Tag Archives: cooking

Post-Holiday Updates and a Brand New Year

Petits fours: Round 1.

Petits fours: Round 1.

You guys! I totally cooked Christmas dinner!! And by “totally cooked Christmas dinner”, I mean that I sat back, sometimes stirred potatoes, opened the windows to air out the smell of the delicious-but-odoriferous balsamic reduction, and ate many of the petits fours that my grandmother brought over before dinner, while my sister, my brother in law, and my dad cooked like the superstars they are.

I feel compelled to note that my real contribution to Christmas Day feasting was breakfast. That’s right, I made coffee for everyone. Second coffee, that is, since everyone made their first cups themselves.

Also I made the Barefoot Contessa’s apple turnovers, mostly myself, which, well, it’s kind of a big deal.

You might remember that my mom had some surgery in December? Which led to some apprehension on my part about my sister and I cooking Christmas dinner together, since she doubts my abilities, and despite the possible wisdom of her doubt, that never fails to irritate me? Well, all that worrying was for naught, because they left me absolutely nothing to do but eat! And clean up. I wasn’t going to mention it, but…

I hope each of you had wonderful holidays with your loved ones.

I love giving presents (I love receiving them too) and this year, the present I was most excited to give were booklists for everyone in my family. I put my librarian skills to work on them all year, building a list of possibilities for everyone, and then choosing the twelve books that I thought were most likely to succeed in pleasing the recipient, making it into a little “book of the month club” booklet. Pictures would be included, but…*

For everyone except my brother in law, I had far more than twelve books to choose from, but my brother-in-law reads mostly nonfiction. And often (so I understand) non-narrative nonfiction…and not books of essays, either. I’m all about the narratives, personally, and our war interests don’t even coincide: while I went through a deeply earnest World War II obsession in my early teens that lingers today, my brother in law (so I understand) is interested in the Civil War. So I ended up having to stretch his recommendations to make twelve months. Thankfully two of the books on his list were super long, so I figured it’s possible that they will take two months each to read. It still kind of feels like a cop-out though.

But that does bring me around to my 2013 reading resolutions. (I use the word “resolution” loosely.) In no particular order, they are:

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  • Read at least one nonfiction book. I give myself a pass on the non-narrative portion, but ideally one I think my brother in law would read and enjoy.
  • Middlemarch. I will finish it or give up entirely before I turn 30, so help me!
  • See if we can’t get a long-distance book club off the ground in 2013 (this means you, E and M!).
  • And, after reading this article in The Guardian online, read at least one book in 2013 that was translated from a language other than English.

What about you? Did you make any reading resolutions for 2013?

* As the girl who left all her Christmas crafting to the last possible moment, pictures didn’t happen before the booklists were slid into stockings. And frankly, my blog resolution for 2013 is not to hold up posts for more than a day because of a lack of pertinent photographs, since my thankless family hasn’t responded to my plea for photographs with actual photographs. Perhaps they’ve thrown the booklists away and just don’t want me to know.

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November, or Where I’ve Been

November. It has not been a good month for blogging.

I wish I could tell you that instead of blogging, I was embracing NaNoWriMo, and started writing a novel at last, but this would be untrue.

What’s true is that November kind of gets me down. The beginning of November marks the end of Daylight Savings Time, and as ready as I felt myself to be for the “brighter” mornings, the early darkness of the evenings has sapped my energy far more than I ever expect it to or remember it will. Between that, a whirlwind weekend trip to visit my newly-married friend in her new far-Canadian home, looking for and applying to library jobs, and the Thanksgiving holiday, I fear I have sadly neglected my little blog.

Maybe one reason November is so disheartening is that it’s basically the beginning of winter, here in the Pacific Northwest, anyway. The chill of mountain snow touches the wind, and what with the limited daylight and the dropping temperatures, it seems like the only thing left in life is to break out the fleeces, burrow under blankets, read a pile of books, and eat. Which is largely what I’ve done this month.

Perhaps the biggest news around here is that due to some surgery my mother is having in December, my sister and I will be cooking Christmas dinner. Together.

My sister doesn’t hold much stock in my culinary ability. When she got married, she did a dessert bar instead of a wedding cake, and my contribution to the dessert bar was my grandmother’s famous cookies, which are on the fussier end of the cookie-baking spectrum. Discussing this beforehand, her comment to me was, “Are you sure you don’t want someone else to maybe do them for you?” (And this was before I wrote the recipe down wrong and completely botched the first batch.) Some might call her lack of faith in me justified by my failure to make cooking a priority throughout the majority of my 20s. I’m really trying to be better about cooking, but in the dark that has been November, the ease of tomato soup and cheese sandwiches often won the battle.

However, which I feel to some extent cancels the lack of imagination in my November dinners, I did use “artisan” bread* for the cheese sandwiches. I’m a big fan of artisan bread (because if you’re going to eat bread, it might as well be good bread, right)? The only drawback to artisan bread is that mostly you have to slice it yourself, and sometimes, when you’re very hungry and having a clumsy day, you find yourself accidentally slicing your fingers along with the bread. Although this is certainly not the first time I’ve cut myself with my very sharp bread knife, this is the worst so far.

(Since I cut my left thumb, which isn’t even the thumb I use to hit space bar, the cut can’t really even contribute to my failure to blog for the most of the month, sadly. Somehow the lack of blog posts would feel more legitimate with an excuse like “I cut off the top of my thumb! But not all the way!”)

Further cancelling the tomato-soup-cheese-sandwich-extravaganza-also-known-as-November, I bought two cookbooks this month, both of them by food bloggers. However much I may lose heart when I catch sight of a long list of complicated instructions, I really do enjoy reading about cooking and food. Hopes are high, in any case, that these will inspire some culinary creativity in the face of early dark and cold. Personally I think we really need to try out a Smitten Kitchen recipe for Christmas, like the apple cider caramels.

* Technically, the artisan bread was store-bought. Which may negate its cancelling effect, in the end.