Thursday, December 30, 2010

There are Good Intentions...Then There's Reality

What exactly was I thinking? I went out yesterday and bought almost 10 yards of silky black fringe to make an old dress into flapper garb for the upcoming Murder Mystery at Your Vine or Mine’s New Year’s Eve Party. My assigned character is Carrie Crooner Capone, jazz singing headliner at the Four Deuces Club. How I thought I was going to manage that massive of a sewing project with only one evening to devote to its completion is beyond me.

Reality set in quite quickly and plan B was put into action. I won’t reveal the costuming particulars, but never let it be said that I don’t know how to wear a feather boa and a slinky ‘20s headband with signature plumage! Needless to say, I’m returning the bolt of fringe to the fabric store later this afternoon. Thank goodness that sanity found its way back into my life before I started cutting and pinning.

On another tangent, I purchased a large skein of yarn and a new crochet hook while I was looking for the aforementioned plumage. I haven’t crocheted in years, but Meredith wants to learn, so I figured I should bone up on my stitch work and pass on what my Grandma Boyle taught me a lifetime ago. I bought some of that gorgeous, soft, fuzzy yarn to make a scarf. I discovered quite quickly that I can barely see the stitches for all the fancy fuzz. I told Meredith to buy soft but not fuzzy. She needs to see what she is doing to learn it correctly.

Back to work!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

AHHHHHHH – The Post-Christmas Sigh of Relief

All things considered, I am not getting as big a sigh as usual, but only because I was a bit ahead of the game going in!

Christmas Eve was relegated to making pies and stuffing and attending Midnight Mass. I had the honor of starting that service by singing seven verses of The Holly and the Ivy, a cappella, so I made sure to have a little wine earlier in the evening to lube the pipes (thank you Diane, the Guffey’s Peach Apricot Chardonnay was superb).

Christmas Day started with prep and stuffing of the bird and getting it on to cook by 8:30, a fully stuffed 20+ pounder with 5½ to 6 hours of cooking time. Should have been done by 2:30 with all arriving and scheduled to eat by 3. Then Mom, Jim and I sat down to nuked frozen breakfast bagels (thank you Mike Savides for another successful school fund-raising purchase), after which we opened our gifts, then cleared our mess from the living room and got busy transforming the place into a sit-down dinner space for 16 people.

It went quickly and efficiently. We were pretty much ready by noon with even the potatoes peeled and cooking. At 1 p.m., when I opened the roaster lid to baste the turkey, I was flabbergasted to see that the pop-up thermometer on the turkey had already popped…and hour and a half early! I even double checked it with a regular meat thermometer to make sure it wasn’t just defective. What to do?

So I let it sit for 30 minutes, then carved the entire bird into thick, juicy pieces, placed them into a heavy pottery dish, doused them with hot turkey drippings, covered them and set them on the back of the stove to keep warm. I put the mashed potatoes into a crock pot to keep them hot. As soon as everyone arrived, I reheated the huge dish full of turkey in the oven just before we sat down to eat around 3:20, and everything turned out great!

My sister-in-law, Flo, made an excellent sweet-potato and apple dish with marshmallows and Meredith brought a broccoli-cheese casserole that was practically wiped out in the first round, leaving all those wanting “seconds” disappointed.
No one left the table hungry. After the round of family present opening, we managed to clean up two trays of cookies and pizzelles and two of the four pies I made.

After everyone left, we cleaned up, and pretty much everything, including all the furniture, was back in place by 9 p.m. I will spend today, finishing the cleaning and organizing of my office so that I can start the new year right. I will also be giving Mom instructions on the use of her new Kindle Reader.

Mom loves to read, but her eyes are not what they used to be and everything on those book pages seems to go yellow when she tries to sit and read. With the Kindle, I can download whatever she wants to read and increase the font to a comfortable reading level. I also got her the cover with the light so she can have it nicely lit if she desires. Who says the old folks can’t embrace technology?

And tomorrow, when it comes, it’s back to the grind!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Palin, Obama, and the Food Fight Polarizing the Country? Puleeeeze!

People argue and fight over the most stupid of things, but this one takes the cake. Sarah has gone after Michelle Obama whose goal is to encourage us to give our kids healthier lives. Hmmm.

When I see an overweight or obese child, my heart breaks for them in the way it only can for someone who has been there. I was a chubby kid who never “grew out of” the supposed baby fat. I went from being a fat kid to being a fat teen to being a fat adult. I can tell you from personal experience that it wasn’t because I wanted to be fat. For me it went from baby fat to a life-long struggle that seems to have no end.

By the time President Kennedy was in office and started his “fitness” initiatives, I was already a fat preteen and well set in my ways and in my habits. I also, evidently, inherited the propensity for weight gain. Some kids are naturally thin. I wasn’t.

“Get out there and exercise,” they said. Who wants to cover their obvious obesity in a funky little gym suit and shake and parade in front of other people? Bad enough as an adult; much worse as a child or a teenager when all you want to do is hide, or be “sick” on gym day.

Considering how many obese kids are living in the U.S. at present, it is obvious that there are parents out there who don't feed their children in the wisest of ways or who can't afford appropriate nutrition for their kids. Those parents need education, support and help to learn to make appropriate choices for their kids. After all, most parents aren't taught how to parent, they just fall into the job.

Michelle Obama is doing a service for the American public by shedding light on what it takes to help kids become healthier without demoralizing them. She has never said they can’t have dessert, just that they need to eat healthier, be taught how to make informed choices, and to move more. Those aren’t exactly “fightin’ words” unless you’re Sarah Palin.

I find it disgusting that Palin, who obviously wants to be the next President, seems to get pleasure at picking such things to pounce on. As far as I can tell in my research, she’s never had an original political thought or idea that I can find. If you’re going to pick an issue, Mrs. Palin, perhaps you should find one of your own you can back up rather than pouncing on other’s attempts at good just to keep your name in the news.

And as far as weight issues, obviously those S’mores have done their damage for Bristol, who after months of dancing still couldn’t shed her excess weight. Now that she’s not dancing anymore, the poor kid will have to starve herself to death to keep from gaining more pounds.

I know. I’ve been there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Stop Plus...

Thank goodness for on-line shopping! Those items that I did not find in the excursion to Walmart, I managed to order on-line with guaranteed arrival before Christmas. This is a good thing because I really hate to shop! I would much rather be making those cookies I’ve been slaving over than brave the stores and the crowds. Wrapping will be at a minimum and I can now stop fretting over the gift issue.

After last week’s Christmas caroling at the local IGA (while ringing the bell at the kettle), the choir members are planning to sing with St. Mary’s choir at Emeritus Senior Living in Mentor on Saturday. This will be followed by a dinner at Damon’s, and then a drive to Chagrin Falls to see my coworker Matt Mortensen in a production of “Annie” at Chagrin Valley Little Theater. Hopefully I won’t get “Tomorrow” stuck in my head and spend the next week trying to shake it loose. With the chill in the air, I’m keeping my throat in turtlenecks and scarves or I’ll be sounding like Kermit by the time I have to sing for Christmas services. Warm climates are sounding rather appealing right now!

One last stop will be at Home Depot. Twice in the last several months, I have lost my balance in the dark in the bathroom at night and reached out to find the towel bar, which bent in the middle the first time, but now is broken almost through on one end. Time to get replacements. I tried Walmart, but their towel rod selection only went to 24 inches and of course, this one is 30. To keep from having to patch the wall, I think I’ll stick to the same size. And it would be good to fix it before Christmas.

Dinner looks like it will be 16 for sit down. I will be on the turkey hunt today as well. I think I’ll try to get about a 20 lb Tom Turkey. The last one we had was the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. And to think all these years we always bought hen turkeys! I was so busy after Thanksgiving, I don’t think I had a single bite of the left-over turkey and it is my favorite thing about the holidays.

Time to head out!

I may be late, but I still manage to get there

With Christmas a mere week away, I will begin to shop. Begin you say? In this crazy economy, I am limiting my gifts for the adults on my list to a bottle of my latest vintage. No one turns down a bottle of vino, and I have to admit, my White Cranberry Pinot Grigio has gotten plenty of good reviews.

I started making Christmas wine for the 2008 holiday season. That year it was a single batch of Blueberry Pinot Noir. It was a huge hit, but after giving out all my gifts, there was nothing left for me. So I made a batch of Peach-Apricot Chardonnay the following spring. There were only a few bottles of that batch left by the time the 2009 holidays came around. I then discovered White Cranberry Pinot Grigio. Not wanting a repeat of having a bare cupboard (or wine rack, as the case may be), I made a double batch. Spring of 2010 brought a single batch of Pomegranate Zinfandel. I opened the last of both of those batches in November.

This year, I made a triple batch of the White Cranberry Pinot Grigio. My gift list has grown, but I still want some for us to serve throughout the year. It’s been bottled and waiting for Christmas distribution since October.

With the adults taken care of, my shopping is limited to the kids: Walmart cards for the nephews and niece in Arizona, toys for Meredith’s new crew, shirts for the nephews coming for Christmas dinner, and a few extraneous items. It could be one-stop shopping!

I did start my baking a bit ahead. So far I have Molasses Sugar Cookies, English Raspberry Bars, Hungarian Apricot Pastry, Butterscotch Sticks, Raisin Cookies, five flavors of pizzelles (raspberry, cinnamon, French vanilla, almond and lemon-poppy seed), New England Bishop’s Bread, and a double batch of Mom’s rolls. Why I am subjecting myself to the holiday baking angst, I just don’t know. I guess it’s because everyone will be here for dinner and it’s expected? But I had to get those made early so all I have to bake on Christmas Eve are the pies! (Obviously because everything that is already made isn’t enough decadence.)

Don’t forget to download Fractured Anecdotes 1 on that new Kindle or Nook you’ll be getting from Santa. So far, Kindle editions are outselling Nook editions at the rate of 4 to 3. Nook is giving Kindle a run for its money! I didn't expect that!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Granville Restaurant Review

For anyone passing through Granville, Ohio, I have three recommendations.

If you are looking for a great homemade soup, The Soup Loft on Broadway, right in the middle of downtown Granville, was quite good. They had a regular menu of soups with three or four additional soups available each day on a rotating basis. I had a bowl of the chicken with acini, but the tomato bisque with goat cheese, the black bean with red rice, and the turkey chili sounded good and smelled terrific.

For a light dinner, The Junta Club has a nice variety of wines and will custom build your Panini sandwich. They price the sandwich on the number of ounces of meat you order, then you have lists of additional items that you choose to add. Sandwiches can be ordered cold or Panini pressed.

For a lovely dinner, try The Short Story Brasserie. It seems to serve an eclectic French cuisine. I ordered a crusty baked macaroni and cheese with black Italian truffles and lobster (though I had them hold the lobster). I finished off the meal with a chocolate soufflé with a heavy cream poured in the center. It was delicious!

On my next trip down I will try The Granville Inn for dinner (which looks extremely overpriced) and Nona’s Italian Ristorante for lunch.