December 27, 2011

Holiday Weekly Menu, Retrospectively

Just one more shot of all the loot.

Make shift fireplace ambience for dinnertime.

Pork Loin Roast in background, with bamboo skewers instead of cooking twine; hearty salad in foreground.

Ry and I are making it the tradition that we cook all the dinners during the family's week long adventures at the beach for Christmas. I love this tradition for so many reasons:
1) it's not very often that we get to cook for more than 2 people
2) Ry cooks with me side-by-side every night, and it's wonderful
3) we relieve the parents of this duty, and they don't have to think about food at all (well, except for breakfast and lunch, where we all fend for ourselves), and we like to be able to do that
4) I get to start brainstorming weeks prior, and it's just so much fun to puzzle together a week's work of dinners, with mostly seafood (which is not my strong suit).

I am glad I'm recording this list so that next year (and years to come) I can remember all we made and either choose to repeat, or build off of this years menu.

Wednesday Dinner: lightly breaded and fried flounder filets (with Tony's Creole Seasoning! I know someone almost got kicked off Top Chef for using it...but we LOVE it) overtop sautéed onions; shrimp cocktail; maple-glazed sweet potatoes; hearty salad

Thursday Dinner: Beef Ragu, similar to this recipe by Giada "Boobs" de Laurentiis; great salad with lots of veggies
*This one was great because it was (mostly) a one pot meal that we started during the mid-afternoon lull, and then didn't have to think about again until just before serving time.

Friday Dinner: Seared Tuna Steaks (rubbed with Tony's...again!); shrimp cocktail; mashed taters; wicked awesome salad with an increasing amount of veggies

Christmas Eve Dinner: Roast Pork Tenderloin stuffed with garlic and apples (served with Apple Butter); oven roasted root veggies; and wouldn't you know it but a big amazing salad
*This one was my favorite, because even though the pork loin was amazing as is, the apple butter made it possibly one of the very best thing I've ever eaten.

Christmas Dinner: Seared Scallops; more tuna steaks; brown rice; and the best damn salad ever, with hard boiled egg and apple slices

Other things we ate: nachos with refried beans and avocados; egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches; Hershey Kisses; "Puppy Chow" (recipe coming soon); gingerbread cookies; grapefruit; turkey sandwiches; and Peanut Butter Bon Bons.

Beer we drank that we don't get up north: New Belgium Fat Tire and 1554 (my fav); Duck Rabbit Milk Stout; PBR in bottles (ok, we get that in VT, but still); I forget all the rest and Ry will have to fill it in.

December 23, 2011

Christmas at the Beach

5 minutes well spent, putting up Christmas lights.

Maybe not as well spent as the 10 minutes I took to organize the presents under the fiberoptic tree...


After (You can't quite tell how great it is; Nathan--B in Law--took a time lapse video of the whole charade, and it's quite great).

More to come (how grand all this time I have to relax, and knit, and do puzzles, cook dinner and BLOG!)

December 21, 2011

Motion Sickness

I usually can't do anything in the car without getting motion sickness. But for some reason, I can knit. Even in the backseat!

Today I'm knitting a simple cowl, which is just a short scarf that is then sewn together to make a big fluffy soft sweater turtleneck typ-a-thing.

I got a pattern from my friend Kat, but for some reason I couldn't do the modified lace pattern, so I gave up and am just doing a simple ribbing pattern. Here's hoping it will be done by Christmas!

December 20, 2011

Taco, an update

I know I just posted like 6 seconds ago, but I just found this picture of Taco, and couldn't resist. Look at that little monkey!

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

We really do wish you a Merry Christmas.
(egg nog in hand)

May your holidays be filled with WARMTH,


not too much DRIVING,

(*Ahem, Jimmy Stone with our free-range, grass-fed, Virginia cow, which we spent the first day of our vacation butchering. Awesome.)


and TREES!

No matter how big or small,

Real or fake (or a combination of the two).

Our first few days of vacation have been spent...

:: copying SouleMama's double colon verb list! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. Thank you.

:: listening to Steven King's Bag of Bones on CD (Thanks's This American Life free audio book deal!)

:: driving 900 miles

:: getting nauseous driving up and down Ferrum Mountain Road

:: butchering and packaging 526 pounds of cow (I am proud to have been dubbed Director of Packaging)

:: hanging, skinning and butchering a deer (I love how a neighbor knew we had a deer, called up, asked for the hide, came over 5 minutes later and skinned the hide)

:: teaching Ry's dad how to brew beer (Santa brought his gifts early)

:: shopping for last minute gifts (Note to self for 2012: Don't take Ry to a WalMart during the holidays EVER AGAIN)

:: munching on Excedrin because for the first time in my 30 years I THREW OUT MY BACK. Whaaaaa???

:: drinking Fat Tire, Ranger IPA, Starr Hill, Old Dominion and other indigenous beverages we can't get up north way (OK, New Belgium isn't indigenous to VA...but it's SO GOOD!)

:: finishing up writing Thank You notes

:: and listening to Bing Crosby. Ry even surprised me by asking ME to sing a Christmas duet!

December 14, 2011

Paying Attention...and Outraged

I'm going to start with this happy image, because I need a little lightness and happiness right now.

I have been paying attention a lot lately (thank you VPR - I appreciate you!), and like the bumper sticker, I am OUTRAGED. There is just so much to be upset about in the world.

I've come back to that slogan--If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention--a lot in my life. Not on purpose, but every time I get worked up about the state of the world, I think, oh yeah, it's not worse than normal, I am just paying more attention than, say, a few weeks ago. So, depending on which classes I took in college, I was outraged (resulting in a few vegetarian years, stands against overpopulation, and proclamations of the urgent need to decriminalize prostitution). It's not that I've stopped thinking about those issues, but just not as fervently.

I remember one rather emotional day when I was a sophomore in college where I had a meltdown. I cried and cried for a few hours (not all that unusual - I generally had an episode like this every quarter, and it was always cathartic and not tragic.) But the night ended with my friends laughing at me because I had started to orate, through my sobs, about how the deer population would go crazy if you killed all the wolves. And-gasp-it-sniff-was-just-hiccup-SO-sniff-IMPORTANT.

Anyway, this week has been particularly outraging. Perhaps I'm predisposed to it because Taco has been a hellion kitty, keeping us up all night (and me worrying about if we're going to have one of those bad kitties that swats at people as they walk by). Either way, here are the Top 5 Things I'm Mad About:

1. When Molly Gordon, an Iowan Evangelical voter said "Frankly, I am a woman, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with a woman as president. Women are just - I just don't know if we're cut out to lead." Seriously? Thanks for undoing a few hundred years of discrimination, lady.

2. The fact that the Republicans are going to "sneak" the approval of a Canadian oil pipeline onto the payroll tax cut renewal bill. There are so many things wrong with this situation. First, the pipeline? Sure it might create jobs, but at what other cost, environmental or otherwise? And, as I hear last night the jobs might not be as abundant as people thing. 2nd, the fact that this is tied in with such an important other bill that could shut the government down...again...or leave the lower middle class with even less money. Get it together people!

3. The Post Office! Please don't go! What would we do without you! It's got more nostalgia than rotary phones and phone booths and VHS and mix TAPES combined. I can't imagine the world without a Post Office. I go to the Post Office like 3 times a week for work - what will I do now? I did love Wait Wait Don't Tell Me's joke on this one, though...can't find the exact quote, but something like "If someone were to ask me to take a piece of paper across the country to this exact person, I would say "that'll be $500 bucks". So true!

4. Ugh - the whole "American Muslim" TV show thing, and how people are reacting to it. Lowe's pulls its advertising, and people are outraged. So disheartening. Nice try, TLC.

5. And last but not least...there is a butter shortage in Norway! What are people going to do about Christmas Cookies? Or put on their toast? Or sauté onions and celery in for soup? Oh the tragedy! By the way, they're out of butter b/c they sold all their milk to the US. Hmmmmm.

I easily could have had 10 more, but thought I'd limit it so we wouldn't feel like jumping off a bridge. Le sigh.

December 9, 2011


If you turn the lights off, you'd never know there was not an evergreen behind those lights.

Taking advantage of the greenery we DO have...

...and every other nook and cranny we can stick a candle and a reindeer.

Proudly displaying some heirloom Parcell ornaments, in a place where the cats can't break them.

Our Christmas Tree, in it's full splendor.

I will go forage for some boughs this weekend, so we can still be part of the historic tradition of bringing life into the home during the darkest time of year.

I could say the same about New Englanders.

December 6, 2011

How to Treat Yourself During the Holidays

I'm not quite there in terms of holiday-spirit, but I'm close. This year I think it's less about traditional decoration and stuff, and more about the feeling of it all. One of my favorite "feelings" of the time of year is the satisfaction of and little smile from giving yourself little treats. A lot of the holiday is spent thinking of others - How do you say Happy Holidays? How can you express to them how wonderful they are? If applicable, what to give them? How much money or time can you spend on them? How do you fit all your friends and family in to a short week or two?

Don't get me wrong - thinking of others is all well and good! And a treat in itself. But it can get stressful, busy and expensive (again, in both money and time). Every now and then you need a little boost to remind you it's the end of another year, and you made it in one piece! Congratulations! And thank you, self.

Here is an advent-style December count-down on how to give yourself little treats everyday of the season:

December 1: Purchase a smelly candle (smelly in a good way -- this year I forwent the expensive Yankee Candle for the $3 Apple Cinnamon from Glade).

December 2: Listen to the Vince Guaraldi Trio "A Charlie Brown Christmas" album. One time or eight times.

December 3: Wake up early to see the sunrise.

December 4: While out shopping (holiday or otherwise...hardware store? Pet Food Warehouse?), buy yourself a nice piece of chocolate.

December 5: Do gentle relaxing yoga in the dark, save for the aforementioned Apple Cinnamon candle flickering in the background.

December 6: Call in sick, and take care of whatever personal business you need to - shopping? Laundry? Holiday cards? Foraging for winter boughs?

December 7: Wear your comfy house shoes to work. Bonus points if you wear work pants that are actually as comfortable as your pajamas.

December 8: Splurge on a Peppermint Mocha Latte from Starbucks.

December 9: Splurge at home by adding two drops of Peppermint Extract to a steaming cup of homemade hot cocoa.

December 10: Take 5 minutes to email or write a letter to someone you haven't written to in a while just to say Hi.

December 11: Go outside and sweat - ski, walk, stack firewood...

December 12: Re-read a few holiday cards you received in years past.

December 13: Tell someone about your favorite holiday tradition.

December 14: Buy and make a lobster to eat at home in the middle of the week.

December 15: Sing a Christmas Carol out loud while by yourself in your car.

December 16: Find a youth chorus or orchestra and go to their holiday concert.

December 17: Google image search one of the following: Christmas kitten, or New England Christmas (especially if it hasn't snowed yet)

December 18: Take a bath.

December 19: Don't bring your lunch to work today; buy a fancy sandwich or a really great salad.

December 20: (Now we're getting close!) Wear a shirt with sparkle or shimmer or sequins.

December 21: Put your towel in the dryer while you're showering, and then wrap yourself in it's warmth after you're all clean.

December 22: Take a nap on the couch.

December 23: Talk to a child. About Santa, about snow or about sugar.

December 24: Take a walk with someone late at night, and hold their hand.

December 25: (this is my favorite!) Wake up early, don't turn on any lights, except the Christmas Tree or equivalent, and sneak around downstairs quietly, just looking at the glow of the lights. Maybe they're shining over a mound of gifts soon to be torn open by ravenous nieces, or maybe they complement the rising sun over morning fog. Better yet (and this is my hope for you all), maybe you can look past them and see snow flakes falling outside, covering everything with that billowy white quilt.

December 26: Do a puzzle.

December 27: Drink a Coca-Cola before noon.

December 28: Don't check your email today.

December 29: Think about your New Year's Resolutions.

December 30: Watch one of those Vh1 marathons recapping the best and worst of the year.

December 31: See December 14 and December 20.

December 2, 2011

The Christmas Netipot

I am uncharacteristically NOT in the Christmas spirit yet. Usually, by December 1st at 12:01 AM, I have a tree up, I've wrapped white Christmas lights around the banister going up the stairs, I've spent my paycheck on Yankee Candle Balsam & Cedar (now 25% off!) and Cranberry Chutney candles, the tiny stockings are hung by the front door with care (including ones for the cats), and I've heard "Christmas Time Is Here" by the Charlie Brown gang at least 38 times. But I've got none of it. Not a single evergreen bough.

True, it's only December 2nd, but considering we're away this weekend, and then leaving for our 2nd Annual Holiday East Coast Tour on December 16th, I am running out of time. And I've considered that I might have to be OK with that this year. (With the promise to myself that I won't let it become a habit.)

My unChristmasness could be directly linked to advertisements. I think I'm taking after Ry, and I don't like to be told what to do or what to think, so stop telling me in October that I can take care of all my Christmas needs by Thanksgiving and save money if I just get myself to Target! And if you try to convince me one more time that buying someone a car for Christmas and wrapping it in a giant bow is realistic...well, I can't be responsible for my actions. And I don't want a Kindle telling me it's the most wonderful time of the year because I can finally replace the inconvenience of books. I will decide if it's the most wonderful time of the year.

My unChristmasness could also be attributed to this unseasonably warm weather. Last weekend, I was wearing a t-shirt. I have seen 7 snowflakes, and we only have two quilts on our bed (instead of three). Furthermore, not only am I not cold when I go outside, but I am also constantly reminded of the incredible climate changes we continue to see each and every day.

I think I'm getting more cynical.

But I am still hopeful. I am waiting for winter, at which point I am confident the coziness of drinking hot cocoa and cuddling up on the couch with some knitting will get the Christmas spirit flowing, like a Netipot during allergy season. I know there will be some moment soon where I will start to feel like it's winter, and like the season of warmth, tradition, giving and ...

*** UPDATE (later that day) ***

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the bank. It started to snow--big, heavy, fat, delicious flakes--and the bank had Christmas music playing. And candy canes. And glitter covered Christmas trees. I was wearing a hat, mittens and a long down coat. I was dreaming of cookies. Suddenly, every brake light and neon sign started to look pretty against the white snow flakes falling past them. Every shop--even the dirty mechanic that smells like engine oil--looked like it was plucked out of a wintry Norman Rockwell painting.

Could this be? Had I just had my Christmas Netipot?

Perhaps this year there might just not be time to hand craft every gift, and make my own wrapping paper. So what if I don't have energy (after planning and executing a wedding, and still writing the Thank You notes) to make and send Christmas Cards? Hell, we might not even get a Christmas tree (Eeek! But what's the point if it's going to sit around all alone for 15 days. Will the cats really notice a difference if we don't have one?). But at least it's starting to feel just a little more seasonal, just a little more jolly, just a little more like winter.

I think there is a Christmas movie about this.