Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still Christmas

I'm one of those annoying people who insist that Epiphany is the last day of Christmas. You know, Twelfth Night? The day the Magi came?

Today's society doesn't much hold with that, so no 12 day vacation or round of parties (we did get to go to one, a nice intimate gathering with local friends). And it seems odd to not have the tree out where we can see it. (It's living in the guest/TV/spare room, and I don't watch much television.)

Nevertheless, it's Still Christmas, and it's been very nice so far. We didn't give or get extravagant gifts, but the ones we got were lovely. DH found me vintage earrings to match a vintage Christmas brooch I already have. That's a wonderful combination of good luck, a good eye (he's got two), and persistence.

The cats were stunned by the windfall of toys...they wound up fighting over the same one, of course. (It met its end before Boxing Day, at the jaws of Than Chai. A fuzzy yellow candy cane. The hip thing for cats this year, I understand.)

The mortgage is paid for next month, we have plenty of food, it's warm in the house, and we both still have jobs. Still Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The last minute gift and general Christmas musings

I broke down and did it. Made a last-minute knitted gift. No further details at the moment, but it was no more than 6 hours start to finish, including some crochet edging.

Pictures of that and my mother's stole after Christmas.

And...the Christmas Spirit is trickling in. The office lunch was fun; I love it when we take a few minutes and relax over food together. Nat King Cole's version of "The Christmas Song" is playing at the moment, and I just wrapped a last-minute present for someone here (they come running and plead—Scotch tape and wrapping paper are a mystery to most).

Tonight I'll wrap a few things for DH (we cut way back on gifts to one another this year, but I have a few things to put under the tree).

All the packages have been sent out, and yesterday I got all of the Christmas dinner and brunch and Boxing Day food shopping done. There were excellent sales at the market. Half off on the meat, and I had a nice gift card from work. The final bill was more than 50% off! We'll have enough to also make beef pot pies on Boxing Day, and a nice brunch then, too—I'm thinking cream cheese stuffed French toast, bacon, Champagne cocktails and juice. (Recipe for the French toast follows.)

Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

Day-old or dry bread in thick slices (challah, raisin bread or other sturdy bread)
cream cheese (8 oz.)
honey (1 tsp. per every 8 oz. of cream cheese)
2 eggs for every 6 slices of bread
vanilla extract (1/8 tsp. for every egg)
half-and-half (2 tbl. for each egg)

Following the proportions marked, beat eggs with half-and-half and vanilla.

Whip cream cheese with honey. Add additional honey, if you like.

Slice into thick slices from one end, stopping about 1" from bottom of slice. (Don't cut all the way through; you want a pocket, not two slices of bread.) Spread a generous tablespoon or two of the sweetened cream cheese into the slit and press closed.

Place bread into batter; allow to sit for at least one minute each side (longer if you like).

Fry in a large skillet or on a griddle (don't crowd or they will not brown; you can keep those that are done in a slow oven to keep warm). Use a mixture of butter and oil (butter alone will burn). Fry until golden on both sides.

Serve with maple syrup or fresh fruit or fruit sauce or powdered sugar or whatever it is you like on your French toast.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookies for Breakfast

Yes. What better time of year? Noels, if you must know (chewy bar cookies with lots of brown sugar and lots of mixed nuts), and a peanut butter kiss cookie for balance.
Lots of protein, right? And dairy.

We did get whacked with the snow. I'm glad I was wrong (yes). Hey, if I have to miss a party, a snowstorm is an acceptable substitute.

I shovelled when I got home—it was really coming down at that point—and I came in looking like the Abominable Snow Woman. No pictures to prove it, though.

This was a very domestic weekend; I made the peanut butter kisses and the Noels, and a batch of beef stew. Mulled wine, too (recipe at the end of the post).

And finally we got the ornaments on the tree. It's been weeks since it was put up. Poor thing. Nekkid and moving about, it must have been blushing in shame, though it still looks green to me.

I also can reccomend an excellent televised prodction of The Nutcracker. Normally I don't care for ballet on TV; the people behind the camera miss too much (including feet!) and the make-up and costumes don't take kindly to close-ups...but the San Francisco Ballet triumphs over all of that. And yes, they've produced a DVD. I'll be looking for it soon. This is one production I'll be happy to watch over and over again.

Mulled Wine

(1) bottle of red table wine
whole cloves
stick cinnamon
(1) lemon
(1) orange
Cointreau [optional]

Prep: Peel the citrus fruits and cut off the pith (the bitter white portion). Put the sections of peel into the pan with the wine. Slice the rest of the pith off the fruits and slice them; add the slices to the pan.

Put in 1 - 3 sticks of cinnamon and 8 - 12 whole cloves.

Add 3 to 5 tbl. of honey; stir. Add Cointreau, if you're using it (about 1/4 cup).

Cook on low heat till it starts to bubble 'round the edges. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Strain and re-bottle if making ahead. It's convenient to do this anyway, so no one swallows a clove or a hunk of fruit.

Can be kept in the fridge and re-heated a mug at a time, or put back into a pan. It's fine to keep on a low simmer for an extended period of time, but don't let it boil.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let It Snow!

...because I won't believe it until I see it.

I'm from New York (never mind that Missouri stuff) and we require proof. Even upstate. In fact, especially upstate, as we know from snow up there.

The entire state of Rhode Island is semi-hysterical today. Snow! Snow everywhere! Close early! (Buy out all the milk and bread.)

Cancel the office Christmas party...the one I planned and set up. (And do it without telling me first, so that when people ask me about it I look like an idiot, okay?)

This is the Northeast, people. We get snow here. If you don't like snow, may I suggest Arizona or Southern California or Florida?

Oh. One more thing. It's 12:50 and not a single snowflake is to be seen. The ground is not only devoid of snow, it's dry.

Even if it begins to snow, I don't think we'll be incommunicado for the next week. This isn't Buffalo, NY!

Bah, humbug!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's the most [insanely busy] time of the year!

And HOW.

Not only do I have the usual domestic Christmas work to do, I am responsible for client gifts, employee festivities, and you-name-it. And I work for someone who thinks planning ahead is fiction. I am not putting up the office tree this year. It's not worth the hassle.

Our tree is still not decorated, but I did make three batches of cookies (as yet undecorated) and the family gifts were shipped out today. UPS. I know better than to trust the post office.

No Christmas cards have been written—yet—but they will go out this year, unlike last year.

I do love Christmas, in spite of the rants above. It would be lovely, though, if somehow there were 9 days in a week, and those extra days were all mine.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas and Cats

An interesting combination. Especially when the cats are young and haven't grown up with an older cat to teach them their Ps & Qs. Thai Shan would have kept the boys in line, just as Sud Ying taught him (yes, all Siamese. of course).

Than Chai. Of course. As bright as Fa Sing is, he's smart enough to not get caught when he does something naughty. Brawn-sans-brains always gets caught.

On Sunday he knocked down the tree. An artificial tree, so no water or heavy stand, and just lights, no ornaments yet, as we've been trying to ease them into the idea of something pretty that is not a cat toy.

Still, this means the tree will be moved up to the guest room (there's still space, we need to get more furniture). DH didn't want to do this, but I insisted. We had no tree at all last year, as the boys were tiny and into everything...and I love my pretty ornaments. Most of them are blown glass or crystal, of course. And Than Than still hasn't come down from killing his first mouse. (With my luck, the next one will run straight up the tree...if word hasn't gone out on the mouse grapevine.)

So much for cats and Christmas; we'll see how things go with the tree. Maybe we'll get the ornaments on this weekend.

Knitting isn't going fast, either. If I'm lucky I manage about eight rows a week on the Hope sweater. Which means that I'm on row 53 now. At least it's past half-way!

As for the Interminable Stole, ugh. I've decided it has to be "done" (whatever that means) this week so I can block it and send it off to TX in time for Christmas. The boys will be sorry to see it go. They snuggle under while I'm working on it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

We need a little Christmas

This evening after work, we are going to see Trinity Repertory Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol.

It's their big breadwinner, probably the thing that keeps them in the black, but we've never seen it. This is a hugely popular show, and they change it every year. Always a gimmick, I'm told. But also a polished and professional show.

We've tried to get tickets before, but waited too long for good seats. This year I chose them in early November (or maybe it was late October) and we got lucky.

I love going to the theatre; not only because I used to act, but because it always feels like a celebration.

Dressing up adds to the charm, and I've got the perfect Christmas dress! It's a New Look red velvet cheongsam, which was custom made for a diplomat's wife who lived in Hong Kong. Moderate Dolman look to the sleeves, and a very hourglass cut. I set out my gold stilettos and a gold mesh Whiting and Davis purse. The Persian lamb coat I found last weekend will keep me nice and warm; it's long and princess-cut.

DH is wearing a dark gray suit and (he said) a Christmas tie. He's got a sharp bow tie with holly leaves on it, not too kitschy.

Rather than going to dinner after, we are having waffles and bacon with champagne at home. My 30s waffle iron makes excellent waffles. I'll feel like an Art Deco socialite in a magazine story, apron and all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Black Wednesday

Yesterday was a "day off from work".

Which means....

...that I got up at 5 as usual, ran, had breakfast, did lots of housework (including laundry)...

...and updated my Christmas list and went out to do something about it.

We're nearly there. All of the family stuff that has to be shipped and all of my office gifts are in. Now to wrap (Saturday, I suspect).

All that's left are gift cards and smaller gifts for friends, local and away. I've even done most of DH's stocking stuffers. Not his "big" gift, though. I haven't found it yet.

We are certainly operating on a budget this year, but it's going swimmingly so far. I'm pleased with what I've found. We even found a huge roll of inexpensive, pretty wrapping paper and curling ribbon.

There are enough Christmas cards left from years past that we don't need to buy any this year.

I'm splurging on one new thing: lights for the tree. Our cheap ones are about to give up the ghost. This year retro white lights are available, and I want to get them while I can, so that the tree looks more period. NO tinsel, though. It's a death-trap for animals.

Oh, speaking of which, not even a mouse will be heard on Christmas Eve or any other time. Than Chai caught a field mouse on Tuesday evening. IN the house. He dispatched it quickly when DH started yelling at him to drop it, and ran up the stairs with his prey. But he dropped it obediently when I told him to (Mama is the Enforcer in our house). I scooped it up and DH put the poor thing in the trash.

Just the same, I hope that word gets out on the rodent grapevine. The last thing I want is unauthorized visitors in my pantry.

Knitting? I got a whole row and a half done on the sweater. Unfortunately, I need to concentrate on the wrap so I can wash and block it in time to ship to TX for Christmas.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Boring but true

We had a quiet four days.

I actually did get up and run on Thanksgiving (and it's a good thing, because I ate non-stop the whole time).

The cranberry tart was a smashing success. I will make it again. On Friday, DH was telling everyone who would stand still long enough all about it. (I feel about the same, pardon me while I blow my own horn.)

On Friday we shopped...for ourselves. He found a machinist's tool kit, stocked, and I found a late 30s Persian lamb coat, princess cut. We got some other odds and ends as well.

Saturday he worked on the upstairs bath. The hole in the wall over the sink is patched now. No more worrying that small creatures will peek out at me from the walls.

And I made turkey pot pies, and cleaned the first floor completely. I also used the washer and dryer for the first time. They did a sterling job.

Sunday was a real day of rest. I did nothing but lounge in front of the fire and read mysteries, eat, and cuddle cats.

As far as knitting goes...well, poor Obama was not in this race. It's so difficult to do color work around the cats that I didn't even bother. Back to it today at lunch.

I got in four or more pattern repeats on the stole. It's good TV knitting.

I am afraid that Startitis is about to strike...it's getting boring in my little knit world. But I will be disciplined...ugh...two deadlines. And Christmas is coming!