Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dairy Overload

Brie cheese + horseradish cheddar + egg nog + cheese cake = a very unhappy tummy

And to think at the time I was a little sad because I didn't have room for the peppermint stick icecream.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A New Christmas Tradition

Last year, myself and some friends decided that it would be fun to get together, watch some old Christmas specials, decorate Chrsitmas cookies, drink egg nog, and generally have a merry time. I made up some sugar cookie batter and brought it to the party. For some reason, I lined the cookie sheets with wax paper instead of parchment paper. I discovered the mistake when the oven got a little smokey. Yeah. I'm a bad baker.

This year we carried on the now-annual Christmas get together. I joked about my past cookie problems. This year I just bought a tube of sugar cookie dough and let the others go at it. I'm not sure what happened, but the couple of batches were all burnt on the bottom and still raw on top.

Sonja and I have decided to rename this the party the Annual Let's See How We'll Mess Up the Cookies This Time Party.

Actually, other than the burnt cookies, we had a really fun time. Here's a shout out to Sonja, our hostess, who let us dirty almost every dish in her apartment. It was fun.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Annual Christmas Crafting Conundrum

Every year I get it into my head that it would be really nice and special if I gave everybody homemade gifts. And then every year I procrastrinate about starting said gifts. And then every year the realities of the amount of spare time available during the Christmas season catches up with me. And then every year I vow to either, A) start these projects a whole lot earlier, or B) not try to do so many homemade gifts.

And then, of course, me being an intelligent creature, I promptly forget that yearly vow and do the same thing over and over again every year.

Don't get me wrong. Every gift I make for someone is a labor of love. Plus, I just really enjoy sewing. I'm slightly (OK, more than slightly) neurotic and stress about every imperfection that I wouldn't care about if I was making it for myself. I'm getting better at that.

The trouble is, there are only so many things that I make for gifts and I have to keep track as to who I gave what in previous years. This person's already got mittens? OK, then, it's a blanket for you!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Should I Have Been Concerned?

I saw a strange sight today as I walked to work. Walking up the hill was a disheveled looking young man wearing a leopard print bath robe. I couldn't help wondering if I should have been more concerned about that, although he did appear to be wearing pants and shoes.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just A Second

Well, it's been a long year, and it looks like it's going to get longer. December 31 will be just a second longer, as a leap second will be added on to the last day of the year. The extra second will be added between 6:59:59 and 7:00:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

Apparently, there are two time scales - one based on the Earth's rotation and the other independent of the Earth's rotation. Atomic time is based on a signal emitted by electrons changing energy state within an atom.

The International Earth Rotation Reference Systems Service monitors the two timescales and makes adjustments when necessary. The Earth does not have a steady rotation and is gradually slowing down, causing the time scales to get out of synch. Leap seconds have been added at various intervals since 1972. The last leap second was December 31, 2005.

2008 is the first year with both a leap day and a leap second.

2008 is not, however, the longest year on record. That goes to the year 46 BC, when Julius Ceasar introduced the Julian calendar. In order to correct the difference between the calendar date and the season, determined by the position of the Earth in its rotation around the sun, Ceasar added 2 months and 23 days, making the year a total of 455 days long.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tell Me What Comes To Mind

OK, people. Let's play word association. I'll give you a phrase and you tell me what pops into your head. There is a method to my madness, so humor me and play along.

Today's phrase is:
Chocolate Bacon Bar

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

Christmas cards make it to their destinations a lot easier if you remember to put a stamp on the envelope.

Thanksgiving Wrap Up

This year was my first time in charge of the Thanksgiving feast. I think it turned out rather nicely. We had a small gathering - my brother, his very pregant wife, her parents, and myself, so of course I cooked enough food for about a dozen or so people. With all said and done, everything came out nicely and I was able to put every dish on the table that I had anticipated.
I tried to get as much local food as possible. The bird came from Adams Turkey Farm in Westford, most of the produce came from Mazza's farm in Colchester, and the wine that we never got around to opening came from Boyden Valley winery in Cambridge. I am trying not to sound smug about this, but I do think it is important to purchase as much locally produced food as possible.
On a slightly humorous note, my geeky self made a spreadsheet of all of the ingredients that I would need. Hey, I was on hold at work for over 45 minutes with a computer in front of me. I started writing a quick shopping list and then as time went by, I got fancy. The spreadsheet actually helped tremendously, since I was taking everything down to my brother's place in Montpelier. It made the shopping quicker too, as I had sorted it by department.
I started prepping the meal around 8 on Thanksgiving morning, and by 9 the turkey was ready to go in the oven. I did not brine the turkey, which was recommended to me by several people. Instead, I loosened the skin and applied a rub of butter, pepper, and other spices. I put a little extra on the outside of the skin as well. Jenny has a set of silicone basting brushes that are wonderful and are going on my Christmas list.
With that done, I started working on the giblet gravey. This actually wasn't nearly as complicated as the recipe made it sound. I had anticipated this being the most difficult of the meal components, as it had a lot of ingredients, quite a few steps, and I had never made giblet gravey before. It turns out the only real difficult part was the chopping of the vegetables, and that was more tedious then anything else. My knife skills still leave a lot to be desired.
On another note, truffle oil smells awful when it's in the bottle. I put in slightly less than the recipe called for (1 teaspoon, instead of 1.5 teaspoons) because I was afraid this stuff would ruin the gravey. It ended up with a very subtle truffle flavor. In retrospect, I should have put in the entire amount, but I thought it was best to err on the side of caution in this case. So, was the truffle oil worth the expense? No, not really. It did lend a nice flavor, but I don't think it would have been missed if it wasn't there.
The veggies came out nice. I ended up doing the brussel sprouts as well as peas and onions at my brother's request. The peas were the only vegetable that I wasn't able to buy fresh. I had to use a bag of frozen peas, because there aren't a lot of fresh peas in Vermont in late November, but James won't eat many vegetables to begin with and I didn't want to deny his one request. Jenny helped me out by peeling the potatoes (both the regular and the sweet) and fetching me dishes as I needed them. She also made a last minute run to the grocery store in the morning for some forgotten items, including the bag of peas my organized self forgot to grab out of the freezer while packing up all of the groceries. And, on top of everything else, she made me breakfast. Thanks, Jen!
The meal itself wasn't difficult to cook. It was mostly chopping of vegetables and stirring of pots. I did take a couple of short cuts, though. The cranberry sauce came from a can. You know, the kind that holds the shape of the can after it's out. I love that stuff. The stuffing came from a mix, but I doctored it up with some vegetables and herbs. It was pretty good, for stuffing. I've never been a huge stuffing fan.
One thing I did notice - for someone who isn't a fan of onions, I put an awful lot of them in this meal.
Jen's father brought rolls and an assortment of pies, so I was let off the hook, baking wise. I didn't get to sample all 4 pies, as I had intended (no more room in the belly!), but the coconut cream was absolutely delicious.

For your viewing pleasure, here's some food pictures of our meal.

Jenny looks on as James learns the fine art of carving a turkey

Here's the spread. The table wasn't big enough to hold all of the food!

Here's hoping that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Quiet Office

It always makes me a little nervous when all of the managers are missing from the office. I wonder what's up.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm an Aunt!

On Sunday, November 30, we welcomed my brother and his wife's first child. Alyssa Amber weighs in at 6 pounds, 15 ounces and is 20 inches long. Both mom and baby are doing fine and should be coming home on Tuesday.

Here's Alyssa with her proud papa.