Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Belated birthday party

Two weeks later we finally got our schedules together and had my mom's birthday outing. Per my suggestion we did dinner and a movie up in p-town. If there hadn't been such crappy movies out we might have actually got this done sooner, but nothing decent came out until this week. Mom picked This is 40 which was playing at 6:45 pm so we picked her up at 5:00 pm for dinner at Ikkyu, the new Japanese restaurant in town. Since I was the only one who'd been there before I put myself in charge of ordering dinner (whether they liked it or not!). We got orders of miso soup and salads for everyone and then picked two orders of Japanese tacos (fried eggplant slices as the taco shells with spicy tuna or crab filling), two dragon rolls (California roll topped with eel and avocado), a salmon skin roll (crunchy salmon inside), and a Jimmy roll (fried in tempura with cream cheese in the filling).
As expected, everything was fabulous! After dinner we headed up to the theater and enjoyed an uncrowded showing of This is 40. Now Chris and I know what kind of life drama to expect in just a few glorious years. Back at home we were anticipating breaking into the chocolate mint cheesecake Wilson had made earlier in the afternoon with her new cheesecake pan.
And the best part? It's gluten free. We made the chocolate cookie crust out of gluten free faux-reo cookies. Thankfully, Wilson's reputation as a cheesecake wizard turned out to be true because it was delicious. I know what we'll be eating for breakfast!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Feliz Navidad!

Another year, another Christmas I tricked Santa into spoiling me rotten! We had a small gathering this morning at our house for breakfast and gifts. I ran up the hill and grabbed mom while the Canadian, Chubs and Wilson took kitchen duty. As I do every year, and because I'm the bossy one, I doled out the gifts from under the tree in steady fashion until all of our treasures were revealed.

And the best gift of all? Ribbon!!
After presents Wilson and I both drove back up the hill to drop off mom. I drove her home in Tango, so I could drop it off there, while Wilson followed so that she could bring me back. We filled out the title transfer today and traded keys so it's officially hers now. After we got home Wilson ran off for awhile to visit a friend and when she got back we went out for our early-bird Christmas dinner at Ginger's Chinese food.

Now we'ere just settling in before watching another movie that we rented. Last night we watched Trouble With the Curve with Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams while we had our seafood Christmas Eve dinner (crab sandwiches and shrimp scampi - yum!). Tonight's movie is The Words with Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana with steaming bowls of hot and sour soup for everyone that we were smart enough to get an order to-go from dinner!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Christmas Eve Eve

Today was an incredibly stormy day which made running errands a horribly bad idea. I had to wade through numerous rivers just to get to church, but was rewarded with a cute little Christmas play put on by the Sunday School children.
After last minute trips to Pep Boys, K-Mart (worst idea EVER), and Safeway we settled in for a little (Hyundai like) Sunday football.
I did not know Chubs was such a football fan, but she parked it on my legs for what felt like hours mesmerized by both the TV and the spiders on the ceiling. She's enjoying our company so much she didn't even notice that Wilson was off playing hooky all afternoon - especially since she has Chris snapping rubber bands across the room for her to chase.

Four-legged house guest

Since we weren't going anywhere for Christmas this year, we opened our house up to some traveling gypsies  aka Wilson and her cat, Chubs.
Chris was trying to use his cat whispering skills on Chubs, but Chubs is very cautious towards Canadians wearing wife beaters. So, for the next week, we'll have an indentured servant and her "helpful" little sidekick to boss around!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Packing up Tango

Tango's (my old car) days with us are coming to an end so we spent this morning getting him ready for his new life with my mom.
A little cleaning, vacuuming and washing. Tomorrow will be an oil change and then he'll be all ready! Now to relax a little while enjoying some goodies that Face sent me;
Chocolate covered macaroons, baklava, and peanut butter stuffed pretzels dipped in chocolate. Yes, I am a spoiled girl and no, I'm not sharing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas came early in Chico

Since Santa will be so busy on Christmas Eve night he came early to our house and dropped off my present;
A 2011 Dodge Avenger! I must have been really good this year or he just wants me to be in his debt, but either way, it's the best gift ever! I got to drive it home from the dealership in Davis and it's got plenty of get up and go. I'll be spending the afternoon getting to know the users guide to figure out all the buttons and gadgets it comes with. If you need me, I'll be in my car reveling in all it's V6 glory.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I'm dreaming of a cookie Christmas

As expected, I came home with mountains of sugary goodness from bible study. Kari made so much she had to pack it in a 12x12 scrapbook container. Joanna was kind enough to make her peanut butter blossom cookies (actually chai flavored instead of peanut butter) with rice flour so that I could eat them. All I really care is that Kari made her Norwegian krumkake cookies (they're the cone shape cookies on the bottom left of the photo). They're like cardamom flavored pizzelles and we look forward to them every year. So, if you've got a hankering for cookies you know where to go!

Baking home stretch

Thankfully I knocked out three of my four cookie recipes yesterday because I wasn't in the mood to spend all day slaving away in the kitchen again today. The one cookie I did leave for today, rugelach (Jewish cookies) appeared to be the most time consuming so I'm glad it's the only one I had to worry about. After mixing together a non-sweet dough of butter, cream cheese and flour I let it chill in the fridge for an hour before splitting it into four pieces and one at a time roll it out into an 11" circle (thank God for my Pampered Chef pastry sheet that has measurements!), cover it with melted butter, slice it into eight wedges and then top each wedge with 2 tsp of filling that is made up of chopped almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and apricot preserves.
Then you start rolling each wedge in towards the middle and turn the sides in a little to form a crescent shape.  After a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon and 20 minutes in the oven you have a wonderfully fragrant little treat.
Of course the two cookies I liked the most - the cardamom shortbread and the rugelach, are the ones with the smallest recipe yield. Each recipe only made 32 cookies, 24 of which have to be distributed at bible study, but of course I have crunchy, coffee whiskey cookies coming out of my ears! Wilson - you'd better hurry home if you want any of the good ones!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Under the knife, again

It's only the second day of my "Christmas vacation" and I'm already having to wake up early for appointments. Bah! I had one last follow-up appointment with my family doctor to remove a suspicious looking mole on my inner forearm.

He just injected some magical serum in my arm that immediately numbed it, scraped off the mole, and then took a tool from a separate machine (top right) and cauterized the incision site. One minute, tops, and I didn't feel a thing. He's sending it out for biopsy and then I can call in the end of next week and get the results. After that, he said I'm a free (wo)man for six months. I do have one more appointment with the dermatologist on Thursday to look at my skin rash again, but that's a whole other disaster.

Once I got home I got started on my cookie baking for bible study tomorrow. We always exchange cookies instead of gifts for Christmas, but in reality everybody gives gifts too albeit small ones. We each need to bring two dozen cookies for each person so I chose four different recipes to make up my two dozen. The first ones I made today were called Coffee Cordials and were from a year-old Rachael Ray magazine;
They were espresso flavored cookies with an espresso and whiskey (I used Southern Comfort) glaze and topped with a chocolate covered espresso bean. The first batch I made too small and too thin so they were too crispy, but I fattened up the second batch and they looked much better so they'll be the ones to go to bible study. The second cookie I made were Caramel Whiskey Cookies from my latest Healthy Cooking magazine.
It's a butter cookie base with a whiskey (SoCo again) and caramel topping and then drizzled in chocolate. I rotated batches of them in the fridge to help harden them so I could stack them sooner since in my infinite wisdom I've never bought more than one cookie rack. Remind me to put that on my Christmas list next year!  After lunch I squeezed in one more recipe for the day. This one was from an old Pillsbury cookie book I bought at a used book store years ago. They're cardamom shortbread wedges with a vanilla glaze.
These were delicious, but terribly delicate. Just trying to cut them caused four casualties. But once they sat out for a couple of hours they hardened up and quit trying to fall apart. Now I've got a table full of Christmas platters with cookies evenly divided between them (including a small container for mom!) wrapped up like Fort Knox to avoid an ant invasion overnight. Just one more recipe tomorrow morning before our get together in P-town in the evening and then I can hang up my apron and oven mitts for another season.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beer Club Christmas Party

Last night was our homebrew club's Christmas party out in Dayton. It's always a potluck so we brought a platter of meats and cheeses plus white elephant gifts for each of us. And of course we brought drinks to share. Instead of beer though we brought four meads (cinnamon vanilla, lemon, blackberry, and mulling spice) and our plum wine. After dinner we did the gift exchange where each member drew a number and picked a wrapped gift in that order from under the Christmas tree. Each gift can only be stolen twice before it's "dead". So, each person has the option to steal a previously opened gift or to pick a new one under the tree. I thought the gifts were supposed to be beer related, but if so, not everyone got the memo because the gift I picked had walnuts, peppermint bark, and a light-up Christmas tree pin. Chris fared a little better by stealing a special, seasonal 4-pack of Samuel Adams beers that became dead after he stole them so nobody else could take them from him.

For the gift exchange Chris brought a Belgium quadruple with cherries and I brought a clone beer recipe book - only slightly better than the beer mug night lights somebody else brought.

Since December is my month to count the deposits at church I spent my entire morning there so I decided to spend the rest of my rainy Sunday parked on the couch watching bad Lifetime Christmas movies, football, and eating homemade rocky road ice cream. It's good to have realistic goals, right?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Santa, you shouldn't have...

...but I'm sure glad you did! Mrs. Clause took the boy to Johnson's shoes to get him a comfy pair of black Rockport shoes for Christmas, but decided that I too was deserving of a new pair of shoes.
 May I present to you the comfiest Clark's I've ever tried on; they feel like buttah.

So, I apparently missed the weather forecast because I did not expect the high for the day to only be 41 degrees. Thank goodness the Canadian has appropriate outerwear.
You can never dress too warmly out in the frozen tundra that is Chico!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Officially on furlough!!

I have the biggest grin on my face knowing that as of 11:00 am this morning I am officially off of work until Monday, December 31st! I do have a smidgen of sympathy for the two new-hires who were given the opportunity to work, and took it, during the break because they're still on probation and can't use vacation time. The town has to keep enough money in reserves to pay out our vacation accruals at all times so by closing town hall for two weeks and forcing us to use our vacation and comp time it reduces their financial obligation and puts the town in less of a financial crunch. And then there's people like me who are half way through their 19th year with the organization and have so much vacation time on the books that payroll is constantly emailing to use it or lose it. So I count on these closures to get my accruals under the annual limit (5 weeks of vacation). I know, it's a rough life.

When I got home today I found that Santa had visited early and left gifts for the "good" (and I use that term rather loosely, a la Mr. Janke) little girls and boys at our house. And in all of Santa's infinite wisdom he also left Wilson and my mom's gifts here too.
It appears he shipped them from his Yakima, Washington workshop. Probably packed from elves who are married to each other now because I hear that's how Washington rolls now...(I can literally see my mom's eyes rolling back in her head right now, ha!)

After much deliberation Chris finally decided it was time to pick our bumper crop of seven mandarins off of our "tree" (really more like a glorified potted bush) in the front courtyard. I dare say they're not hard to tell apart from the Goliath mandarins my boss, Craig, gave me last week.
 Seriously, they're like mandarin miniatures. At least they're super sweet and tasty, they just don't have a peel that literally falls off like Craig's mandarins do.

So, my first order of business as a foot loose and fancy free member of society is to find a white elephant gift for tomorrow's beer club Christmas party. Chris found some fancy beer at Ray's Liquor up the hill, but I still have to find something. I suspect my newly received 30% off coupon for B&N may come in handy for some kind of brewing recipe book. Good timing B&N, good timing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Home office

After a seven week paid "vacation" the Canadian had to go back to the salt mines last Monday; starting off his new job with four days of training in Santa Rosa. Friday was his first day back home working on his own.  His company set him up with the tools to work from home so he didn't lose any time meeting with a local engineering company and getting himself set up with a set of plans to review. When I got home on Friday he had commandeered the dining room table and was on speaker phone with his old wastewater company in Oregon.
Since he probably won't literally be working in the poo trenches with this job we got him all set up with fancy new duds (i.e. sweater vests) which with to dazzle the ladies. Meow! No seriously, he had three ladies give him compliments while he was gone.

While he was gone I spent my week at various doctors' appointments. On Tuesday I met with my general doctor to go over my allergy testing results. In short I'm not allergic to anything, just intolerant which needs to be treated the same as an allergy. So, I will continue eating gluten free (ideally grain free) and keep dairy to only hard, aged cheeses (lowest in lactose) if any. The best news was that my synthetic thyroid medicine is working. My T-4 levels went from 0.6 (minimum threshold) up to 1.4 which is towards the top of the regular range. I'll have to stay on the medicine for the rest of my miserable life, but at least I can get away with the cheaper synthetic. At the end of the appointment I asked him, if I don't have any food allergies then why do I continue to have a horrible eye and neck rash? He figured it must be something I'm coming in contact with, but wanted to send me to a dermatologist to figure it out.

The next day the dermatologist's office called and scheduled for me to see the physician's assistant, Jackie, Thursday afternoon. She was super nice and took about two seconds to agree that I'm having a nasty reaction to something before prescribing me two medicated creams. One for my eyes and a stronger one for my neck. I need to put them on twice a day for two weeks and then I go back for a follow up. Thankfully my eyes started looking better after only two days and while my neck still has a rash, it's very minimal and doesn't actively itch. Jackie said that even if I wasn't in contact anymore with whatever was causing the outbreak, my skin was in such a state of disaster that it very likely couldn't reduce the inflammation without some sort of help, hence the creams. Because nothing says holiday giving more than coughing up $140 in co-pays and prescriptions after only one week into December - Merry Christmas to me!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Carpool payment

It's nice to give rides to a co-worker with perks like...
a personal mandarin orange tree! Last week he filled my gas tank and this week he gave me a big box of mandarins - I should have got into this carpool business years ago!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Creches

Every year in December the Mormon church down the street has a Creche exhibit (nativities) and after two failed attempts I finally made it this year.

And one that reminded me of the one we had growing up;
There were hundreds of nativities to look at, and some of them pretty fancy-pants. My favorites were the ones from other countries while I insisted Chris take responsibility for the nativity made up of dog figurines.