A Tale of two Christmases

As I write this I’m in the Richmond airport, where I’ve been since 8am, where I’ll be until 4:30pm.  That is just one piece of a nutty travel story, of which I’m frustrated by.  On the other hand, I had most perfect Christmas a few days ago and I’d rather tell that story, than my tale of travel woe and how much Delta can suck it.

Snow started falling pretty hard in St. Louis Christmas Eve.  I was going to pick up Adam Science and he was staying with me that night so I could drive him to the airport early Christmas morning.  By the time I got to his house it was extra nasty.  My boy with Vermont in his blood drove back to my place as the roads were worse in just the 40 minutes since I had left.  This meant I chose to opt out of my big family Christmas Eve event.  My family is very close geographically so I didn’t miss anyone who had flown in.  Instead, with snow coming down outside, Adam Science and I had a very merry Christmas of our own.  We exchanged gifts that night and it was a lovely night.

Adam got me a unicycle.

I’ve always wanted a unicycle.

I’ve always thought that since I was really good at riding my ten speed with no hands that I’d be really good at riding a unicycle.  I’ve never actually bought myself the unicycle.  Adam Science did.

He also got me the same kind of pasta maker that we used at a class we went to several months ago.  Fresh ravioli and fettuccine and lasagna is in our future. 

In addition to so much fresh bread!  Since I have met Adam he has talked about baking bread and using a process that used a dutch oven.  He never buys himself the dutch oven. I like bread.  I want him to bake bread for us.  I buy him the dutch oven.  And a cookbook entitled Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day.

We woke up to a perfect White Christmas.  
I wanted to take pictures.  He wanted to throw snowballs at me.  The park was beautiful and quiet and empty.  We imagine everyone else was at home opening up presents from Santa Claus.  

After our walk we went back to my apartment.  We made pumpkin pancakes for breakfast.  We played video games that we had received for Christmas – NHL Slap Shot for him and Just Dance 2 for me.  We each looked pretty silly playing each others respective games.  I absolutely love him for dancing around my apartment trying to beat me at the dancing game.  In the interest of full disclosure, he did beat me once…out of four rounds.  I had to run up to another family gathering for a bit, but got home pretty early and we curled up on a couch, tree lit, furry cat with us and watched Elf.  Does it get better than that for Christmas??

It would come to pass that his flight on Sunday would be cancelled as well.  We would spend another day together and hanging out at my apartment.  He watched football while I made cookies.  We met some friends for coffee.  We got Chinese take out for dinner. 

He never made it to Virginia.  I did (hence the Richmond airport).  I got to spend time with his mother and that was so important to me as Adam is growing more and more important to me.  I am able to see a bigger picture regarding him now, where he came from and how he inherited some of his traits and mannerisms.  I’m sad I didn’t get to meet his sister and grandmother (that would have been tonight, but I’m sure the idea of me at Christmas dinner without Adam seemed weird to them – it seemed a little weird to me.  I don’t doubt they would have welcomed me, but I’m still a stranger.)  Most importantly, there were baby pictures!  (What is it with girls and baby pictures of their boyfriends?)

As I write this it becomes very easy to focus on the bright side.  I’ve been frustrated and exhausted and helpless for most of the last 24 hours.  How easy it could be to forget that three days ago I had the perfect Christmas with the perfect boy.  This flight and airline nonsense is a mess and it is frustrating and I do have several choice words for Delta.  In the end, it’s one silly day.  I have two more days of vacation left when I get back.  I see Wednesday and Thursday full of scrapbooking and cooking and laundry (?) and maybe even a trip to the Science Center to see the Grossology exhibit. 

After all, ’tis the season to be jolly.

Falalalalalalalala.

The holiday family photo

No.  This is not really my family.  Clearly.  But they’re awfully close to it these days.  These are my “girls”.  And this is the story of our Christmas party. 

We started with dinner.  I can’t lie.  I took a major shortcut when it came to the appetizer this time because I was focusing on dessert.  I had a jar of this in my pantry – perhaps from last Christmas – and I poured it over a block of cream cheese and served with Ritz Crackers.  It looks much prettier than it sounds due to the pretty red color of the relish.  The girls devoured it and raved over it, perhaps more so than they did my mini artichoke pizza appetizers a few dinner parties ago. 

Dinner was Cornish game hens, stuffing and a broccoli & cauliflower gratin.  Drinks were pomegranate champagne cocktails.  Pour in a splash of vanilla vodka into the bottom of a flute, add a splash of pomegranate juice and then top with champagne.  I added some pomegranate seeds to the drink as a garnish and it was a beautiful and delicious holiday drink.

After dinner we disclosed our Secret Santas.  We drew names last week.  I had Angela (the blonde in the pink sweatshirt above).  I’m so happy to say that we were so thoughtful and excited to give our presents than we were to get them.  I think it’s a great sign of knowing each other really well.  Meg was my SS and she got me a fantastic new champagne colored scarf, a bottle of Coppola wine PLUS a murder mystery kit to host a themed dinner party!  We’ve already decided who will be each character and we have high hopes of involving our men in the evening as well. 

The present giving continued and we saw Katie get glassware, Meg get new jewelry, Angela received (from me) a cake carrier and a cardigan and Ashley got a one of a kind, original Katie painting!  It was perfect. 

After presents, we played some Just Dance 2 on the Wii.  It was so much fun!  I highly recommend some Just Dance 2. 

Once we were exhausted from all the movin’ and shakin’ I pulled out the dessert.  I made some Tuxedo Brownie bites (recipe below), some raspberry truffle tarts and provided a hot chocolate bar! 

I had five cups of hot chocolate made and an assortment of add ins: amaretto, peppermint schnapps, Baileys, marshmallows and whipped cream.  Everyone customized their drink and then we settled in for some How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the cartoon version of course.

It may sound hokey, but it was the perfect holiday evening.  It had all the elements I love about this time of year.  Friends and laughter and warmth and giving and thoughtfulness and a lit Christmas tree in the background.  Merry Christmas, friends.

Tuxedo Brownie Cups

1 package (19-21 oz) fudge brownie mix (plus ingredients to make mix)
2 squares (1 oz each) white chocolate for baking
2 tablespoons milk
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup thawed, frozen whipped topping
1 pint small strawberries, sliced
orange zest, mint leaves, melted semi-sweet chocolate for baking
(optional)*

1. Preheat oven to 325. Spray cups of deluxe mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Prepare brownie mix according to directions for cake-like brownies. Using small scoop, fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake 14 minutes or until edges are set (do not overbake).

2. Remove pan to cooling rack. Immediately press tops of brownie with tart shaper to make indentations. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Loosen edges and gentle remove the brownies from pan. Cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter.

3. Microwave white chocolate and milk, uncovered on high 1 minute; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar; mix well. Gradually stir in white chocolate mixture until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.

4. Pipe mixture into cooled brownie cups using the Easy Accent Decorator (or other piping tool). Arrange strawberry slices on top. Garnish as desired. Place in airtight container and refrigerate 1-3 hours before serving.

Crazy pill? Happy pill?

When I started blogging I posted that I was doing it to have my own space.  A place to talk.  I didn’t know if anyone would read it and that wasn’t the goal.  I just wanted to talk and write.  A modern day diary, right?

I have made no secret of my admiration of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.  In her book one of the many topics I found so relevant to me at the time was her discussion of anti-depressants.  She made no judgments on them or those who used them, and discussed all of her efforts to avoid them before she decided to try it.  Once again, I found myself right in line with her.  I wanted to feel better; I tried exercise, diet changes, therapy (of the psychological and retail variety) and just plain ole willpower.  Finally, I found a physician who discussed the side effects with me thoroughly, monitored me closely through the first several months and then every six months after that…and I took them.  And life was different.  And then life was better.

Everything I was worried about subsided.  I still had feelings.  I was still sad when something warranted being sad about.  I lost almost all of the anxiety issues I had – I stopped checking my alarm clock 6 times to make sure it was set or stressing out all day about unplugging my curling iron.  I felt like my old self.  I felt genuinely happy – not fake or phony.

I have taken them for over a year.  The last two months I’ve started to lessen my doses.  Went to half dose, then to one every other day, then one every couple of days…and then none.

Last weekend I thought was the challenge.  I had a rough weekend with a very strange character (my ex-husbands new girlfriend) thrusting herself into my life suddenly and without warning.  It led to a domino effect of bad feelings and information that I never asked for.  I was sad and hurt and furious last weekend.  I survived it.  I thought it would be okay.

Then came yesterday.  Yesterday I snapped in a big way at Adam Science.  I was tired.  I was stressed out due to serious lack of “me” time.  And I over reacted to a comment he made.  It was bad.

It’s all I can think about since yesterday afternoon.  Some of the melancholy feelings coming back.  Is it just mood swings?  Is it just being exhausted?  Why do I feel like this relationship is doomed after I lost my cool?  Why do I jump to fight or flight reactions so quickly and would that have happened if I were still on the drug?  I feel all damaged and broken.  The thing I want more than anything in the world is to NOT go back to being the version of myself that cried every day and didn’t know she was fantastic. 

So, my options are:
1. See how tomorrow goes.  See how the next day goes.  See how the day after that goes.  A few more days.  Let’s see if this normals out.
2. Become a person who is always on a small dose of anti-depressants/anxiety medicine.  I have a couple of friends or co-workers who have said they’ve been on them for years.  A low dose to stabilize any chemical imbalance makes their life so much better. 

Heavy stuff.  I’ll post about cookies soon.  That will lighten things up.

Me time

Do you feel that you have no time for your own simple pleasures this time of year?  Any time of year?  All the time, all year long?

I feel that way.  Sometimes it’s worse than other.  I grin, I bear it, I made these choices.

And when I feel out of control I like to take a minute….

…and take pictures of my food.  There’s not much the smell of butter and onions and a camera to capture it can’t fix, even if it’s just for a brief moment.

I like pearl onions.  I like to buy them frozen so I don’t have to go through the trouble of peeling them.  Even the quick peel method where you boil them for five minutes and then pop them out of their skins takes some time.  Frozen pearl onions are the way to go.

And then I added flour, chicken stock, heavy cream, spices and steamed potatoes and veggies to this.  It gets thick and delicious.  Also are chunks of poultry – in this case turkey and cornish game hen.  It’s what I had leftover.  This is a great leftover dish.

I like to use individual serving bowls.  I mean, I have them.  Use them.  It makes presentation so much better also.  In my opinion, food is an awful lot about presentation.

I was taking some shortcuts.  I did not make my own pie crust.  My grocery did not have puff pastry, so I improvised with Grands biscuits.  It worked just fine. 

There you have it.  Individual poultry pot pie.  Comfort.  I’m slightly less stressed for having made it, and for remembering to slow down and take pictures of it.

See this hat?

I wore this hat for almost 24 hours this weekend.  
I put it on Saturday morning around 10am.  My hair was messy and it was raining and there were errands to run.
I left it on all afternoon.  I left it on when I took a nap around 4pm.  I left it on after I woke up.
I left it on while we made tacos for dinner and while we watched Saving Private Ryan.
I left it on that night when I went to bed and woke up with it firmly in place.
I get really bad hat hair and didn’t want Adam Science to see that.  He thinks I’m pretty.  I like to keep that going.
I eventually took it off and pulled it into a ponytail for breakfast. (Egg sandwiches with tomato and cheddar and avocado on ciabatta rolls)
Then I had to get in the shower.  Down came the pony tail.  Adam Science says to me, “You’re so beautiful.  Your hair is perfect!  How is that possible?  You slept in that hat.”
Pretty sure that’s love.

Naive vs. Nice.

Dear Sarah,
There are things I want for you. 
I want you to remain trusting, but remain safe. 
I want you to believe in the goodness of the world, but remember that not everyone is good. 
I want you to be generous, but not at your own expense.
I want you to continue to give people 2nd chances, but stop giving them 22. 
I want you to be able to forgive, but forgive and then let go of the bad people.
I want you to be nice to everyone, but not to those who intentionally hurt you.

I want you to be able to eventually get past some of the information you learned this weekend, but don’t forget it’s lessons. 

Much love,
you

Riff

Riff: (noun) a rapid energetic often improvised verbal outpouring

Adam Science has been using this term with me for a while when he talks about cooking.  If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, when I post food I post the recipe I used right along with it.  I’m not a chef, I’m a cook.  Adam Science can riff on food.  He looks in his pantry.  He decides…..this will do.  And then there’s deliciousness.  

Two weeks ago he encouraged me to riff on some butternut squash soup.  He roasted the butternut squash and I can’t lie, I thought he was getting out his Everything Vegetarian cookbook to follow along.  Nope.  He told me to finish it up.  I’m smart.  I’ve made soup.  I riffed.  Threw the roasted butternut squash into a giant pot along with 4 cups of vegetable stock, a chopped onion, chopped apple, bay leaf, salt, pepper, pinch of cinnamon.  I think that was all.  I have no idea.  You know why?  Because I was riffing.  After that simmered for about 20 minutes he pulled out the immersion blender and blended away.  When it was mostly smooth I poured in approximately 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  The result was this beautiful, smooth, slightly frothy butternut squash soup.  Served alongside a totally riffed salad (including pomegranate seeds, which are pretty much my new favorite food – I’m putting them in everything) we had a delicious meal.  


A few mornings ago I find myself wide awake at 6:15am.  It’s chilly outside.  I’m going to riff some pancakes!  I decide apple cinnamon.  Maybe I’ll add oats!  Maybe I’ll add walnuts!  I can do it!  And I do.  Make these on a cold morning.  They were hot and fluffy and filling.  So much more satisfying than your cereal.  





Here’s about what happened in my pancakes:
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp baking soda


Whisk together


1 cup milk
1 egg
3 tsp melted butter


Whisk that in until combined and mostly smooth


Throw in some chopped apple and walnuts.  However much you want.  


Warm up some pure Vermont Maple syrup (is there any other kind??  I think not!).



Enjoy.