourse seems to have nudged itself from cakes to biscuits (cookies? never quite sure) I have to point y’all to , a site devoted to biscuits, with the chance to vote for your favourite. Mine is anything with dark chocolate, thanks.

  136. ceebee says:

    Bit tragic that this is the first time I’ve been moved to post anything, but to clarify: digestive biscuits with chocolate on are called ‘Chocolate Digestives’, Hobnobs are Hobnobs, and are Other (oatier, crumblier, sweeter). I can’t eat either at present as on stalinist anti-migraine diet … which may explain this rather obsessive intervention!

  137. silvio soprani says:

    I am fascinated with this discussion of digestive biscuits; must search for some here in Baltimore. (Our roots, after all, are related to British sailors involved in the beer trade in the 1800s!)

    I was trying hard not to be morbid, but I must ask one question: what in the world do you mean, Deena, by “Not adequate for exchange”??? Do you mean you could not exhale through the same tube you inhale from?

  138. Deena in OR says:


    To put it simply, yes. I forget where I picked up this particular factoid, but I remember learning somewhere that the old cliche’ of hiding underwater while breathing through a straw wouldn’t work (at least for long), because the diameter of the straw and the force of inhalation/exhalation wouldn’t allow enough oxygen to get to the person breathing. Put simply, the average human couldn’t breath hard enough through a *narrow* tube to bring in sufficient oxygen and to push out CO2. Snorkels work because they are made from a larger diameter tube.

    More explaining than anyone wanted, I’m sure!
    Off to work.

  139. Deena in OR says:

    That should be “breathe”, not breath.

  140. AnnaP says:

    While ago people were discussing about chocolate. Today I discovered that sensitive skin can be treated with CHOCOLATE! and it is exspecially good in wintertime.

    I mixed cocoapowder with a little cream, honey and crushed oatmeal and used the mixture like a face mask. After rinsing it out my skin felt the best and I ate the rest of the mixture left in the bowl.

  141. silvio soprani says:


    I wonder if it would have the same good effect on your skin if you just ingested it internally (some might call that “eating” all this good food!) 🙂

    It certainly sounds delicious!

  142. Fräulein says:

    I am laughing out loud at this lovely blog! Believe it or not, I was already planning to make a lemon curd torte for our big fat Tuesday dinner tomorrow. Imagine my thrill to discover that I am participating in a huge trend. Love the chocolate masque idea very much and would like to order a vat of it in which to swill until spring comes and cheers the Germans up. My skin is so very sensitive.

  143. Kat says:

    yes, Deena, I too grew up with Britishisms, which only got worse last year. I was in grad school in London, and the only other “American” around was a cousin of mine who’s been there for 10 years, so she doesn’t really count anymore……
    I won’t give up “fruit and veg,” “wonky,” “the main road,” “down the pub,” and several other very useful words and phrases…..

    AND, this blog is making me want to rush off and bake things….

  144. little gator says:

    hey Kat, I’m a lifelong American and *I* won’t give up “wonly” since I heard Sister Wendy use it on tv.

    waaah. I was inspired to make a batch of lemon curd, baked in in tiny muffin tins in some leftover pie pastry. Yummy.

    Then the pain in my head reminded me that citrus is a migraine trigger, which I learned since my last batch of lemon curd.

    And it’s so GOOD if you line a pie crust with 1/2 inch of lemon curd befor edumping apple pie filling in. But no longer for me.

  145. --MC says:

    I have picked up a store of speech adornments from a lifetime of comics reading. There are the ones I got from “Pogo” (“Dog my cats!”, “Ding bing it!”), the ones from Scottish comics like “The Broons” (“Crivvens!” “Help ma Boab!”), the Britishisms (mostly from Steve Bell’s “If” comic — I find myself saying ” “Kinell!” at least once a week, along with “Early Mother of Gord!” .. though a couple from “2000 AD”, like “Drokk!” and “Oh, my Dokk!”) ..
    My soggy brain and I.

  146. Kat says:

    those seem to be more comic-isms, maybe, MC. I’m totally prone to those as well…..

    sponge-brain is a fun affliction, is it not?

  147. Blue says:

    Just a shout out of thanks to those who responded to my ‘come to our hemisphere’ plea – impressed it did not get lost in this mass of snow-help, winter warnings and delicious recipes.

    It’s much too hot here for anything like pie, but I remember a lemon tart my mother made which was amazing cold, will dig out recipe perhaps, if anyone is interested? It will be metric, mind you!

    And I agree with all who cried out for chubby infatuated dykes, I already have one and it’s wonderful! Although she may not be so infatuated with me after I just called her chubby. Oh well.

  148. LA says:

    I haven’t laughed this hard in ages… Alison’s carton is a riot! It snowed in Tucson a few weeks ago and I am such a wuss that I was scared to drive in it. Mainly I was scared of all the other drivers out there who cannot drive so I decided to stay home with my dogs.I grew up in Hollywood, CA and didn’t own an ice scraper until I moved here. I went out taking photos of snow and made 2 small snow people which I stuck in my parents’ freezer. My Mom made fun of them and said they looked obscene… I can’t help it – I have not been around snow much so my snow people making abilities are stunted. And we won’t go into my lack of culinary skills— I am the only person I know who has had a Chef Boyardee Pizza explode in her oven. Foraging is a better food resource for me. At least my dogs still love me…

  149. Deena in OR says:

    Completely off topic, but an interesting meditation on the interconnectedness of the Web and words….

  150. Maggie Jochild says:

    Deena, my godamighty.

    First of all, there is no such thing as off topic on this blog, much less “completely”.

    And second, I was incredibly moved by that video. I mean, to tears. Thank so you much.

    Rethinking things is what we do here, eh?

    And, back to confections for just a moment — I’ve been online looking for a source of McVities/Hobnobs/whatever where the postage isn’t more than the item itself, and discovered that the folks who make McVities also make a cookie/biscuit/crunchy that is ORANGE flavored call Jaffa Cakes. Why are so fucking deprived in this country? I mean, Chipsahoy *suck*, folks. I want Cadbury Flakes and Jaffa Cakes and Penguins (whatever THOSE are) and to be able to hobnob with Hobnobs on the table.

  151. Kat says:

    penguins are AWESOME!!!!!!
    Maggie, they will change your life!!
    They are little snack thingies that are crunchy-ish chocolate inside and covered in candy-bar-like (but way better) chocolate coating. They’re little, just about 3 bites each, and lovely and incredible.
    They have silly little jokes on the back of the wrapper.

    I know that the Cost Plus World Market in the Bay Area carries them.

    I don’t remember where you are, Maggie, but let me know if you’d like some, and some HobNobs, and I’ll send them to you.
    my email:

  152. disgruntled hamster™ says:

    LA.. don’t feel too bad. I once made brownies that- even after spending well over an hour in the oven- had to be consumed by way of a straw *. (* A spoon probably would’ve worked just fine, but the fraternal unit decided to rub my nose in it, hence the straw.) The worst part? They were boxed brownies.

    Heck, I’ve even managed to bungle ramen.

    My culinary prowess (or lack thereof) has been making a slow but steady improvement since I’ve moved out (much emphasis on the ‘slow’).. but I kind of get the feeling that yours truly is pretty much doomed to a life of foraging.

  153. amalle says:

    this is the cutest, best blog in the world ever and i am so happy it exists.

  154. Deena in OR says:

    Rethinking things and relationships is *indeed* what we do here. I couldn’t help but think how this blog was the epitome of what the video was about. Which was why I posted it.

    Argh…if only I was independently wealthy and had the time and resources it woulde take to indulge my intellect full time.

  155. Deena in OR says:

    woulde??? Evidently, big thoughts are causing me to momentarily lapse into Middle English.

  156. Ian says:

    OMG Jaffa Cakes! Breaker of thousands of ‘diets’ and prrof indeed that this confectionary-related discourse has a higher purpose. This supreme delicacy caused ructions over its nomenclature: to wit: was it a cake or a biscuit?

  157. Pam I says:

    The things you learn here – from that wiki/jaffacakes, this gem: Mcvities argued that the distinction between cakes and biscuits is simply that cakes go hard when stale, whereas biscuits go soft. It was demonstrated that Jaffa Cakes become hard when stale and McVitie’s won the case (about tax on food). I’ll use this fact somehow – I did already know that you don’t store biscuits and cakes in the same tin, but I forget which goes soggy.
    But I do wonder whether any of these can be called “food” after my enthusing here about the “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” change-the-world article last week? My cop-out – one of Pollan’s solutions to our alienation from FOOD was to re-learn to cook. So if we make our own biscuits they would be allowed …..

  158. Ginjoint says:

    That video was quite cool, Deena. My computer recently was down, so I was offline for several days. And “disconnected” is exactly how I felt, in more ways than one. Here’s a funny, short video for anyone who remembers the frustration of newbiness:

    The more things change….

  159. Ian says:

    Home made biscuits/cookies far outstrip anything you buy in the supermarket. One of the first things I ever baked as a kid were peanut butter cookies and even when they go wrong they taste much better.

    As a further note on British delicacies, today is Shrove Tuesday (the day before Lent begins) when everyone makes pancakes with sugar and lemon juice squeezed from a plastic bottle. But British pancakes are the same as French crepes, thin. Your American/Canadian pancakes I am led to believe are quite thick and what we call Scotch pancakes.

    On a sad note, I read today that Barbara Gittings, one of the early members of the Daughters of Bilitis, died recently of breast cancer.

  160. chewy says:

    I keep reading “Mcvities”, as “McVittles”.

  161. judybusy says:

    Pam I–thanks for mentioning Mr. Pollan’s article again! (But I do wonder whether any of these can be called “food” after my enthusing here about the “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” change-the-world article last week? )

    I just finished his book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning about our various food chains. It’s very witty and got me all excited about cooking, which I do almost every day anyway. My partner has a great descriptor about the industrial foodstuffs on the shelves: “But, there’s no food in that food!”

    I’ve been eating mostly organically grown food for a long time, and in the last few years have become more interested in the local food angle. Yesterday, at my dear old Wedge Food Co-op, there was a farmer hawking his grass-fed beef. When I asked how he got interested in this type of farming, it was from an article Pollan did in the New York Times a few years ago. He then told me Pollan is coming here in April, so I’ll hopefully get to go see him talk. The farmer Pollan writes about in the book, Joel Salatin, is also coming, but at a venue about 90 miles away. I can’t justify using all that gas to act like a a farm groupie, which is what it would be!

    I grew up on a farm, and so found the account of Polyface Farm extremely moving. My parents lost the farm to the bank in 1984, so it meant so much that here is a multi-generational farm that’s actually healing the land and providing a living for the family. Google Polyface farms to find out more.

  162. Kat says:

    judybusy–yeah, I don’t think that most of these tasty things can be called food, as such. At least they don’t usually have high fructose corn syrup….Most European processed “foods” don’t. That stuff seriously scares me.

    …I wish that that could mean that I don’t consume any of it, but at least I’ve minimized the consumption….

  163. jmc says:

    I read Omnivore’s Dilemma this winter and I agree that it’s a great book and for me it confirmed a lot of beliefs about some truly screwed up things about the food system in this country. (And did anyone else who read the book find that part in the first section about tracking how much corn people eat through special chemical markers truly amazing?)

    Anyway, I just have to throw in a couple of other things.

    1) Pollan makes this point, but it can’t be stated strongly enough what a travesty it is that the absolute cheapest food in this country is also some of the worst for you, which has multiple, compounding bad effects related to class (terrible health problems for people with the least access to health insurance, poor nutrition can have developmental effects, etc.). In my town there are some local efforts to deal with this, including some very interesting educational and cooperative projects at community gardens and farm-to-school lunch programs, but the scale of cheap, terrible, too-processed foodstuffs is overwhelming.

    2) Part of my family is in agriculture, and so my father has a friend who knows the Polyface Farm guy. Turns out he’s not doing as well as it might seem. Yeah, he charges people more for his chickens, but he’s barely scraping by and if he hadn’t inherited the land free and clear (that is, if he had wanted to start the farm by buying similar land), there’s no way he’d be keeping his head above water. In my view, this just confirms that even those of us who are committed to buying responsibly-produced food and who manage to find the financial resources to do so are *still* mostly in the dark about the real value of food. I mean, that Polyface Farm guy should be amply rewarded for being as brilliant and responsible as he is, but that’s not happening; somehow we got the idea that farmers just don’t deserve to be paid a living wage for their efforts.

    I know these two points might seem contradictory (good food is too expensive / we don’t pay enough for food’s real value), but taken together they show just how monumentally off-base the the industrial food system is. Would that government farm subsidies encouraged / enabled more farmers to grow food that actually helped people live healthy lives instead of me having to find that friggin’ corn syrup in my *english muffin* this morning.

  164. cybercita says:

    really enjoyed that video, ginjoint!

  165. Fräulein says:

    My lemon curd torte was a dream. Please don’t forget to carmelize some organic lemon slices in a pan with sugar and butter and then place them on the pie.

  166. Ginjoint says:

    Thanks, cybercita. Anyone who enjoys books AND computers might get a kick outta it.

  167. Jana C.H. says:

    For a nice look at snowy Vermont (and the rest of New England), try this:

    Jana C.H.
    “What do you people do around here in summer?”
    “If it comes on a Sunday, we have a picnic.”
    –Old Pacific Northwest joke

  168. Jana C.H. says:

    About the snow photo:

    In eastern Pennsylvania, are we seeing the Appalachian Front AB writes about in Fun Home? Looks like it.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith JcH: Cartographers do it to scale.

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  171. sexy_art_girl says:

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