Monday, December 23, 2013

'Tis the season, folks, like it or not! A million pictures. Yay?

Ho Ho Hoooo boy, it's been hectic over here at Johanesen Cottage for the season so far.  For Thanksgiving, we made the trip over the Cascades to dine with my sister Helen and her husband Matt.  It was really fun. It was one of the few times I had a holiday event involving my family where there was no acrimony or stress. We decided to stay a couple of nights to make the two and a half hour drive tolerable, so we went down Wednesday night and returned on Friday afternoon.

Here is the overnight-brined, butter-basted organic deliciousness that filled our tummies, and provided for several separate meals, including a rich stock, soup (naturally), turkey pot-pies and more.  Fare thee well, gobbler. You were much appreciated.

Somebody rode his first pony during this stay in Bend. We stopped at the barn where my sister was boarding her horse and Alex got to ride a fat, tall American Shetland named Oreo (soooooo original for a black and white pony). He was pretty frisky because of the cold weather. Alex loved it. He loved the horses. There were no screams of fear. He sat on Oreo, and vocalized and patted his mane the same way he pats the cat's fur.  It was precious. When Oreo was walking, he just rode along without a care, watching Eleanor (Helen's horse) in the arena.

We got a little dusting of snow earlier on this month, but it didn't stick around, sadly. I was hoping for a white Christmas for a change. Oh well. It's pretty wet and rainy out there today. I can still hold out hope for a freak snow-storm.

Dan has been playing around with some wood pickets, making these cool little squirrel feeders. The problem is, it's designed for a gallon-sized jar, which apparently are not at all easy to find. But we will prevail! In the meantime, the half-gallon jar of pickles I managed to gnaw my way through during pregnancy (how cliché right?) works just find.

Turns out Alex loves to go to Sushi & Maki with me (my favourite place). He just eats the sh*t out of gyoza and white sticky rice.  Here's a picture of him waiting for the food to come on our last little jaunt into town.  He is growing up SO fast.  In spite of his remaining in the 5th percentile in size (yes, at one year + 1 month old, he weighs 16 lbs, 2oz.) he is on target developmentally. And yes, he is walking now.  It took him a couple of months to tentatively try and step about, but one day, it's like a light bulb switched on over his head, and he just started stamping around like a boss. He is EVERYWHERE now. And you can barely keep him in your lap anywhere, because all he wants to do is explore.

Inspired by the mini-pork-pie pasty bites I made for the Jane Austen tea on 12.15, I came home with more pork to make a full-sized one that Monday night. It was hella good. About a pound of coarsely ground pork, some fresh sage leaves, a large shallot, some salt, white pepper, a dusting of nutmeg, some coarsely chopped stale baguette, a bit of cream to soften it, an egg, and a very simple savoury butter-based pie-crust, and voila. A little bit of dijon, and some salad greens with a bright vinaigrette and man, that was delicious! It was a win with Alex too, who just powered through his own little slice for dinner and the next day for lunch.

Yesterday and today, it has been cookie-baking time. We are opting out of bankrupting ourselves buying made-in-China landfill fodder for all the largely indifferent adult family members this year. Instead, I am making cookie-pails. They can eat them, feed them to the birds, I don't care (historically, my cooking has been way too out of the box for most of them, so whenever I brought a dish to share at their events, nobody ate from it, so I stopped bringing food). I started with some surprisingly light and mouth-meltingly delicious Amish sugar cookies.  I've never actually made sugar cookies. For some reason, the idea of using cream of tartar always seemed too complicated (I know, don't ask), but whenever I saw a recipe requiring it, I'd just flip to the next one as if it was insurmountable or something. Using recipes with shortening is the same for me. Not sure why.  But I sucked it up this year, bought a little jar of the mysterious stuff, and this is the result. Seven dozen delicious, light-as-air sugar cookies.  Enough for the seven pails I am filling up for family.

They are really good. They don't need any icing, or sprinkles or any foo-foo embellishments. They are good just as they are.

Next up, I endeavored to make Speculoos/Speculaas, a traditional Belgian favourite.  I have to find my Belgian cookbook, because these may taste close to the real thing, but they really are too crisp and too hard. The texture is just a bit off.  It's a Martha Stewart recipe, and naturally the picture of her molded cookies is perfection. I used the carved roller to make some little designed cookies. They came out rustic, and okay. They are super-crispy-crunchy, and the spices are good, but just not... bright enough.  I made enough to fill the pails. They will make good coffee dunkers. No sense in starting over. It's not an easy recipe, and it requires a lot of work and a lot of time to make them.

Next cookies will be my no-fail delicious orange cookies that Dan isn't too keen on. But I don't care. I will ice them and they will top the stack in the little pails. I think dinosaurs and forest creatures are Christmassy enough for me. LOL.  I'll make those tonight after we get back from our errands.

The Christmas tree this year. Yes, I'm obsessed with white ornaments, do not ask me why. I like to add a pop of red and some little touches of colour here and there, but every year I find one or two white ornaments to add to my growing collection. This year, I did not use my many glass icicles, nor did I use any of my hundreds of feet of pearl/snowflake/bead garlands.  Alex is mostly leaving the tree alone, but has moments of keen interest. Yesterday he was determined to pull out the snowflake shaped lights, and wanted to decorate it by adding some of his toys into the tree limbs. That's all good.

Yes, it's a bit cheesy and Jersey mob-wife-ish in taste. But I still like it. I love how tulle is so versatile and so cheap. Michaels has spools yards long for minimal moolah in the wedding department. I put it in the tree and on the wreath, it makes it look cloudy and ethereal when lights are diffused through it.  

The first of the little Christmas presents for Alex are stacked up waiting for Christmas morning.  Dan and I didn't buy anything for each other this year. Just Alex gets pressies. :)

Alex got the monster-foot stocking.

Meet 'Stretch'.  I have had Stretch for oh, at least since 1997. He barely survived a savage Jack Russell mauling, and survived to tell the tale, save for a bit of the beard missing on his right slipper and his body being a tad loosened from his stilty legs, but Christmas is not Christmas until Stretch is out on display.  He is as cheesy as Christmas decoration gets, and that's why I love him.

Some garland and snowflakey lights along the archway into the kitchen.

The rollers await the continuation of my baking spree. I have one more batch of Speculaas to preside over, then it's onto the orange cookies.  So much more fragrant than just regular sugar cookies or shortbread.

Trusty KitchenAid mixer, my heart's delight, I love this thing, needs a wipe-down before we proceed with more baking. This was and remains the best gift I have ever gotten. It was a wedding gift, and the only thing that could every outdo this mixer would be the bigger model with the levered bowl.

Oh, someone just sped by.  Who could that be?

The cookie pails await filling.

Some new organization for my craft-crap. It sort of takes over, so I got this so it has somewhere to go other than the top of the breakfront.

The second year of our new tradition, Alex and Santa at Macy's. He was so good, I have to brag that some parents were pretty envious of him. Their kids squirmed and cried and wailed. Alex sat happily on Santa's lap and even cracked a good smile for his last picture.  The icelandic-style sweater onesie and adorable shoes were courtesy of his aunts, who both seem to be bent on buying everything cute they can find on the internet. They've bought him SIX pairs of shoes so far. SIX. There's no stopping them.

And there it is. A smile.  It's a stark difference from last year's photo, isn't it?

Was he ever really that small? A scarce seven weeks here. How sweet.
He's grown so. My precious gift. Who needs anything else for Christmas but a healthy, happy child?

After Macy's, we hit the Oregon Zoo for their annual 'Zoo-Lights' display. It's crazy-impressive, the sheer magnitude of the effort, the zillions of lights, the displays and the care taken.  The whole zoo is lit up.  We were supposed to do this with some of the in-laws, something I proposed and was astonished they agreed to. But true-to-form, they bailed on us last-minute with some lame excuses. I have to remind myself not to take things personally. They do not often deviate from their normal activities, and do not like things that are not at their convenience.  We are the ones that do the bending to them during the holiday season. I won't stop trying to get them to do stuff with us though. Maybe someday, they won't change their minds last-minute. It's so irritating. They missed out on a wonderful time. I cannot say I've had a better time during the holidays than I have had these past few days. And we haven't gotten to Christmas yet (that is usually the stressful part).
Alex reacts to his first sight of elephants in this quick video.  He is fascinated by animals, and really quite fearless of them large or small. that is both a good and a bad thing.  But he was so cute at the zoo. He was waving his little fingers at the elephants (you can see him do it just before the video ends).  And he was making his little guinea-pig noise of interest when he saw them moving.

Alex and Ruger at the Ducati MotorCorsa Christmas party.
Happy Christmas everyone! Thank you so much for supporting this blog and following along with my rather strange but mostly ordinary life.

1 comment:

Pech said...

Love the squirrel feeder, and it's so precious to see young ones wonder at Christmas!


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