Sunday, December 24, 2006


I finished all the cooking, the house is spiffed up enough for company, and the presents are wrapped. All that's left is to go over to my mother in law's house and have dinner, then hopefully get the boys to bed and curl up on the couch for a while with Dan. Nice.

Oh, and I had to try the online fortune cookie thing. Most appropriate, somehow.

My Fortune Cookie told me:
Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cooking central

I love making Christmas dinner. Really, I love cooking any meal, but the more people and the more cooking involved, the happier I am. The problem is, I tend to do far too much at the last minute and end up exhausted by the time we all sit down to eat. This year, I'm trying to get ahead of the game by doing as much ahead of time as I possibly can. Yesterday, I went to pick up our roast. Today, I finished shopping and started in on preparations. Made mashed potatoes (I'll reheat carefully and add butter before serving), lentil soup, potato bread, creamed spinach, salad dressing, horseradish sauce, rum custard and sponge cake. All that's left to do is make a snack mix, assemble the breakfast strata, and then a few last minute things on Christmas day. That means I can spend tomorrow wrapping, knitting, reading a book, and generally relaxing. Tomorrow night we're having a "picnic" dinner on the floor at my mother in law's apartment, to celebrate my sister in law's arrival from San Jose. Should be fun, especially for the boys!

This year, I'm going very traditional. I'm actually copying the menu from our wedding at the Five Crowns nine years ago. Doesn't sound very interesting, but if done well the combination is comforting and delicious. The trifle was a request from the boys for something creamy with cake and chocolate, and it should be perfect because it's even better made ahead. Needless to say, the rest of the week is going to be full of lighter fare and yoga on my part.

Here's the menu for Christmas day:

maple sausage and cheddar strata
orange juice
tea and hot chocolate

spiced nuts
crudites and hummus

lentil soup (this came out really well - I used Puy lentils, lots of onion and garlic, bay leaves, and thyme)
rustic potato bread

mixed greens with Parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts and apple-parsley dressing
standing rib roast au jus
Yorkshire pudding
horseradish cream
mashed potatoes
creamed spinach

Boston cream trifle

Friday, December 22, 2006

Day five: Winter vacation

Today was a run around and get last minute things done: trip to the auto club to renew our membership, off to the pet store to get a new collar for Tabby, and then a swing by the book store to get a gift certificate for my sister in law. After all the errands were finished, we made popcorn balls for the birds and critters outside. These didn't go as well as I would have hoped. The gelatin is supposed to dissolve into hot corn syrup and sugar, but it never did - the gelatin actually started turning golden and contracting in on itself in the pan. Not good. So I scooped it out and tried blooming more gelatin in some hot water, then adding that to the sugar mixture and boiling for a few minutes to get the water out. In went the birdseed and some pine nuts for extra winter fat reserves, and then a quick mix with the popcorn. Ryan tried making balls for a little bit, but didn't like how everything stuck to his hands and stopped pretty quickly. Arden didn't want to touch the stuff at all, but watched me crank out popcorn balls. Then I grabbed a long, thick needle and thread and started stringing. Not easy - the needle kept getting stuck. Finally got one put together and hung it up on a tree outside, only to have the popcorn balls start slowly sliding off the thread. Ah, well. The seeds will be just as good to eat on the ground as they are on the tree, I suppose.

Dan came home a bit early today, so we were all able to take a long bike ride around the neighborhood. I loved seeing holiday decorations and waving to everyone as we peddled on past. The boys are still figuring out how to stay a reasonable distance while hugging the side of the road (no sidewalks here), but thankfully there is little traffic anywhere nearby. When we all got home there were pink cheeks and slightly less energetic small folk, so our work was done.

Dinner was simple, but good. I used the rest of the ground beef from earlier this week and made hamburgers, adding a good measure of salt, pepper, and Worcherstershire sauce before I formed the patties. Then a good brown on each side to get a nice crust before being plopped onto a bun. We all piled slices of uglyripe tomatoes (which are absolutely delicious, if a bit odd looking), red onion, lettuce and toppings, then dove in. Oh, and paused long enough to grab some slaw to put on the side as well.

By the way, Dan loved his Wii! When I told him how I snuck out and waited in line, he was amazed at my sneakiness. Fortunately, I use my powers for good ;-) He's still configuring the game and reading the manual (swoon! I married a man who actually read the manual!), but it looks like we'll be playing tonight. The controller is seriously fun to use - it follows every movement your arm makes, and the controls are really, really easy to figure out. Even Arden was able to figure out how to work things. Much fun all around.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day four: Winter vacation

No special craft today. We were supposed to make mosaic pictures, but the boys had other ideas. Instead, they painted and tinkered with a gift box to make a "closet". Arden says they can put books and toys on the shelves. The sides are purple, the front doors "dark brown". Now we just need to figure out how to keep the doors closed when not being opened - this puzzle is keeping Arden quite busy, while Ryan is more into the painting process.

We went bowling today, something both boys have been incredibly excited to do all week. Forget that it's Dan's birthday...."today we get to go bowling!!!" They each got new shoes (had to explain this part to Arden - he really wanted to keep his shoes on instead), then I showed them how to bowl. This is completely the blind leading the blind, since I am a pretty lousy bowler. Though I'll admit, bumpers make my game a lot better!

Dinner for the boys is ever so healthy and nutritious: McDonald's with Grandma. Since it's Dan's birthday, he got to choose dinner and he really wants to go to Pok Pok, a local Thai restaurant that is just incredibly good. Ryan was a bit upset that he couldn't go, and made me promise to bring him an order of fish sauce wings. Arden, however, was thrilled to get a chance to play with Grandma and scurried off without even looking back.

Dan hasn't seen his present yet. I ditched the microwave idea (visions of sudden power surges put a quick end to that), instead including a small note saying, "bet you want some graham crackers and chocolate to go with that, right?" Oh, he'll find a treat in the pantry, all right ;-)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Day three: Winter vacation

Today we made ice lights. The directions call for leaving the molds outside to freeze, but it hasn't been quite that cold, at least not during the day, so into the freezer they went. It took several hours to get each layer set, and getting them out took a little longer than I would have thought, but they're just gorgeous all lit up. The boys both said, "whoa!" when we turned out the lights.

Also went to our local library, conveniently located at the outermost edge of our local mall parking lot. I kid you not - I can go to the mall and the library all in one fell swoop. Of course, I hate shopping with a vengence, so when my car is headed in that direction, I'm usually in search of books for loan. Ryan picked out a book on pirates and a book on spies. Have to make a career choice sometime, I always say. Arden chose an I Spy book, perfect for late night viewing.

Tonight's dinner was pizza and salad. The boys helped knead the dough and measure out ingredients for the sauce. Then Ryan helped cut up lettuce and cucumbers, and Arden poured the salad dressing. Both helped put the toppings on the pizza before I put it into the oven. Some Christmas cookies for dessert, and another day is done.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Day two: Winter Vacation

We made the coolest three dimensional snowflakes. I used plain old printer paper, folded in half lengthwise. Then I folded each edge down to make a triangle to measure out each smaller square. The boys used bits of tape and staples to put them all together, and they came out so nicely!

Then we went to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry - known as OMSI around these parts. We have a family membership to the children's museum back in Southern California that had a nice plus: it applied to all the other children's and science museums throughout the country. We go as often as we can, making the $75 membership more than worth it. We've already seen the Star Wars exhibit (Ryan was on cloud nine the whole time), so we went quickly to the Innovation Station where the boys got to throw balls inside with impunity. This was Arden's favorite exhibit, bar none. We could have spent all day there. But Ryan had other plans. First the Physics lab, and then the Chemistry Lab, which he has now decided is the coolest place in the whole museum. Not sure if this is due to the protective glasses or the magnets and liquid nitrogen. I promised both boys that we'd go back with Dan next week when he has time off.

Dinner tonight was tacos. Ryan helped grind the meat (big sale on chuck a few weeks back, so I bought a few roasts and froze them), then I made the taco meat and cut up tomatoes, onions, and lettuce and shredded the cheese. Flour tortillas only needed warming up, and oranges got cut into easy to eat slices. Recipe for the taco meat (which could just as easily be made from ground turkey or even vegetable "crumbles", though I'd add a bit of fat to saute the onions and garlic) here:

Taco meat
serves 4

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
dash cayenne (good-sized dash)
1 teaspoon salt
dash black pepper
1/3 cup kechup*

Crumble meat into a pan over medium - high heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook until meat lightly browned. Add spices and tomato, but not kechup yet. Continue to cook for 5 minutes or until tomatoes are disintegrated. Add kechup, stir, and cook for a few more minutes to let flavors meld.

* Yes, I actually said kechup. No, this is not in any way authentic. But it gives a nice bit of sweet/sour to the mix, and helps bind everything together so it's similar to fast food taco meat. Feel free to leave it out - the mix will be looser but still delicious.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Day one: Winter vacation

We made ornaments (dodecahedrons! I love math) from construction paper. Used the lid from a vitamin bottle to make the millions and millions of circles (OK, there were only 40, but it felt like millions). The boys decorated each circle, then we started gluing them together. This was harder because all of the folds weren't exact. Also, had to let each section dry completely before putting it all together. I'd leave at least a few hours total for this project. Ryan decided his ornament needed googly eyes, while Arden added a "Texas" flag to his. Haven't a clue on either count!

We made whole grain waffles for dinner, topping them with vanilla yogurt, crushed raspberries, and toasted walnuts. Maple sausage on the side made Ryan a very, very happy boy.

After dinner we went out driving to see Christmas lights around the neighborhood. There are some amazing displays - some beautiful, some "special", all worth a trip to find them. Makes me glad we're finally able to have some icicle lights on the front of a real house so we can add to the wonder a wee little bit.

Craft and activity week

Both boys are off from school for the next two weeks. This is a bit of a problem, since Ryan has a really hard time when his schedule changes at all. It takes him a few weeks to readjust to any new schedule (like the rythmn of going to school five days a week, then suddenly being at home those same days), so breaks are just long enough to upset but unlike Summer, not long enough to adjust. Part and parcel of any kind of autism, and something we're trying to help him with.

This year, I'm trying to be proactive. I gathered up a bunch of crafts and activities to fill up each day, and assembled an extremely kid-friendly menu that the boys can help make each day. Then I made out a weekly calendar with every activity listed for each day so both boys would know what to expect. This week I'll be posting every day with the craft activity we did, describing the outing we went on, and giving the dinner menu that the boys helped with. If nothing else, that gives me something fun to do!

Forgot to add: tonight we kicked things off by making chicken and ginger siu mai, broccoli stir fried with garlic, and steamed rice. Ryan helped rinse the rice, combine all the filling ingredients, make the dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, a bit of sugar and water, and some minced green onion), then stir fry the broccoli.


Want to guess what I bought this morning? Got in line at Target at five thirty this morning, stomping my feet and rubbing hands together to keep warm. Damn, it was cold outside. At 7:00, they announced that there were 21 Wiis in stock and handed out tickets in line order. I wasn't at the very front, so I sweated a bit, wondering if I'd actually get one. Then the lady came up to me and handed me a ticket - number 21! I got the very last one, a fact that made me more happy because the two guys behind me hadn't been nice at all and were planning on selling their consoles on eBay (in contrast to the folks ahead of me, all parents trying to surprise their sons). She said to come back at 7:50, so we all wandered off to get warm. I went grocery shopping, since my excuse to Dan had been that I was planning on doing my shopping early this morning (that, and telling him he snored last night so getting out of bed wasn't suspicious). When I got back to the store there was another line of shoppers, all jubilant that they'd gotten to the front. Um, sorry folks, those of us who got here when it was still dark and literally freezing beat you to it.

Hee hee...I bought some holiday peeps to wrap and put under the tree til Dan's birthday on Thursday. I know he'll recognize the size and shape of the Wii box, so that's not getting wrapped. The peeps will have a note that says, "bet you want to put these in the microwave" (he loves torturing peeps). And in the oven, a brand spanking new Wii with a bow on top . Can't wait until his birthday!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gone with the wind

What's wrong with this picture? I opened my front door this morning, only to see an odd hole in the front border by the street. Took me a moment to realize something was missing.

What the....the bush is gone! We had a huge storm last night with winds up to 45 miles per hour and up to an inch of rain per hour as well. We lost power for about two hours, which was a great excuse to unpack the boxes labeled "fire" (yes, Dan shares my slightly twisted sense of humor!). Thankfully the lights went out after the boys went to bed, as Ryan is very afraid of the dark. It was about time for us to turn in, so no harm done.

Or at least so I thought until this morning. It's hard to tell from the picture, but that bush is almost five feet wide and about three feet tall. It ripped right out of the ground and rolled onto the lawn like a big tumbleweed...a green, heavy, wet tumbleweed, that is. Never liked that bush, anyway.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I have a plan

There are no Wiis to be found, other than eBay and Craigslist. However, it looks like most stores are getting shipments in that will be sold on Sunday. Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, Walmart, EB Games, GameStop, everybody will be selling at least a few consoles on the 17th. Emphasis on "a few". And this is the last big shopping day before Christmas and Chanukah, so everyone and their brother is going to be lining up and camping overnight to get one. I've called all around to find out what different stores are doing and how crazy things were when the Wii rolled out, and I have a plan.

I'm going to a Target that's outside Portland, in a much less populated area. I'll get there at 5:00 am, knitting in hand and rain coat on as I wait for them to open at 8:00. They are going to take names of folks in line half an hour before the store opens, then let people in five at a time once the doors open, checking ID against that line list. This sounds a heck of a lot more reasonable than other stores where the mob all gets in at the same time and you hope you get to the front of the line. And the people at this store were helpful and flat out nice when I called - something I'm glad to reward with my business.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Slightly finished object

I've been baking up a mad storm (just finished using up four pounds of butter...and I need more) and decorating and volunteering at the boys' school and still trying to get my hot little hands on a Wii. In the meantime, I managed to finish up one half of that mystery project. This is yarn I got in the Dye O Rama swap from the incredibly talented Kate of k8knits. I wanted to do something special with it and set it aside for a while, pondering. Finally decided on fingerless gloves with the same edging as "Sideways Socks Supreme" from my ever trusty Socks, Socks, Socks book. Figuring out how to get the edging to work as a mirror image took a bit of fiddling. I offset the two edgings by one row so the decreases that make up each point would work out properly. Did a provisional cast on, knit until it fit around my wrist, added some extra short rows where my forearm gets a little bit wider, then grafted up to the bottom of my thumb. Then I picked up stitches as I knitted up the thumb gusset, finishing it off in the round with seed stitch to echo the side to side pattern in the arm. I love this glove - the colors are beautiful, it fits perfectly, it's warm, and the edging makes it somehow romantic and different and unique. One more, and I 'm all set.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 vewy quiet....

I'm hunting Wiis...

Dan hopelessly, desperately wants one for his birthday. Or Christmas. Since the birthday is all of four days before Christmas, these two dates are essentially the same. These suckers are almost impossible to find (except on eBay for almost double the retail price), but he's so hard to shop for and he really wants one. So I'm combing trackers and Slickdeals and calling every store I can think of every morning, hoping to score. He doesn't want any bells or whistles (or sports games - not into sports at all), so you'd think this might get a little bit easier. Nope, not at all.

But I'm more than happy to find one if it takes camping out in front of Best Buy and calling all over town every day until I get one. Dan is my favorite person in the whole world, and there isn't a lot I wouldn't do for him. Especially today, nine years after we first put on those shiny gold bands.

I love him even when he wants impossible things. I'm pretty good at impossible :-)