The line is open. I’m thinking of an early night after laboring like a lumberjack to clear my walk of the snow-felled yaupon holly. Damn, those things spawn a lot of foliage in the course of 23 years. Closing thoughts:

THE WINNER: Homemade brand from United Dairy Farmers of Ohio.

  • THE WINNER: Homemade brand peppermint from United Dairy Farmers of Ohio won my holiday ice cream taste test.

* ON ICE CREAM — INCENSED NO MORE ABOUT PEPPERMINT: (For those who don’t know, that lead-in is a reference to a 60s-era song by a one-hit wonder name of, I think, Strawberry Alarm Clock.) More specifically: Someone asked about my search for peppermint ice cream, in the absence of Yarnell’s and the discovery that Blue Bell peppermint is even worse than its other flavors.

A friend alerted me to Homemade Brandpeppermint, from an Ohio dairy and available at Fresh Market. It won our holiday taste-off hands down. Graeter’s, the Cincinnati artisanal ice cream producer, finished a close second. Talenti’s, which makes spectacular high-end gelato widely available in stores here, reputedly makes a fine peppermint. I couldn’t find it, but the old-fashioned eggnog by Talenti’s was for sale and it is good stuff. Melt it slightly, stir in bourbon and you will be a most happy holiday camper. Speaking of melting: My haul for the taste-off was a victim of the power outage. I poured out the peppermint soup with regret, except for the oddly colored, poorly textured and underflavored Blue Bell. I never got any of the locally made Loblolly small-batch peppermint. Someday soon, I hope. A late arrival in the store was Kroger Premium brand peppermint and it was pretty darn good. Better than Blue Bell, for sure. Of course, anything awash in Williams-Sonoma’s unparalleled hot fudge sauce tastes good.

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* ON FIXTURES: John Lynch of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote a nice article today on my wife’s retirement as a circuit judge. I know he meant well by mentioning me as a “fixture” at the Arkansas Times for the last 21 years. However… Many so-called friends, and others, rushed to be the first to tell me that they immediately thought of a familiar household plumbing fixture on reading the reference to this old fixture. I’m grateful to Lynch for getting Ellen on record with a promise to step up her game on household chores.

* ON FIXING FISCAL BLAME: There won’t be a regular edition of the Arkansas Times this week, but we will distribute our annual Natives Guide in Pulaski County. In the absence of the regular issue, I wanted to rush this letter to the editor into print, because it comments on the current congressional debate on the fiscal cliff. There is NOT equal blame to go around in the impasse. Republicans are the problem. Read on: (But before the read, an UPDATE: Republicans’ insistence on winning Social Security cuts as part of the deal seem likely to derail talks. Social Security is not the problem currently, but the party of the wealthy will get its pound of flesh or take its ball and go home. Dems are willing to ratchet back how SS increases are calculated, by the way, but only in return for concessions on the debt ceiling that Repubs won’t give.)