As you may remember, my Christmas coping strategy was to keep myself busy in the kitchen. I did so with gusto the entire long weekend, and here, finally, are the photos and recipes I said I’d post. I realize that you’ve probably forgotten all about my promise but I haven’t, and in that collection of twisted wires I call my brain, I will not be able to move on and write new posts until I take care of this outstanding business. I seem to have tidied-away my menu plan for the week, but fortunately I sorted my photos into a Christmas Week 2010 folder.

If you care to print any of the recipes, I have inserted a page-break at the beginning of each recipe so that it can be on its own piece of paper.



*Denotes a deviation from the original recipe.

Read the rest of this entry »


Judge me as you must, but I am glad my parents are gone. I am not a people person, and having two extra bodies in my space for the equivalent of four days (three extra bodies, if you count their rabbit, but she was really mellow this visit) just about did me in, especially with the frequent butting of heads in which my mom and I engage.

This morning I was really glad to go to work—not because I love my coworkers, though they’re mostly fine—but because I was thrilled to get back to a normal situation. Tonight, I came home and have just sat and watched TV. I caught up with Downton Abbey, then got depressed as I knew I would by the documentary Food, Inc., then watched a couple of hours of Anthony Bourdain as an antidote. All accompanied by beer. Now it is approaching midnight and I really wish I had about six more hours and six more beers, because among other things (I don’t know what), I’d like to watch the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie. 

I cope by overreacting.

In a weird way the unexpected holiday greeting that I found in the mail tonight when I picked it up for the first time since Thursday was very comforting, reassuring me that my own life still exists, post-parental visit. Thanks, Meghan 🙂


The good news is that despite what I thought would be mistimings and failed recipes, the Christmas dinner was pretty darned good after all. The bad news is that my mom and I have reached our point of more rather than less head-butting with each other. Can I just hide under a paper bag now, please? No? Okay, then I’ll sit here in bed in the dark with my iBook again. Illuminated screens in the dark are a great way to feign sleeping in order to be done with socializing.


I thought the turkey in particular turned out above average. This time I differently blasted it at 450°F for the first fifteen minutes to sear the outside and hopefully lock the moisture in, then cooked it at 400°F until the little thingy popped out, which was about an hour sooner than I was expecting. Consequently, I barely had my side dishes started before the turkey was finished. I overroasted the Brussels sprouts. The butternut squash gratin, which looked great on paper but then which seemed quite less than spectacular while putting together, ended up being everybody’s favorite part of the meal. I paired the redux of yesterday’s excellent homemade cherry pie with Odell Friek, the combination of which I had been anticipating all weekend and it didn’t disappoint. Nor did my (now) perennial favorite, Ommegang Three Philosophers, with the meal. Thanks again to Tori and Aaron for introducing me to that one a couple years ago.


But then it came to cleaning up time, and in my mother’s infinite desire to be helpful and my nearly infinite desire for her to just sit down and relax and stay out of my way, we had a major clash. I’d tell you the gory details, but I guess it wouldn’t be very becoming. Suffice it to say my mom and I are both very stubborn.

And yay, there’s a day and a half to go. Stay tuned.

A week of Christmas: bug-up!

December 25, 2011


I thought the highlight of the day would be the awesome cherry pie I made—it was good—but the most fun turned out to be playing a game called “bug up” that my parents and I frequently played when I was a youngster. (The sausage and mushroom strata turned out the best that it ever has, too. I made it with whole grain bread this time instead of sourdough.)

“Bug Up” might also be called “7 Up.” We aren’t sure. If I weren’t typing this in the dark on my laptop in bed, I’d take the time to look it up. Cribbage is the only card game I really ever got into, so you probably know more than I. 

Each person has an equal number of chips to begin with and you deal all the cards out. If the number of players doesn’t divide equally into 52 then somebody get stuck with an extra card. The person to the left of the dealer starts by playing a 7 if they have one. If they don’t, they have to “bug up” (throw a chip in) to the pot. From each 7 you build upward from the 8 and downward from the 6, by suit. If you can’t play a card, you relinquish a chip to the pot. After a player plays their last card, the remaining players throw one chip for each card left in their hands into the pot, which the winner gets. 


We always used Deelie Bobbers as our chips. These, I think I will take the time to look up and link to. I can remember playing with the Deelie Bobbers a little bit in general, but all you could do was stick them together and make shapes. I suppose some people got complicated with them, but Lincoln Logs and Legos would have held more allure for me.


Anyway, in theory, you keep playing rounds until people run completely out of chips. In practice, that can make for a lo-o-o-o-ong session. We played for three hours with one cherry pie break. Cats, it seems, like to play, too. And they like cherry pie.


My strategy thus far has been working. I’ve spent most of my waking time in the kitchen which I find pleasurable anyway, and it’s proving to be an excellent way to keep busy. And we all benefit because we’re eating mighty well this weekend. But after two straight days in the kitchen, I was ready for the mindless relief of tonight’s card playing.


In an effort to overwhelm myself, I shall now write down everything I hope to accomplish or have underway in the next three hours, prior to my parents’ arrival for the festive weekend. I probably have more like four hours, but we’ll see how fast I can go. To provide as soothing an environment as possible, I have commenced my annual listening of the complete Handel’s Messiah. I am actually playing the CDs in my stereo!

To do:

– give the litterbox corner some TLC
– vacuum
– cut up vegetables for supper stir-fry
– straighten up
– clean the bathroom
– bake a loaf of bread
– tape up one side of one window plastic that came unstuck
– a load or two of laundry
– some online banking

Hmm. It doesn’t look like so much it written form. It seemed like more when it was just swirling around in my brainpan.

Hi ho!


In what I suppose was a subconscious avoidance technique against my parents’ impending Christmas visit on my last free evening (bowling tomorrow night and parental arrival for supper Friday), I fully honored the winter solstice. I did it not with a pagan, sway-y dance around large stones on the Salisbury Plain, but rather by participating in MacKenzie Pub’s “longest dark day” stout, porter, and black IPA takeover of their taps. #longestdarkday

I’m not a fan of stouts, but I do alright with a lot of porters. Black IPAs are usually just fine.

I started with the Upstairs Bar Flight. I was very glad they were doing flights. I quite enjoyed the Bell’s Java and Southern Tier Choklat. Then I had the Black IPA and Stout #1 flights.

I still haven’t gone to work out. In order to get three in yet this week, I must get up tomorrow morning. I work best under pressure.

I suppose that’s why I frittered away this evening and will now have to cram all of the housework in to about six hours on Friday. Six hours if I’m lucky to have so long, after I don’t set my alarm, do get up and go work out, then come home to shower and eat. Stay tuned.


Today we had a potluck at the office, which was what I made the Tex-Mex Soup for. I managed to get the two large containers of it to the office intact, despite having to make a dash for the train. I have had liquid disasters in my backpack before due to loose-fitting lids and jostling.


My soup was met with a fair amount of enthusiasm, but not nearly as much enthusiasm as for what Office Santa left under the tree for each of us. We knew we were getting a couple of the recently delivered new company mugs and probably figured that, like past years, there would also be a little bonus check. Boy, what a bonus. My bosses are getting each of us an iPad—an iPad 3 when they come out in a few months, or an iPad 2 now if we’re just too impatient. 

Patience is a virtue. 

I had been vaguely mulling over the idea of getting one with my tax refund in February but hadn’t yet decided whether to spend that much money on something I don’t really need. Problem solved. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I have the best bosses in the world. There’s a reason why I’m coming up on my seventeen year anniversary.


There was much gaiety for the rest of the afternoon.



After I went into denial about the $130 grocery tab yesterday and just started making stuff, I thought everything was fine. Until 3:00 a.m., that is.

I went to bed feeling pretty accomplished. I had:

– baked the chicken for the Tex-Mex soup
– concurrently baked the turkey sausage for the Sausage and Mushroom Strata
– concurrently cooked a bag of pinto beans, some of which to throw in the soup, the rest to freeze
– made the Tex-Mex soup
– cooked a bag of garbanzo beans, some of which to throw into the Greek Salad with Sardines, the rest to freeze
– made the three helpings of Greek Salad, hold the sardines until I’m read to eat it
– washed all the kitchenware as I went, as I have a tiny kitchen (I reused the Dutch oven for three jobs without having to wash it)
– relaxed with a delicious Bellatoria frozen pizza and several tasty beers that I picked up at the Ale Jail the day before
– relaxed with three hours of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece

However, it’s true that I did no housecleaning in preparation for having visitors, nor did I do any of the work overtime that I could and probably should have.

But, I was asleep before 11:00 and optimistic that I’d be perfectly able to get up early to go work out and then continue on with a productive Monday.

Enter 3:00 a.m.

Okay, fine, I have to get up to go to the bathroom. With the amount of water that I drink, that’s to be expected one to several times a night. Usually I’m able to fall back to sleep immediately upon regaining my horizontal position.

Not so last night.

I am a more than occasional sufferer of Sunday Night Insomnia. I’m not going to look it up now for a link to information, but it is a recognized condition in which you can’t sleep Sunday nights because you’re stressing out about the work week ahead. 

I am stressed out about work. Last week, the entire office ground to a halt on regular projects so that we could bang out this iPad app that we are making in time for the Christmas hangover. That means I am now a week further behind on the work that I’m already behind on. That means that I know it won’t be long until it starts being wondered if others should kick in to help me, and once again I won’t be able to finish a couple of jobs that I have good ideas for. That means I’m stressed  out. Couple that with my self-inflicted stress about my parents’ impending Christmas weekend visit, and blammo! I was awake until after 6:00 a.m.

It is not helpful when that happens.

I had a reasonably productive day today, but the specter of stress plus PMS was lurking in the background the whole time. I tried to minimize the level of interaction I had with people in order to prevent as much crankiness as possible. I don’t think I was entirely successful. I wasn’t the only one who was a little off their game today.

The evening was a brighter note, though, as I bowled well (808 for four games) and am getting to bed before midnight. Hopefully I’m tired enough that I will sleep all night and get up in the morning for that workout I missed today.


I don’t know why, but my parents’ impending Christmas visit seems like it will be twice the usual length. In reality, it’s only twenty-four, perhaps thirty-six, hours longer than normal. Nevertheless, today I made an ambitious menu and appropriately raided the grocery store.

I spent $130. I don’t spend this much on groceries in a month. (Bad panorama, but it shows everything except the dozen and a half eggs.)


A little of it goes toward my breakfasts (eggs and whatever), three lunches (Greek Salad with Sardines), and three suppers (my refried bean pizza staple) in this upcoming week. A little more went into another incarnation of the delicious Tex Mex Soup that I invented a few weeks ago, which I’ll offer up at the office potluck we’re having on Tuesday.

For my parents’ visit (they arrive Friday for supper and will leave Tuesday), I have put myself on the following ambitious cooking schedule.


Lunch: Vegetable Soup (I’ll eat a little, we’ll have the rest for subsequent lunches)
Dinner: Sweet and Sour Pork (looks delicious but will be challenging for my traditionally-eating parents)


make: Cherry Pie (my mom and I like pecan pie, but my dad likes fruit pies and this cherry pie is outstanding, and I’m in the mood to make it.)
Dinner: Sausage and Mushroom Strata (my mom loves this and it’s easy to make)


Dinner: Turkey (I decided to go easy, since I’m doing so much during these few days); Butternut Squash Gratin; roasted Brussels sprouts; salad; cherry pie


Leftovers 🙂

I will follow up with photos of the completed dishes and meals.