Hurricane Ida is over, but the work is ongoing.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
I realized it’s been a month since my last post, and thought I should give an update. Hurricane Ida is a 2021 memory, but she left a trail of destruction from Grand Isle all the way up through the New York State area. Places like La Place, which are closer to the coast, had considerable damage and are still trying to recover. La Place is still without power, last I heard.
Let’s procrastinate a little with an afternoon cuppa and I’ll fill you in on everything. BTW, BF knows this to be true:
That’s why he taught me how to use the camping stove.
The Return Of Electricity
Funny how you don’t think about it until you don’t have it. That’s true of most things, right?
Our power went down at 8:30 pm Sunday, August 29th, and returned on Tuesday, September 14th about 2:30 pm. And we were the lucky ones.
BF had an older generator already, and we were gifted a new one–no kidding. It’s a long story, but it’s a smaller model that uses less fuel than the bigger one, which now needs a new carburetor. BF plans to fix that in the near future, preferably before the next winter storm.
Others didn’t get their power back until after we did, depending on where they are located. St. Tammany Parish doesn’t have Entergy, but their power company is smaller, so they were back a week later. But nearby Albany, where two of our Buddhist friends live, have something else called DEMCO, and I don’t know if they have power back yet or not. I’m guessing they do, but I forgot to ask.
Ida left flooding nearly everywhere, although we didn’t have that problem. We ventured out to Hammond once or twice and visited the Rouses, which we knew was open.
Either the frozen food thawed without power and the floor was wet, or the store took on water–we didn’t ask, and we were happy Rouse’s was OPEN. Then we saw more keto foods:
I haven’t tried that yet, nor this:
Plantain pasta. What will they think of next?
Getting Generator Fuel
We were fortunate that we had the money to keep that generator filled–and even more fortunate for the new and more efficient generator. BF had a tangle of electrical cords everywhere, and I was afraid to touch it. However, he had nearly everything running except the HVAC, which is a central unit. What we did have running was:
- Kitchen refrigerator
- Big chest freezer
- TV (as needed)
- Fans of all types
- Portable air conditioner unit
- Internet router and my work laptop (on a surge protector, of course)
- Other small things as needed–microwave, toaster oven, etc.
But being out of power for two weeks was. . .expensive. BF had some help with that at work, for which we are also thankful, and other than the cold showers, it was almost normal. He was also working overtime, which helped. In addition to the extra money, I reminded him that his customers needed him and were counting on him. They were very glad to see him after the storm.
We drove once more north to Mississippi to get more fuel and took neighbor TT with us for a supply run. He doesn’t have a generator, but he does have a stove that runs on natural gas, so he can cook food and boil water for coffee. We only went to McComb this time, and there were no lines. But that Walmart had a lot of empty shelves around. The employees said that they were meeting plenty of people from “south of the border” like us.
Trees And Other Damage
Ida downed trees that are still everywhere, and people who want it are getting free firewood. But there are also contracted arborists coming through cutting and trimming as well. Translation: these are guys in bucket trucks, just like the utility folks, but they have chainsaws and things.
I forgot that I’d let the pit bull out when I approached the crew asking about their work. He came tearing out into the street and ran up to one guy who just looked down and stared at him. The man had no fear. I’m guessing he’s a “dog whisperer” like BF is. Of course, after sniffing the man, the pit bull was upset that he just walked off without playing with him.
They were very nice despite the pit bull puppy and cut down one large hanging branch for us. It broke off and fell only a few feet before catching on another branch. It was quickly cut and fell to the ground and won’t be touching power lines anymore. That guy was swinging the chainsaw like a sword!
BF’s brother, sister-in-law, and niece are living in their Dad’s place up the street. Their house is, well, not livable at the moment. With roof and water damage, mold has set in, and they are picking through anything that’s salvageable and putting it into a storage container on their property. They won’t be back in their home until after the holidays, they’re told. Fortunately, they have a place to stay until then.
“Car Guy” friend JJ also had a tree fall on her garage, but her place is otherwise livable if I understand her social media posts.
BF has started to cut some of the wood that Ida knocked over in front of the property but hasn’t finished. There’s one uprooted tree across the street that we need to borrow a tractor to drag over so he can cut it, eventually. He wants to put a wood stove in the living room in anticipation of winter. As so soon as he can get to cutting all that wood and making a place for it behind the house, we’ll have firewood.
How We Stayed Cool
BF’s Dad’s house, until last year, had one window air conditioner unit downstairs until his sister and brother-in-law added a second on the first floor. No AC in the upstairs bedrooms, but they had one of these window fans:
I remembered it a few days after the storm. We went over and borrowed it and put it in the bedroom–ahhhhh. It’s not “air conditioner cool,” but we could sleep a little. We also hit Target and got the last one available. One sat in the living room window with a box fan for the dogs. The other sat in the bedroom window. Both ran as long as the generator did. Ours will also be deployed occasionally as an exhaust fan for the kitchen.
I’d never seen one of these before until I saw it at their Dad’s place upstairs when we were taking care of the cat. Highly recommended to keep around for such emergencies, and kitchens without exhausts.
We were also loaned a Hisense 6500 BTU standing portable air conditioner and dehumidifier, but BF didn’t want to put it in the bedroom. So it stayed by my desk and cooled me and the dogs during the day. (This is the closest I can find to it on Amazon.) I returned it to the owner a week later. We do plan to purchase a window unit AC sometime between now and next spring.
An Organized Home (I Wish)
If you’ve never heard of Marie Kondo, she’s a Japanese “organizing consultant,” according to Wikipedia. She has a strong following worldwide. Kondo’s “thing” is to embrace minimalism, or getting rid of most of your things. One of her catchphrases is something about “only keep things that spark joy.” Her website also sells pricey things designed to “spark joy,” like this linen robe for $195 or this $45 bamboo silk sleep mask.
Obviously, this lady hasn’t been around the US much. A generator doesn’t “spark joy” for me, but the power it makes certainly does. Generator’s a keeper, thanks. That other rubbish, not so much.
I’m still trying to catch up on the house stuff. I haven’t been able to get back to the usual dance with the mop on Saturday. No sewing in over a month, either–not so much as a repair. We didn’t open the box of “rations,” and will likely store that for another day. They are made to last forever.
Getting Back To Normal After Ida
Or, well, whatever passes for normal, right? The mail re-started about 10 days or so after they’d stopped delivering. Very glad I signed up for the Post Office’s Informed Delivery service, where you can see greyscale images of your stuff in an email before it arrives, as well as track packages. I paid the water bill long before I got the physical card in the mail by going into my online bank account and requesting a “courtesy check.” Many banks offer that service now–they print the check and mail it for you, and you can forget about it.
I mentioned in the last post that I needed to review the new vegetarian keto cookbook by Emilie Bailey. Well, there’s a story to tell on that.
Because I agreed to be a reviewer, I received a digital copy first, and then the publisher sent a paperback copy. Well. . .that was the Friday before Ida landed. I looked over the digital copy before my last post, which is how I can tell you about it. I was also asked to provide an editorial review for Amazon–no kidding.
Emilie asked, and I was happy to do that for her.
Where’s The Book?
For a week, I kept seeing a note from UPS about trying to deliver a package to me, and it was from some company with the name “transportation” in the name, from Memphis. The original delivery date was the Tuesday after the storm hit–when trucks of all kinds were having difficulty getting supplies into these areas. What the heck is it?
I asked BF if he ordered any car parts to be shipped here. He does that sometimes, and I have UPS My Choice set up to tell me when to expect something to our address. His response: “No, those packages are your thing.” That’s no help.
I emailed the lady at Callisto, and she said she did send it UPS. Mystery solved, I know what it is. Finally, a week after it the originally scheduled delivery, UPS finally made it here and dropped it off.
I’ve made three recipes so far and have *not* been disappointed. I want to make more of them and try them out on BF. We’re not going vegetarian, but if it’s tasty, there’s nothing wrong with having it with meat or something. The first thing I made was the dairy-free “Frozen Hot Chocolate” recipe from the book and cornered BF to try a sip. Well, I like it, and I’ll tell you more about it in the blog for review.
We did find some new keto-friendly ingredients in Rouses:
And this product, which I’ve only seen in Emilie’s books:
Make no mistake–BF will not be trying this, ever. It’s one of those things I make for myself when he’s working late. If he’s home, I’ll make the regular spaghetti that he’s used to having.
Hoping everyone is well and getting back to life after Hurricane Ida came here and Hurricane Nicholas visited Galveston, Houston, and the GER’s home in Texas.
Hurricane Ida visited the Casa de Rurale. She was not happy. We are OK.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
I’ll make this short–yes, we were in the eventual path of #HurricaneIda. No kidding.
And I will also make this blunt: we are fine, the dogs and cat are fine, the house is fine, and we’ve lost power for an indeterminate amount of time. The only other thing we’ve lost is our tempers, but that’s it. We’re hot and we’re cranky, but we’re not giving up the ship.
Kudos upfront to Banana Rat and The GER for some tech assistance. Very glad they answered when I called.
I had another topic related to the last two, but I wasn’t feeling well the prior week, so I procrastinated a bit. Then Ida blew through I’ll try to get that post to you as soon as I can, it’s delicious.
Good News: Cookbooks And Music
Additionally, I have two new cookbooks to tell you about soon: a new vegetarian cookbook from Emilie Bailey (The Texas Granola Girl) and Giada de Laurentiis’ latest on health and wellness. The Kindle version of Emilie’s book is released today, and the paperback should be out on September 21st.
Even if you’re not vegetarian, there is some good food here. If you like tofu and edamame, there are several recipes for those as well. (Not me, I’m allergic.) I plan to start trying some of them soon, especially since we’ve been handed a carton of eggs from someone’s local hatchery. Giada’s book isn’t entirely vegetarian, although there are some soy-based recipes as well. These reviews will be published when I can.
Do you like music? Here’s a little good news for fans of the group ABBA—they’re back. No kidding, and it’s all very 21st Century, complete with a hologram live performance. The members are still around but aren’t going to perform together onstage except as avatars. There’s a new album, too, called Voyage, due out in November. Two fantastic new tunes:
Are already available for download on iTunes and Amazon immediately. (I listened to them on the official ABBA YouTube channel last night.) The live concerts will take place in London, which means to go is a road trip. Fingers crossed.
We could all use some good news right now, yes?
Both in coastal Texas and in south Louisiana, you always pay attention to any activity in the Gulf of Mexico. At one point there were three “invests,” and one of them became #HurricaneIda. As it passed over Cuba and into the middle of the Gulf, we paid a little more attention. At that point, it could come this way, go to Texas, or even Mexico. Ike was another hurricane we weren’t sure about until the last minute, just like Harvey did four years ago. I was in Louisiana for both of those, so I guess the karma caught up with me. (Next week makes five years since I reluctantly moved here.)
When it became obvious that Hurricane Ida was coming towards Louisiana, we started prepping and did a bit of “panic buying.” I say that facetiously, but you know people do that, especially in the last 18 months. We watched and began to “batten down the hatches.” I was washing dishes and clothes, trying to tidy up as much as I could. BF went to work, and like the last time, came home and swung into action.
Buddhist friends OR and DM asked me to put the Zello walkie-talkie app on my phone. I already had it, but now we’re connected there. I’m also connected to our next-door neighbor, RW, and we can use it anytime we need to. OR and her family evacuated to Memphis, returning Thursday. School is canceled until. . .whenever.
BF likes to watch WAFB in Baton Rouge. In the front of the house is an over-the-air antenna connected to his TV. Mine in the back has an indoor antenna as well as a Roku streaming device. (We don’t have cable.) I ran WAFB on both TVs so that we could watch Hurrican Ida coverage matter what. I put WAFB’s app on my Roku so BF can watch the news if he misses it live. With apps for Roku and other stations on my iPhone, it’s also available there.
There are multiple free news channels on Roku for watching the news all over the US, like NewsOn and Haystack. I can catch the Houston news whenever I want and sometimes do. Watching the BBC or SkyNews wouldn’t have helped us at all. Running the stream on my TV in the back of the house was a great idea because BF could watch it when the antenna wasn’t working well. He made himself very comfy on the futon during those periods.
Arrival: Hurricane Ida
We watched as Hurricane Ida made landfall in Grand Isle, and every community she touched. Houma. Jean Baptiste. Eventually, scraping the metropolitan New Orleans area.
Baton Rouge was the original big city for Hurricane Ida to slam into. Eventually, Baton Rouge began experiencing damage, and every place in between. Although Baton Rouge was making preparations, it’s New Orleans that is usually impacted. The City of Baton Rouge and all the associated parishes are not really ready for a hurricane. Mayor-President of Baton Rouge Sharon Weston Broome was on TV frequently, telling everyone what the city was doing to prepare.
It looked like New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was caught short. New Orleans has something called “contraflow,” which means they open up both sides of the Interstate to go one way–OUT. Specifically, out west, as in “head to Texas.” But apparently, they didn’t act fast enough to get that in place, so there was no contraflow.
Traffic on I-10 was, indeed, backed up for hundreds of miles as people went to Texas, as we saw on TV and online. If we were going to Texas, we would be heading on every back road we could find on Google Maps! Hopefully, we would end up in New Waverly or even Huntsville, WAY above Houston. Or Lufkin, even.
Then the news became serious: that track taking it to Baton Rouge was moving eastward. Right between Baton Rouge and. . .Hammond.
Ida’s Change Of Plans
The storm passed right over our little town and literally over the house as a Category 2.
I chanted for two hours on Sunday for the protection of everyone here, to be free from damage, and to keep our power. I got two of the three. Guess which one I didn’t get?
The howling winds started early and got stronger with each passing minute. We took the dogs out but they weren’t having any of that. Every time the power blipped, I said, “stop it!” I wanted the universe to know I wanted that power ON and left ON.
At 8:30, all the power went down completely. Everywhere. We then deployed the generator, candles, flashlights, and every other emergency “thing” we have.
We went to bed and had a hard time sleeping because of things outside knocking around, including trees that were coming down hard and fast. BF anticipates the winds were faster than anyone realized.
The Morning After
If you’d have told me I’d one day buy a pair of Muck Boots, I’d tell you that you were nuts. I wear heels, right? Not in more than five years. I only know about them because of the “American Duchess,” who went on a very rainy official visit to New Zealand with her new husband the Prince right after their royal wedding.
We already had some considerable rain this year, and I felt like it was time for me to have a pair of my own. Lucky me, I found this pair on sale at our local Tractor Supply–for 75% off. BF also has a similar (and less expensive) pair from Tractor Supply. Since then I have been very happy I bought them.
As you might imagine, we took considerable damage with a Hurricane Ida as a Category 2 storm. We’re about two or three hours from Grand Isle, so it did lose strength as it went. But there was still plenty of damage this far north.
Scenes like these were all over, and I sent five of my pictures to WAFB. I don’t know if they published them or not, but our town was mentioned in an article on the damage in Tangipahoa Parish.
No cell phone service anywhere for about half a day. The Boy, who works with BF, was working another job getting cell phone towers back online in Jackson, MS. I hope they paid him well. For a time, we were literally stuck at home with no way out. Mail service was suspended on Saturday.
We could only make phone calls with the Internet router plugged into the generator (with a surge protector, of course.) I used my “business phone” MagicJack number to make phone calls on my iPhone with the MagicJack app. It’s getting better. (I’ve stopped working on my other website for a bit.)
Once we could get out, we did a little driving, partly to get to his father’s house just two miles away.
Our house is fine, and so are our neighbors, but we can’t say that about others.
Neighbors With Tractors
After Hurricane Ida began heading north, the air was still and quiet for a while. A few hours after dawn, we started to hear noises. It was a bunch of folks who live around here and own tractors, bulldozers, and other heavy equipment, and chainsaws. They went buzz-sawing through the trees and debris on the roads to make them passable. Not clearing them, just passable, and moving the big stuff to the side of the road.
The big issue is power lines–all of them are down, frayed, and sitting around everywhere. These wonderful folks just drove around and doing what people do in these situations.
In order to get his Dad’s place, we had to go the long way around via the freeway because the two-mile stretch was blocked by the fallen trees and branches. We talked to many people and BF seemed to know all of them. At one point he got out and joined them, leaving me in the vehicle.
He grabbed a chainsaw and got to work with anyone who asked. BF was in his element, that’s for sure!
On Wednesday, the DOTD came through and cleared the big trees, and on Thursday, they did more clearing.
The Louisiana National Guard Activates
Right before Hurricane Ida landed, The National Guard was activated, and according to this article in Time magazine, that activation consists of:
- 4,900 Guard personnel
- 195 high-water vehicles
- 73 rescue boats
- 34 helicopters
More were being added by local and state agencies.
Well, we saw them out clearing the interstate freeway:
What did BF have to say about this? “Oh, yeah, I used to do that when I was in the Guard. Directed traffic once in Slidell in deep water. Drove over a guy’s Miata in a vehicle. He was furious.”
Well, of course, he was. Why did you drive over the man’s car, dear? “It was underwater and I couldn’t see it.”
I can’t even imagine.
BF In Action
It wasn’t too long ago that we were experiencing that big winter freeze. Except for the temperature, we’re experiencing much the same thing now, except for no air conditioning and 80-degree temps. It’s a little cooler at night.
If you remember the picture of BF cooking on the camping stove in a hoodie, well, I’ve got a new one:
He decided to move the stove into the living room because it’s a bit easier to manage on the big table with the bottle on it. I don’t mind. Behind him to the left, you can see the fancy-dancy Snap-On flashlights that will light up an entire room nicely.
We now have two of the big flashlights, because he bought one for me, too. Why does Amy need a huge Snap-On flashlight that doubles as a heavy projectile? “Because you keep asking to use mine.” The cleaner one belongs to me.
And because BF is a smarty-pants, he decided to stop by the local National Guard armory and ask for this:
Why did we need this? “I just thought I’d ask and see if they’d let me have one.”
I posted the pic on Facebook, and Boeing Brother BO said that he had some at the shelter during Hurricane Harvey–and they weren’t bad, he said.
BF also stood in line for ice, water, and food from the National Guard to pass along to an elderly married couple he knows, and TT up the street.
Whenever we open this military “meal kit,” I’ll take pictures for a future blog post.
Obviously, our generator is deployed and is keeping things sort of afloat. The fridge, freezer, and occasionally the living room TV run nicely. We just have to keep putting petrol in it. Last time we drove 170 miles round trip to get more, and we’re looking at another “date night road trip” to get more soon.
The Rotera tealight holders have also come in handy:
We have plenty of bottles of propane for the stove, and we’re not using it all day long. Just for cooking and to boil water for coffee. So glad I have French press pots around.
BF’s sister did an IKEA run in Atlanta for me and brought three more Roteras for us, plus a few other things. We’d planned this before Ida had her eye on the Louisiana coast.
Washing Dishes By Hand
Ok, as you might imagine, I’m not using our wonderful countertop dishwasher right now. But there’s another reason for it, not Hurricane Ida. Sure, I can hook it up to the generator, but on Saturday afternoon, it began to leak. Seriously. All over the place. First, it soaked a dishtowel, then an “emergency towel” (old ones you keep around for that sort of thing), and then part of a second emergency towel.
I texted BF and told him. We’re not happy. When he got home, we put the flashlight inside it and quickly found the problem: the gasket is damaged. So it’s a simple replacement part, we hope. The Karma of Spare Parts is back.
Figured that a Monday morning call to Goldstar would lead to a quick and easy repair. Nope. Right now we’re too busy taking care of everyday life with a generator. So. . .maybe in a couple of weeks.
Helping Ida’s Victims
No, I didn’t mean me directly. Well, if you have a magic wand or a sonic screwdriver that will restore power to all of us, sure, get in touch. FedEx came through the other day.
If you’re thinking about donating for immediate Hurricane Ida relief, Mercy Chefs is now on the ground in several Louisiana cities and serving hot, fresh meals to people. I’ve donated to them before, and will probably do so again soon. We missed them over the weekend, unfortunately. I wanted to do a blog post on their operations.
Their motto is “Just Go And Feed People,” and that’s exactly what they do. They’re a faith-based nonprofit with volunteers who staff professional mobile kitchens. When Hurricane Ida took aim, they made plans to move in. They take these “food trucks” into disaster zones and make hot, fresh meals for people who can’t cook for themselves. Mercy Chefs also supplies hot meals to first responders and volunteers.
Their locations are posted on their social media channels. I mentioned that I would look them up if they came up this way, like Tangipahoa Parish, and they told me to do just that. So if we can go see them, there’s definitely a blog post coming.
The Louisiana Cajun Navy is also deploying to rescue and assist people. I just realized that they are located in Hammond, just south of here.
Other organizations like the Salvation Army and The Red Cross are also accepting donations, I think, but they don’t come this far north.
More As Things Get Better
Make no mistake–Hurricane Ida did considerable damage to south Louisiana, and not just New Orleans.
Right now, Entergy–the electric provider for New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and this area–has utility workers from all over the US scattered through every affected area. We’ve seen them all over the place. During a supply run to Hammond on Saturday–Target, Rouse’s, Winn-Dixie, and Walmart are open there–we passed three utility trucks from ConEdison out of New York.
They’ve published their current estimates for return to power on their website which was updated today. Entergy’s current estimate for our area, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes is ten days away–September 17th. This does not fill me with hope. We’re sick of cold showers! But we keep going and I keep chanting because we can’t do much else, except keeping the generator fueled and running.
Other than being a bit cranky, BF and I are OK, as are our neighbors. However, many people aren’t–his brother’s house took some serious damage and will take some time to repair. We do realize that we’re fortunate and that the Casa de Rurale withstood winds that may have been as high as 100 MPH. So as we take care of day-to-day tasks, we also help others best we can.
It may be a couple of weeks before you hear from me again, but I’ll update whenever I’m able. Please keep an eye out on the Gulf.
Los Primos is the little Mexican grocery store in Hammond. Let me take you to our local “little Mexico.”
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
OK–have you tried the Salsa Macha yet? I’ve emptied that big jar, and am down to the two small jars. Need to make a trip to Winn-Dixie for more peanuts, and soon, back to Hammond for more dried chipotle chili peppers.
I’ve used it on a few things and even eaten a small spoonful at a time. The warm, smoky flavor is amazing. What I’ve used it for the most has been. . .egg salad. No kidding. Slice or chop three hard-boiled eggs, and add them into a small bowl. In a separate small bowl (custard cups are good for this), mix about three parts of regular mayonnaise with one part Salsa Macha. Mix well, then mix in with the chopped eggs. Mix well and enjoy. That is fabulous. Unfortunately, I didn’t formally measure anything.
Oh, and BF finally did try it after I basically cornered him and twisted his arm (not physically.) I put about one-eighth of a teaspoon on a saltine cracker and asked him for his opinion. He’s always leery of anything with any kind of peppers in it, including sweet bell peppers. Peppers and tomatoes give him a bout of heartburn, especially at night. But I wasn’t asking him to eat a large amount, just a little taste. This shouldn’t give him heartburn, but he was adamant. He ate half of what was on the cracker and said it was “Ok, but I don’t want it again.” That was all I was asking for. So, more for me, and he gets heartburn from seemingly everything.
I’ve also started back working on my new copywriting website, which has been sitting idle for a while. Banana Rat is also doing a bit to help me with it, mostly the back-end stuff on WordPress.
Piggybacking on last week’s post, I want to tell you about an accidental discovery and a big surprise. Of course, BF never thought to tell me this place even existed.
The Casa de Rurale is a half-hour away from this sort of metropolitan city. It’s a little more than an hour north of New Orleans, and home to many “bigger city” amenities like Starbucks and Target. (It’s the closest of both to us.) If we can’t find it in either Walmart, Winn-Dixie, or Tractor Supply, chances are it’s on the list for the next trip to Hammond. We’ll visit Target, Rouse’s, Hobby Lobby, or a bigger Winn-Dixie while we’re there.
Hammond is also home to Southeastern Louisiana University, one of the top three universities in Louisiana, and also one of the fastest-growing. What does Southeastern have? College students from all over the US. So naturally, there’s Target, Starbucks, and other businesses they’ll know from home. It’s why there is a Trader Joe’s right outside LSU in Baton Rouge. You’ll nearly always see college students in there as well as local folks (and people like me who just love it but don’t live close by.)
When we go to Hammond for a shopping and foraging excursion, BF just smiles and gives me that same look when he looked into the very full pantry after I moved into his house. It’s the smile and the look that says, “Yes, dear, whatever you say.”
And it was on this day that we went to Baton Rouge, first to say goodbye to Alvin Calhoun. As we made our way back, he wanted to stop in Hammond–“it’s a surprise,” he said. I don’t normally like surprises–y’all know I’ve had way too many to think it’s going to be good. Thankfully, this one was different.
The Chinese Lunch Place
On the way home, BF decides we’ll be stopping for lunch at this little Chinese takeaway in a strip mall on Morrison Blvd. Before we get there, he just keeps telling me it’s a great little surprise.
Oh, boy, he wasn’t kidding.
Walking through the car park, hand in hand, I look over to my right and I see it:
Could it be? A real Hispanic food store? It is! When I saw the words “envios de dinero,” in a sign on the door, I knew what was inside. I had to go inside and investigate.
Of course, BF had his little heart set on Chinese takeaway, and he had to physically pull me into the Chinese place. Not throwing shade on the nice Chinese place, but once I ordered I walked out. Because there’s a real Mexican grocery store in Hammond–right next door!
I left BF to take care of the rest and pick it up. Told him to text me when he was done and ready to leave.
Los Primos Of Hammond
Have you ever walked into someplace and your eyes just soaked up everything? That was me in Los Primos. The Spanish music was playing over the PA system, brightly colored stuff was everywhere, and I was the only Gringo in the place. This was the first thing I saw:
The brightly painted coffee cups, the clay pots, and the little shopping bags were my favorite.
Found the chipotle I needed!
And other Hispanic spice-rack favorites:
Sesame seeds were also needed for the Salsa Macha, and I was able to get a package here.
Sección de Comestibles (Grocery Section)
When I first moved to Houston, I was just shocked at all the different Hispanic, organic, and other specialty foods that were available in the regular grocery store. Stuff you just couldn’t even imagine buying in a grocery in New Orleans in 1998. But there it was, for anyone to purchase, no matter their ethnicity. I regularly bought one or two new things to try while I was in Texas, especially when I visited Phoenicia Foods on the west side.
While my eyes and ears were soaking this all up in Hammond (the first time), BF sat in the car park, in the cab of the truck, looking at Facebook. I think he was just afraid to walk into the place.
Los Primos also has a variety of groceries that are commonplace in most Houston grocery stores.
Goya is the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the US, and its products are available outside of the US as well.
And don’t forget your nacho chips:
I got what I needed for the Salsa Macha:
I also bought another pound of fresh chorizo from the refrigerator case, as well as a couple of things to snack on during the trip home:
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are something I haven’t had in at least 5 years, and probably longer. They’re just not something people eat here, but they’re so delicious and I just love them. I used to have a recipe for roasted and spiced pepitas, but I think the cookbook is now long gone.
BF had been up since about 5:00 am and was tired, but still graciously took me to Los Primos the second time when I needed some ingredients. I did offer him both the almonds and pepitas, but he passed.
Departamento de Carnes (The Meat Department)
Although I didn’t buy anything this time, I did take pictures:
But I’d be willing to wager that this is chorizo:
And because I don’t understand much Spanish, there was only one guy I could talk to–the nice guy at the one register! That’s OK. I told him I was making Salsa Macha, and he said, “Oh, that’s so good! You can get big containers of it at Costco, too.” Well, Costco is an hour drive in any direction, so I have to make it myself. Not that I mind.
Fresh Produce, Too
There were folks putting up a little produce in the back. Not a big department, but they do have pinto and black beans in bulk bins, along with those little wagon wheels. (Never had those, and they’re wheat. You fry them up like croutons.) What I did get was some limos (limes.) At first, I didn’t realize that’s what they were. Look at the size of them:
The young lady putting up produce didn’t speak any English, but she did know what I was talking about when I said “limes?” She responded, “Si, limos.” I responded, “muchas gracias!” Because I was so happy to find these monster-sized ones–all we get in Winn-Dixie and Walmart are the golfball-sized models. The smile on my face told her everything.
No seeds in these limos, so I can’t re-grow them, either.
The Little Strip Mall
Los Primos is located at 1320 N. Morrison Blvd, Suite 118, Hammond, LA 70401.
It’s literally in the corner of this little strip mall, along with the Chinese takeaway, a donut shop, and a few other local shops. They’ve been in business for, as I was told, 11 years. They don’t have a website or any social media pages, either.
It looks like they are open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, but I’d call ahead (985-429-1722) to be sure.
There’s A Restaurant Too
Just on the other side of the wall from the Chinese takeaway, Los Primos also has a sit-down restaurant that, I hope, we’ll be visiting one day soon. Apparently, it’s a great place for a cheap date, which is perfect for us! (La Carreta is nice but a bit pricey.)
Reviews are mixed online, with some saying it’s a great and authentic Mexican, others saying something else. Yelp has the most that I’ve seen so far, mostly positive.
I didn’t even realize there was a restaurant until I was leaving–the second time. I’m sure they thought I was bonkers, but honestly, it’s great to find such a place around here. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can have a “date night” here. My birthday is in October, so fingers crossed.
Until Next Time
I’m working on a couple of upcoming topics, and there is another new book coming from Emilie Bailey, The Texas Granola Girl. Yes, it too is keto, but this one is vegetarian. I’ve already notified Miss Alice about the book, and I’m sure she and her daughter will eat it up. (Get it?)
The book comes out in September, and I may be lucky enough to get an advance review copy again. Based on the last two books from this lady, I can’t see anything being bad about this vegetarian food, whether for a side dish or for a main dish for people like Miss Alice.
If there is a topic you’d like me to explore and write about, by all means, let me know! I’m always looking for new blog topics. Leave a comment below, or use the contact form to get in touch. (I think I need to add a widget to the site so the contact form shows up everywhere.)
Good stuff is coming soon, and so are the holidays, so. . . .
Buen provecho! (Bon Appétit!)
Salsa Macha–a most delicious thing to make any time. It’s perfect for your charcuterie boards, too.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Apologies again for being later than I wanted, but I’ll explain myself shortly. It’s summer, and the living is easy (we hope.) As always, fall is coming, and certain people in the US population are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte season. Heck, everything pumpkin spice–you know who you are.
If you just can’t wait, you can make that PSL at home with a recipe from Starbucks’ own website. Who would have thought it?
But remember–while y’all are sipping your hot PSLs, I’m still trying to enjoy my iced coffee and avoid heatstroke.
With all the rain we’ve had this year, I don’t think we’ve seen a day of 100F temps here. Houston, and most of Texas, has seen multiple 100F days.
This Year’s Gardening Attempts
We have not attempted to repeat last year’s gardening disaster.
I really haven’t mentioned the paint-bucket garden, but we’ve got basil and a few other things growing. I really need to plant the sprouted avocado seeds so they can grow into actual trees.
Think of how many friends we’ll have when they find out we have avocados growing! Well, except for BF and his brother. Say “guacamole” and BF starts retching.
Two batches of pesto were the result of the last basil cut, and I’ll likely have that much when I cut this batch.
I’ve also got two Anaheim chili pepper plants growing, and one has two medium-sized peppers on it.
Unfortunately, the little peppers that began forming when the flowers dropped off became slug food, and so I may only have those two. We’ll see, since “cold weather” probably won’t start until at least October. And then there’s lettuce:
I’ve also bought some plants:
- “Coolapeno” peppers, the heat-free jalapenos
- Green onions, as always, but I need to add more to the pot
- Orange bell peppers
- Yellow tomatoes
- Strawberries (the slugs have really decimated this one)
- Mint (a plant that is overgrown in the bucket and we recently buzz-sawed with a hedge trimmer)
And as always, sage:
Unfortunately, I didn’t plant them all right away, leading to more of BF’s smarty-pants comments about “science experiments.” I remind him that none of his previous female companions ever brought urban agriculture or other improvements into his house and his life.
Home Visit Nibbles
So a few weeks ago, our district leader OR decided she wanted to make the drive to do a home visit. It’s an SGI tradition of visiting members at home, particularly those who have recently begun practicing Buddhism and offering support. The leaders chant with the members and they discuss. . .whatever. In this case, it was the upcoming district meeting. And, I suppose OR wanted to get outta the house for a while.
Now, because of where I live, nearly everyone is an hour away. The closest members are J&B, who live in Albany, near Hammond. Basically, I’m practicing by myself out here, although most are a phone or Zoom call away. Since I’ve been practicing since 1986, though, I think I’ve got the hang of it. I don’t understand why they want to drive an hour–each way–to do a home visit, but I gave up protesting.
While we were chanting, BF showed up. But he quickly bugged off to the shop and left us alone to talk. He doesn’t mind the home visits, of course, but he does enjoy acting up when people are visiting me.
When someone does drive out here, I try to make sure I have some food and coffee to offer. I’ve baked some delicious treats from the first Babycakes book. I also have the second book but haven’t looked at it in a while. Maybe next time they come by I’ll make that Pineapple Upside-Down Cake on page 116 again.
On this particular day, since it was just OR, I told her I’d make a couple of those little keto chocolate cakes in the Instant Pot for her, and of course, coffee. OR is from Los Angeles, and is Hispanic herself–her parents came from Mexico years and years ago, and she has been in Mandeville since about 2006. Knowing that I’m a fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex food, she decided to bring something special. Naturally, I didn’t think to take pictures.
So OR made a stop at The Fresh Market for a few things, including a box of little gluten-free nut crackers, a small tub of chicken salad, and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese. Why Swiss, I don’t know, I like it fine, and I just said “thank you.”
Along with these nibbles, she brought this:
Then she asked for a very small spoon, which I happened to have:
Puzzled by her request, I went to the only one I knew I could put my hands on, in a box of Maldon Salt Flakes in the pantry. I have more of these tiny spoons, but I don’t know where they are.
We sit at the table and she explains:
- Take a cracker
- Fold a slice of cheese to make smaller pieces
- Add a bit of cheese onto the cracker
- Add a bit of chicken salad to the cracker on top of the cheese
- Drip a bit of this incredible stuff on top of the cracker stack
- Eat and enjoy
What the heck is this amazing thing you’ve brought here? OR responds, “It’s called Salsa Macha.“
I have eaten it and become enlightened.
OR is a fan of Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS. I like to watch her when I can, her food looks delicious. Pati is actually from Mexico and is married to an American. They have three sons and live in Maryland. They have, however, lived in Texas.
Pati has three books, which will be going on my “wish list” soon. Her newest will be released in November, called Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets. Her most recent book graces OR’s kitchen, and all three will eventually grace mine.
While the tacos look absolutely delicious, they are not gluten-free–she uses regular flour to batter the fish, and makes flour tortillas as well. Just thought I’d warn you.
OR said that since she made the salsa the first time, she carries around a jar of it and puts it on EVERYTHING. No wonder she has that glow of enlightenment.
I’m also writing about this recipe to piggyback on my last post on charcuterie boards. Because you can easily put this on any charcuterie board–just add a warning that it’s a bit spicy as well as contains peanuts. You don’t want an allergic person unknowingly ingesting it and having to go to the hospital.
If you do put this on your charcuterie board, I highly recommend putting the little cocktail spoons out for Salsa Macha. Because if you put a regular teaspoon out, someone will grab a large amount not realizing it should be consumed in small amounts. It does have enough of a bite from both the garlic and the chile peppers that a big tablespoon will overwhelm even the most tolerant of spice-lovers.
Making The Salsa Macha
Let me say at the outset that I am by no means an expert on Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I make no secret of the fact that it’s just one of my favorites. Living in Texas for 18 years, it’s all around, in the same way that red beans & rice, jambalaya, and gumbo are here. You know what I’d rather have, starting with the chips.
When most people hear the word “salsa,” it’s usually accompanied by the word “chips.” It’s either a freshly made tomato garnish, or it’s the kind out of a jar. Either one is good, especially if the chips are hot, fresh, and salty. However, this salsa is different.
Salsa Macha is cooked, and has no tomatoes. In fact, it has. . .peanuts. No kidding.
Of course, getting all the ingredients together was a challenge (I’ll tell you about that in a minute.) When I mentioned to OR that I was making some, she said she used a whole cup of peanuts, so I cracked open more before I made them.
Prep work involved a few other things, including peeling garlic and deseeding and deveining the dried chile peppers. That took a while:
By the time you get them all done and get to this point:
You’ve had a snootful of the pepper dust and have sneezed multiple times. Just cut the tops off, cut in half, or cut down one side, and the seeds are easy to remove.
The packet I got is actually 2.5 ounces, and the recipe calls for 2 ounces. Well. . .by the time you remove all those seeds, I’d say you got exactly 2 ounces.
I also measured out the sesame seeds, white vinegar, brown sugar (just for the first round, I think a sugar replacement like Swerve would work too), and salt for later.
First: add 1.5 cups of olive oil to a pan:
And heat over medium heat:
Once it’s heated, but not boiling, add the peanuts and the four cloves of garlic:
Now, don’t walk away from it–you’re actually frying these ingredients:
Pati says that peanuts are cooked long before you notice them, so that’s why it’s important to stay at the stove for this one.
Next, add the seeded and deveined dried chile peppers:
Along with the sesame seeds:
Cook a little longer until the chiles are toasted and done, about another 30 to 60 seconds, then take off the heat. (I just moved it to an unused burner.)
Grinding And Processing
Here’s where you should pull out that big food processor, you’ll need it.
Let me iterate here that this is HOT oil, and you’ll need to exercise great caution at this point. Hot oil burns badly, and nobody wants to check into the burn unit, ever. If you have small children or animals, shoo them out of the kitchen and away from the stove for their own safety.
Because I was using a cast-iron pot, I brought the food processor bowl to the stove and scooped it in a little at a time. Better safe than sorry, and I don’t want to get injured.
I used a couple of tools to clear the pan:
And dumped the last little bit into the work bowl.
After putting the bowl on the motor unit, I added the last ingredients:
And of course, kosher salt:
Then hit the ignition:
What you get is this lovely and delicious thing that you won’t want to live without:
It makes a good bit, and so I filled one big jar and two small ones:
When I clear out that jar on the right, I’m going to wash it well and return it to OR. BTW, those little Ball jars do come in handy for lots of things. Walmart, Amazon, and sometimes Tractor Supply has them.
Raw peanuts are called “green boiling peanuts” here. Why? People boil them in salt and eat them like that. I can’t say they’re bad, but I never had them before I moved to this area.
Now you may be thinking, “Amy, how did you get that kind of thing in rural Louisiana?” Good question–I almost didn’t. That’s why this post is a bit later than I intended. I stayed up a little late last night to make it, too.
OR has access to not only a “Hispanic foods section” in the Mandeville Walmart, but there is also at least one “Mexican grocery store” in the area, too. I’ve been in that Walmart and seen it myself, bought masa harina and corn husks there for our chicken tamales I made once. But Mandeville is nearly an hour one way. Not a good option.
I went to our local Winn-Dixie and Walmart looking for the dried chiles, to no avail. I was on the phone doing a FaceTime call with OR looking for them, but they really don’t have that kind of thing here.
Then I remembered that there IS a Mexican grocery store nearby–in Hammond. So after being up since 6:00 am, and driving an hour from Franklinton to get home from work, BF took me to the little Mexican grocery in Hammond and then brought me home. Once back at the Casa de Rurale, BF went into hibernation for a while.
If you’re in an area where you can’t find these chiles, you can get them online at Fiesta Spices’ website. They have a whole section of their website just for dried chile peppers. Now that I think about it, Albertson’s in Hammond carries some of Fiesta’s spices, so maybe I’ll drop by there next time and see if they have the chiles, too. If not, everything is available online, thank heavens.
Will BF Eat It?
That’s always the question. I didn’t really make it for him, anyway. But he alternates between “I’ll try anything you make” to “I don’t think I’m gonna like it, I’d rather not try it.” Whatever. I’ll let you know.
If you eat this, you, too, will be come enlightened. I’m being silly when I say that, but that’s how good it is.
For my next blog post, I’ll tell you all about Hammond’s Tienda de comestibles, or little Mexican grocery store. We’ve recently seen folks speaking Spanish here, no English. Aside from the other considerations, it could mean more Hispanic foods may become available locally if the migration trend continues. Maybe it’s time for me to finally learn Spanish, even if I have to use DuoLingo. But for now, I can get some of these wonderful Mexican ingredients, along with ready-made chorizo, on the same trip as visiting Hobby Lobby, Rouse’s, and Target.
Until next time–Disfrutar! (Enjoy!)
Charcuterie boards are showing up everywhere. It’s not a new idea, it’s just another way of serving appetizers, hors d’oeuvres. They’re a delicious new art form, coming to a party near you.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with a web page project that has left me burning the midnight oil for quite a few nights. I just turned in the last page on mass torts last night, so I’ve got other stuff to catch up on, including this blog.
Our regular rainy days have given way to days of the long, hot summer with occasional cloudbursts, some torrential. I told you we’d be talking about the big freeze when summer came. Twice this week Mother Nature brought a very heavy monsoon of a rain shower, and the power went out for a few hours. Those Rotera tealight lanterns were deployed, with a reminder that I need to order more. BF’s sister may do an IKEA run for us one of these days.
I’ve been trying to get some sewing done on Saturdays as I used to in Houston, but there’s the matter of housecleaning. One bit at a time. I’ve still not returned to using the circa-1996 White sewing machine Big Joel sent me since it’s been back from the repair guy in Denham Springs. It works perfectly, I’m just afraid to use it. But I need to, because the one I use now isn’t great on buttonholes.
This year’s heavy rainy season lets me know that I need to make a more utilitarian raincoat than fabulous fashion raincoats I made in Houston. One is a poncho-like Donna Karan model from 2003, and the other a regular double-breasted, both from ripstop nylon. (The GER laughed at me when I made that Donna Karan raincoat.) They aren’t really suitable for life at the Casa de Rurale.
I bought some heavier raincoat fabric for this MimiG pattern, but I still haven’t cut it yet. Need some strong buttons and a couple of separating zippers, as well as a few other supplies that aren’t locally available. It means the mail ladies will be dropping off more packages.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to attend a gathering this summer, hosting one, or planning for the holidays, I’ve got something you’ll need to know about: the Charcuterie Board.
Has anyone used the word “charcuterie” in front of you? It’s certainly showed up in several of my Instagram feeds, so I knew I had to take a look for myself.
Charcuterie is a French word that has to do with preserved meats–bacon, ham, sausages, etc. It’s the practice of preserving meat used long before refrigeration was available. The practice may have originated with the Romans, but has been used in France for hundreds of years. The types of preserved meats varied by region.
The person who makes these things is called a charcutier, and their repertoire may also include pate’, as well as what’s called “head cheese,” or in Louisiana, “hogshead cheese,” as it was called when I was growing up.
It just so happens that Central Market in Texas is celebrating “Charc Week,” celebrating all the things you’ll need to make a charcuterie board at home. In a week or so, they’ll be celebrating their yearly Hatch Festival, with all things hatch chilis. I’ve got a few Anaheim chili peppers growing in a paint bucket now but will be heading to Hammond to partake of more Hatch chilis for us. Ok, for me.
Building The Board
First thing you’ll need: a board. No kidding, but not just any old cutting board that you’ve had since your first apartment. Unless, of course, you’re making it strictly for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that, either–why wait for a party? But for entertaining, you’ll want something nicer. (Warning: affiliate links ahead.)
In the HeatCageKitchen, I could make do with a large, seldom-used cutting board I bought back in the 1990’s from Macy’s in downtown New Orleans. (On my lunch hour, of course.) But now that charcuterie boards are a thing, you can choose from more upscale models like this one from Smirly:
They also make an expandable version for a little more:
The Spruce also has a list of their best board choices for 2021.
Just do a search on Amazon and you’ll find about 3,000 results for them, with similar results from other places like Wayfair (also called “cheeseboards.”) You’ll find one that suits your tastes and fits your budget. And no, there’s no need to spend a fortune on one of these, either–find some suitable and less expensive cutting boards at both Cost Plus World Market as well as IKEA.
The Meats, Cheeses, And More
So, there are about a million ways to make one, and chances are there isn’t a “wrong” way to make them (not that I’ve found, anyway.) AllRecipes explains it simply here, and this article from WebRestaurantStore.com explains it in more detail.
The basic premise is that it’s small bites, with flavors and textures that go well together. Choose one or more types of meats, such as:
- Salami and other hard sausages
- Prosciutto or ham
- Spanish Chorizo (this is a fully cooked sausage like salami and not raw like Mexican chorizo)
- Mousse or pate’
And pair it with cheeses (I like Manchego), as well as:
- Spreads, like home-made hummus, mustard and chutney
- Pickles (those tiny cornichons are cute and tasty)
- Bite-sized fruit (think grapes, dried apricots, pineapple chunks)
- Veggies (grape tomatoes, small sweet peppers, cut carrots and cucumbers, etc.)
- Cut bread, the size of Melba toast
- Other tasty bite-sized things you may like.
Remember that everything needs to be bite-sized and easy to pick up, since it’s self-served on small plates.
How To Make It
Of course, there is a myriad of recipes for these on Pinterest, AllRecipes, YouTube, and The Food Network, to name a few. And if you want a book for your collection, there’s this one, Beautiful Boards. I don’t have this one myself, and I never saw charcuterie referenced when I was a reviewer for Callisto. I guess that explains why I never saw it before now, either.
Once you have your ingredients, It’s simply a matter of assembling everything so that it’s attractive and easy to get to (preferaby with forks, right?) You can follow a picture or detail it the way you like it.
Don’t have time to make them? Check your area, you may be able to pick them up already made, like in Central Market. In Baton Rouge, there is a place called Bites & Boards, and in Houston, there are GrazeHTX and Charcuterie Houston. Do a Google search, because they’re ready to make one for your next get-together if you’re too busy or just want someone else to handle it.
Check your local grocer for “party trays,” because many will have something similar. HEB also has recipes for them, like this Texas Sized Charcuterie Board. Where do I get that board?? (Yes, I still miss Texas, but that’s another story entirely.) I haven’t checked Rouses, but they probably either have them or will make one to order.
British Charcuterie: The Ploughman’s Lunch
Let me point out that I have not been to Europe, and only know what I read, research, and see on Britbox, The Food Network, and other sites about any manner of European, Australian, and other non-US cuisines.
I found it interesting when Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, visited a British pub in London and shared a Ploughman’s Lunch with her husband, Jeffrey. She’s a big fan of visiting Paris and they even own an apartment there, so I guess London was a day trip. The recipe on the Food Network’s website is more for a party, rather than for one person. Note: It’s not in any of her cookbooks that I found.
But a ploughman’s lunch is a cold and generally portable meal that’s intended to eat out in the fields, literally, when the ploughman gets a break. It consists of bread, cheese, onions, cold meat, pickles, and other items not needing refrigeration for a long period.
And what does it look like? In many cases, a lot like a charcuterie board. Really. With much the same things.
It’s been a thing for hundreds of years. But since the 1950’s, after WWII rationing ended, the “ploughman’s lunch” became a thing in pubs to sell more cheese. In recent years, gastro-pubs, which emphasize food rather than just beer, have elevated this humble meal to something more gourmet. So if you’re in a British pub (which could be anywhere, including The Blue Anchor in Delray Beach, FL), you may find it called “ploughman’s lunch” or something similar.
A Little Charcuterie Humor
You know people can’t leave things alone on social media, right? I won’t mention the memes made after the recent commercial space flights, complete with well-known public figures.
This article on Mashed talks about why charcuterie boards are now so popular. The pandemic lockdowns in 2020 saw a lot of people looking for new things to do. Making the boards became a pasttime, showing up on everyone’s Instagram feeds but mine. Apparently the “craze” began with author Marissa Mullen’s Instagram account, and it became the next big DIY craft project–and it’s edible.
Of course, there are multiple versions of charcuterie boards, such as these targeted to. . .um, individuals less gourmet inclined than myself:
And you know that’s Velveeta, right? BF can totally get behind this one.
In my Tuesday night Zoom call with my wonderful writer friends, I mentioned that the next topic for this humble blog would be charcuterie boards. And Bev in Georgia was very nice to find this amusing pic:
See? Social media isn’t all bad.
I know, I know, “boomer humor” and all that. I found it quite amusing, and so do a number of other folks. Better than some of the nastier stuff I see online.
For Next Time
I have a recipe I want to try and take pictures of to post. Because it’s something that will work well on a charcuterie board as well as a number of other things. Call it a “condiment.” But I’ll say this–when I tried it, courtesy of one of my Buddhist friends, I believe I became enlightened. I’ll explain when I can make it for you, complete with pictures and the story of how the stuff made it here. You will not be sorry.
Stay cool, stay hydrated, and be ready for anything if you’re on the Gulf Coast. You know what time of year it is, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a few extra things for your pantry and home.
Meantime, have fun this summer as much as you can. Because you know in a few months we’re going to be embracing hot chocolate, pots of chilis and stews, and nearly everything Pumpkin Spice.