Thursday, December 29, 2016


Christmas brunch, my table setting
All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas.  How was yours? I made a big Christmas Eve dinner and then a huge Christmas Day brunch.  I feel like I have cleaned my kitchen top to bottom like 57 times literally and I literally found a plate in the coat closet yesterday.  For the first time I can actually say I am burned out.  The chaos the week my grandpa died followed by the chaos of squeezing the clients I had to cancel into the week before Christmas on top of planning another big Christmas event was too much for my stop and smell the roses Taurian nature.  I feel a bit like the season whirled around me and I missed a lot of it.  You’ll have that.  The truth is that what I realized is how otherwise privileged I am that usually I get to arrange my time exactly as I wish to fully enjoy the season.  No luxury is greater than time.  So, okay, with extenuating circumstances, difficult passive aggressive jackasshole opioid addicted mother fucker extended family members, and a shitload of freezing rain, it was not the savored, stop and take stock season for me.  I think it was a lot more like a normal person’s Christmas.  Normal people are frenzied—some by their choosing, but mostly out of their hands.  I hate to rush and I hate to be busy and I had to do a lot of both. 

My aunt, right, is a huge Carolina Panthers fan.  My sister wanted to do an Italian American restaurant theme. A nod to the Florentine where we used to have Christmas Eve dinner.  When we set the theme, we didn't know the Florentine would be on everyone's mind as it turned out they would close their doors after 71 years on December 23.  We wanted to incorporate the Panthers somehow but obviously the two don't really go together.  So I had the idea to get a cutout of him serving antipasto.  My sister loves a theme party.  I go for subtle references to a theme and my sister likes to hit you over the head with it.  I relinquished quite a bit of the decor to her 

I love luminaries on Christmas Eve.  

My sister set the tables.  She hates the traditional Christmas program, so last year in an effort to get her on board I offered her some creative control.  She lives for kitsch.  So now she runs wild with a theme for Christmas.  I do love her Dolce and Gabbana skirt though.  I got her that necklace when we were in high school.  There was a vintage store called Captain Betty's and Betty was, for lack of a better term, a salty old bitch.  She hated my sister but loved me so I did all my sister's vintage shopping.   Betty would literally tell girls they were too fat to wear vintage clothes! We hated to patronize her but she had such good stuff... I did the tree and was going for a very vintage vibe.

I love these ladderback chairs.  I stole them from my mom and have been meaning to change the cushions for like ten years.  She got them when she used to work at Sears! She always says they were a turning point for her because it was the first time she bought something with the vision of a family. 

The first moment I had to stop and really enjoy my Christmas tree was Christmas morning. It wasn't finished until the 21st.  Who's that across the table?

"Barbie, sit up, I want a picture of you and the tree".  Such a compliant model.  For all the crazy shit this year, this was my favorite tree of all time.  the amount of light doesn't really translate to photograph but there are 25 or 26 strands of lights, all colored bulbs in small, medium, and large.  It kind of has a gravitational pull.  

But now I can slooooooow down.  I think all creative people worry about their well running dry because sometimes it feels like it has.  The good news is that creativity is a completely renewable resource when given a little time and room to regenerate.  I go through this cycle all the time and I’m sure you do, too.  When I’m burned out, the things that help me most are reading, learning something new, seeing something new, being outside, and of course an obscene amount of pasta and wine. 

What helps you when you’re burned or burnt (?) out? 
Best wishes for a happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Toast

Well, shit, I’ve certainly dropped the ball on my Christmas series here.  As the French elegantly say “zometimez shit fucking app-enz”. 

Where to start?  With my last post.  I knew shit was likely to hit the fan when I wrote that so I made a quick, nice little place holder and figured I could pretend everything was dandy until I could explain more.  My grandpa passed away last Wednesday.  He had been sick since early in the fall.  This is my paternal grandfather, Bob.  Not to be confused with my maternal grandfather: the lovable perv, Bill.  Bob was a gentleman through and through. He was intimidatingly erudite, a staunch democrat, a kind and gentle father in a time when fathers were not supposed to be kind and gentle, and truly, honestly warm.  He fought in WWII, and never stopped making jokes about the French.  He lived to be 89, about two weeks from his 90th birthday.  Up until the very end, he had his mind, his humor, and his politics.  Immediately I joked that he was planning on getting out before Inauguration.  He despised Donald Trump, because Donald Trump is the opposite of the values he held dear.  Don’t even try with me and telling me you’re offended and that you think I’m chastising you for voting Trump.  I don’t give a shit.  I’m talking about personalities, and no, you can’t argue that Trump is a gentleman.  In the hospital, one of my uncles said something about Trump and my grandpa opened his eyes and said I don’t want to hear another god damn thing about that god damn man
He waited until all his living children could be here in Ohio, sit and talk with them, and then in a brief window between his children’s shifts at his bedside, he went to sleep.  Shortly before, my aunt said he was dreaming and talking in his sleep.  She heard him say Now you be careful, that is one fine instrument and we can’t afford to replace it.  He was a surveyor and loved his work.  It often kept him out of an office and afforded him the chance to enjoy nature on the clock.  In his twilight between worlds, he was in a happy place. 

It’s funny the journey and relationship we all have with faith.  Some people are pushed toward skepticism by one event, pulled into faith by another.  Some never question one way or the other.  One of my best friends jokes that her Good Catholic Education taught her everything she needed to know to be an atheist.  Personally, I don’t know how one could live and exist in this world and believe in no larger force.  I see evidence of the untouchable every day.  Maybe this is because I’m paying attention, maybe it’s because I’m willing it to be there, or maybe it’s because I’m just really fucking special.  Whatever it is, it’s there and for me there is no question.   

Perhaps that is a contributing factor in why the physical loss of my grandpa has me a bit more happy than sad.  A good, long life is almost a miracle.  Especially when that good, long life was threatened by stage III pancreatic cancer at 83.  Everyone was sure that was the end, but it wasn’t.  He came out of it, bought a new car, and took a trip to see his first and most special granddaughter be married.  He did all of this without my grandmother.  My grandmother died 20 years ago, and it was a long 20 years for him.  He always said he was an Indian and she was The Chief, and that is the truth.  She was a force of nature and he was her right hand man.  He hated making decisions for himself—from what to have for lunch to what kind of khakis to buy.  She did it all and he preferred it that way.  Their wedding was never discussed nor were there any pictures.  It seems there was a bit of a rush, but that is not my business.  What grew from that was a big, strong family.  When all the kids were grown and had moved to all corners of the country, my grandparents retired and bought an RV.  My dad always says he thinks that was their happiest time.  It combined my grandma’s time-on-task nature and my grandpa’s love for navigation, the beauty of landscapes, and a way to spend time with each of the kids.  They traveled in their RV six months out of the year for about five years.  My grandpa always thought they should head back east far sooner than my grandma who wasn’t too intimidated by icy mountain passes.  She was, after all, the woman who slipped on ice at Bob Evan’s and hurt her hip and then slipped on ice again at Chi-Chi’s a few months later and fixed it. 
Part of the previously mentioned Limoges bender.  Thank goodness, I needed lots and lots of plates.  Proud to say every single person ate from china.  How many? I have no fucking idea.  Five dinners in six days.  Only two big ones though.

As you might imagine, I did quite a bit of feeding.  You're never sure how many you'll have for these things, so I made 108 cookies. About 58 too many.  Oh well.  Everyone went home with a few.   I tucked cookies wherever I thought people might gather before and after dinner.  Remember, grief makes peopleravenously hungry and thirsty!  I think I went through five bottles of wine in the first half hour.  

For big groups, I always label every dish and include notes about dairy, meat, and gluten. Even labeling the obvious prevents
me from making a rude face when someone asks a dumb question.  No, believe it or not, the pork tenderloin is not vegan.

What should have been a second lifetime of travel in their RV was cut short by my grandmother’s very difficult and tragic illness.  Her perpetual cigarette brought her down and my grandpa was alone and without his captain.  He did okay without her, but he needed her.  So it is with faith in…whatever—that I raise a little toast. 
To Bob and Jinny: to their new life--in their old RV

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Prettiest Sight You'll See

I’ve had a wonderful weekend and am cooking all day today but did want to pop in and ask you/challenge you/remind you to do a bit of decorating just for yourself.  Often holiday decorating is done more for our neighbors or in accordance to our floorplans than simply for us to enjoy.  I love all that but what I’m enjoying very most this year is the Christmas tree I decorated directly in view from my kitchen sink.  Standing at my sink is probably where I spend most of my time by percentage.  I placed each ornament carefully and used way more than one usually would outside.  I knew I’d enjoy that detail and that was the only goal.  If you haven’t already, think about where you spend most of your time in your house.  Stand or sit there and look straight ahead.  If it’s the mirror on your ceiling from your bed (congratulations on your self-confidence), hang a wreath, as the mistletoe might be implied.  If it’s a window, put something outside.  It need not be conventionally "tasteful" (I love light up Santas), elaborate, or fit into the larger scheme of your holiday decor.  Something just for you.  You’ll be surprised how much joy Christmas or Hanukkah will bring you in view of the minutiae.

I’m off to make biscuits and chop potatoes and carrots and shred my debit card because I have been on a Limoges binge.  When it rains, it pours…

Do you do any just for you decorating?  If not, get to it! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The World Needs Christmas Cookies

As I mentioned in this post, cookies did not come easily or naturally to me.  So a few weeks ago when I started having those Christmas baking stirrings, I decided to just tweak that recipe into a spice cookie. Ohhhhh my.  They are so good.  I like a lot, lot of spice so if your palette leans a little more conservative, you might cut this down. 
My photo assistant demanded the camera turn her way.
I've been a stage mom since day #1 so she knows to pose when she sees a camera and she'll get a treat.  
The only hard part of these cookies is the mixing and the waiting.  These are not instant gratification cookies.  These are completely my recipe—i.e. long and involved with delayed gratification.  The funny thing about them is that they truly are better when they have had the chance to sit overnight.  They’re fine after cooling about an hour, but they are otherworldly after sitting for about ten.  Between scooping and baking, they must rest in the freezer for at least two hours.  The only differences between this recipe and my last cookie recipe are the spices, blooming the spices in the melted butter, and the chunks are all white chocolate instead of mixed with dark.  I use lemon zest, the more traditional choice would be orange but I felt lemon would be best--I try not to take zest intuition in jest.  Forgive me.

“Gingerbread” and White Chocolate Cookies.
Makes 18 cookies
2 ½ cups AP flour
1 ¼ cups (2.5 sticks) butter
3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/3 teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons diastatic malt powder
1 Tablespoon whiskey
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ¼ teaspoon salt, plus another Tablespoon or so for topping. 
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs (duck, if possible)
12 oz white chocolate
-Chop chocolate into ¼-1/2 inch strips.  Put in freezer
-Melt butter, add spices once butter coats the bottom of the pan and more of it is melted than not over medium-low heat.  Stir slowly for about two minutes until all the butter is melted and the spices become fragrant.  Take off heat.
-Fold in flour, diastatic malt powder, vanilla extract, salt, oil, and whiskey.  Once combined, set aside. 
-In bowl, combine brown and white sugar with egg and baking soda.  Once incorporated well, add spiced flour mixture to bowl and mix just until combined. 
-Fold in white chocolate chunks delicately.  You want the chunks to stay big. 
-Line sheet tray with parchment.  Scoop dough onto tray with 2” ice cream scoop.  Leave the balls just as they are!  No squishing of the balls! Sprinkle with salt. 
-Freeze for at least three hours. 
-Preheat oven to 400F on convection if you have it. 
-Once oven is sufficiently pre-heated (I let it go a little while longer than when it says it’s complete. You want it to be hot), transfer half (or less) of the dough balls to an ungreased, non-stick sheet tray.  I use these.  I have a big range oven, so I bake in two batches- 9 in each.  If you have a smaller oven, you might do three batches with six cookies each.  They bake quickly so it’s not a problem.  If you do not have as many sheet trays as you do batches of cookies, line the sheet tray with parchment and bake on that.  They can’t be moved until they are cool, so you can gently slide them off the tray in parchment and re-use the tray.  I only bake one batch at a time because I want the oven to stay hot and dry.  More than one batch would make the oven considerably more humid. 
-Bake nine minutes exactly.  Ovens vary so maybe yours bakes faster or slower.  Based on what you know of your oven, adjust baking time by about 30-45 seconds.  The beauty of these cookies is that they are gooey and underbaked in texture.  That is achieved by the diastatic malt powder and the process of freezing the dough.  If you were to skip the freeze, the butter would escape the dough and the cookie would flatten out.  We want all that damn butter in there! 
-Let rest about ten hours.  If you don’t believe me, have one an hour after baking and then another one the next morning and you will totally agree. 

I love these cookies because they are so easy, can be prepped (and baked!) way ahead, and they really do stand up as a dessert all their own.  One cookie per person is not the usual cookie to person ratio but these are substantial enough to stand alone.  
There were two other new posts published before this one. 

My First Guest Post

It was the big Christmas party weekend and it was fun.  One year I was arrested on this first weekend in December in gold hotpants, a Christmas dickie, and my hair was purple in a pompadour.  Thankfully times have changed. I still have big hair though.  God bless my maternal grandfather for still having hair so that I might never face life bald.  My head is so big I can’t even imagine the shiny mass it would be.
So while most of the time I report here on being host, I thought I might outline some thoughts on being guest.  I struggle to call myself an extrovert because if given the choice between being alone and immersed in a hobby—writing a field guide to American tomatoes, cooking, sourcing china for Thanksgiving 2025, or my never ending quest for five acres on a steep slope with prehistoric trees, and various other domestic pursuits—or going to a party, I would usually rather be alone.  On the other hand, I’m never shy or nervous in groups and god knows I love to have an audience.  That’s why in my very Taurian way I like to have people come to me. I don’t mind wearing a suit but I really don’t want to wear shoes. 
But having friends, clients, family, and acquaintances means I often attend their functions too.  Sometimes people note that I am very observant.  Generally people become observant because they don’t fit in and they watch other people to assimilate.  That was my intention but I never followed through.  So rather than watch, learn, and mimic, my tendency is to watch, learn, and wonder what the fuck?
I’m sure you’re civilized and you don’t need these but it’s still a bit fun to discuss them. 

-Some people are always late and that’s fine.  Staggered arrivals are good for a party because it re-stokes the energy.  I am always early, so I will wait in my car out of sight from the house (do not wait in your car in the driveway), and then pull up about two-three minutes after the party starts.  A minute or two for the host(s) to catch their breath is a good thing.  That first hour of a party is crucial and it helps to have loud people who will talk, introduce, mingle, and grab the door if the host is tied up.
-It never ceases to amaze me how people will stare at a door that is being knocked or rung.  It’s best a host or hostess open his or her own door but sometimes that’s not possible.  Open the door, introduce yourself, take their coat or tell them where it goes, and point them to both the host and the bar.  
-Bring flowers or wine. Real wine, not gift basket wine.  No one wants a lazy bag of snacks or chocolates that someone brought you that you didn’t want either.  Don’t bring ugly flowers.  Think about the décor of the home and buy flowers that will blend or complement.  Flowers are democratic and good taste is just as accessible as bad, so you can easily bring a lovely bouquet for under $15.  Arrange them yourself in a glass vase you don’t care if you ever see again.  I keep a small collection of these on hand from Goodwill.  I think I got that idea from Hotflash.  Do not ever bring flowers out of water or, heaven help me, in grocery store plastic.  Hostess gifts are where the phrase it’s the thought that counts really piss me off.  That phrase is such lazy bullshit and self-contradictory.  What that phrase means is it’s the bare minimum gesture that counts.  
the hostess gift..

...ended up being the centerpiece. This is cropped from a photo I was asked to take across the table.
So, yes, I'm breaking my own rule but not really..hopefully...
-Obviously if it’s a dinner party, late arrival is unacceptable.  I’m sure the squirrel whose babies you delivered while having a cold and stuck in traffic in the colossal hailstorm caused by the volcanic winter from the oil fire from the downed tanker at the intersection was so glad for your help but you’re still an ass.  Time cannot be bent, so if you leave your house late, you will be late.  Text when you know you’re going to be late, not when you’re already late.  More than 15 minutes is late.  It happens.
-Get a drink.  No, I don’t mean you have to drink alcohol.  If someone offers you a drink, do not say I don’t drink.  Yes, you do.  Water is a drink, so even if someone asks you if you’d like a drink and they mean alcohol, they will likely understand what water is and be able to fulfill that request without the awkward air of so are you an alcoholic, pregnant, driving, or Mormon? No one should think these things but they kind of always do so it’s more comfortable for all parties if the question is bypassed by a specific order.  Hosts want beverages in hand, and the person offering wants to deliver.  My mom doesn’t drink alcohol because she doesn’t like the taste and I know often she feels judged by those who do.  If someone does not drink alcohol and it makes you uncomfortable, recognize that it is your problem and not theirs.  I suppose I am woefully immodest so maybe that’s why I have no qualms with this.  With none of their senses dimmed, those not imbibing are certainly going to see so there’s no sense in trying to hide it like you’re 17.  I have a close friend who is an alcoholic and I admire her strength in social settings.  You don’t think it’s a big deal until you see it for the first time that some people really do get weird and defensive about those not drinking alcohol.  On the other hand, one of the most dreadful, boring, insufferable people I have ever met who has never understood that I can’t stand her and swarms around me like a horsefly will never miss a chance to make her opinion known that she thinks alcohol is terrible and she hates being around drunk people.  Roped into yet another occasion with her via mutual friends, someone said well I might get a glass of wine to which the awful one said a glass of wine before noon?! with her beady little eyes spastically focusing in ire.  The would-be wine-o said oh I guess you’re right… so naturally when our server came I ordered a bottle.  If you’re going to lunch with Republican women and their gay friend there’s going to be white wine, duh. People are free to not drink or drink and it’s only your concern if they shouldn’t drive.  Rejoice in the modern world where even at a Midwestern suburban country club we can get an uber. 
-Unless you are a doctor, keep your fucking phone on vibrate.  This is not 2003 and we don’t do ringtones anymore anyway.  Which is a pity because I invested a small fortune in Britney ringtones back in the day. 
-If you’re going to show a photo from your cellphone to other guests, find it within five, yes five, seconds.  I am so fucking tired of standing there while someone scrolls through every stupid picture they’ve ever taken and gives a little slide show on the way.  Like when looking for a photo of their grandma’s bachelorette party they end up showing you a photo of a new lamp they bought, a sunset marred by powerlines, a blurry bird, a grainy video of a toddler indiscernibly doing something, and a few awkward selfies where they then try to explain that they aren’t vain.  You should only show one photo.  If you must, three is the absolute cap.  Everyone probably already ignored them once or twice on the internet anyway.    
-Oh my god the fucking picture taking.  WHAT IS THIS SHIT? I take photos of so many things but I’m not stumbling around holding my phone in front of my face to continually take horrible fucking pictures anymore.  I am five years clean.  I used to do it and admit my guilt.  Do not take photos and upload them to social media in real time! I don’t care what you’re saying! I know you’re desperate to prove you’re relevant and interesting but you’re not and no one else is either.  Yes, of course, photos will be taken.  But to broadcast the party onto social media in any way while it’s happening is like leaving the sink running on a boat.  Also, you really ought to seek permission from the host if you’re going to upload photos of their home, décor, etc.  And this should be common knowledge but we all know it’s not, you must have permission to take or share photos of the host’s children.  I can’t believe how often people do this!

-If you’ve brought a dish, make sure you have every single element needed.  Check ahead if you should bring a platter or if the host has a specific platter they’d like you to use.  Do not show up with all the stuff and then ask uhh you got a platter or something? And then five minutes later uhh you got a few serving spoons or something? Pack your bag with all the ingredients, the platter (preferably wrapped in plastic wrap), and serving utensils.  Set it up quickly and take the bag back to your car if there’s not a discrete place to tuck it.  If you’re going to stay about the duration of the party, get the platter back before you go. Easier for all parties involved.  If you’re leaving early, leave it and pick it up the next day. 
-if your dish requires anything from the host like an electrical outlet, or a pop in the oven, clear it ahead of time.  Ahead of time being three days, not seven minutes. 
-If it’s a dinner party and you want to help, ask if you can help serve and clear the table.  This is really the best help because it expedites what can be a slow process.  It’s awkward to all be sitting there while the host pops up and clears all the dishes in multiple trips.  Do not stack plates, unless told to do so by the host.  That is how you end up with saucy forks falling to silk rugs.  If you are remaining seated and your plate is being cleared, move your flatware to the middle of the plate.  The host likely does not want every single guest filing into the kitchen to deliver their plate.  It’s not summer camp.  If someone else is helping clear, you can help by staying seated and keeping conversation going. 
Good parties are 51% good hosts and 49% good guests, so thinking about these little things can make a huge difference.  What do you think is essential to being a good guest? 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Let's Get Seasonal

On Monday I was sitting here rewriting my Thanksgiving rant and what it was that got me all worked up.  My sister was being a bitch about Thanksgiving and I wasn’t in the mood to grant emotional latitude.  We were wrestling with the same emotion.  She would have preferred to handle it at a sunset yoga class on the beach and, of course, I take such matters head-on.  No one is avoiding emotions and skipping Thanksgiving on my watch.  With our ages, our parents’ ages, the loss of our grandmother, and age taking its bitter toll on my grandfather, we’re both feeling a bit confronted by biology and as though we’re bringing our family’s train to a screeching halt.  I love children, I always have.  I don’t think I’d be a good parent for millions of reasons, most of which being my crippling paranoia of harm befalling those under my care.  It’s a whoooooooole thing for me that dates back to childhood when my brother had an allergic reaction to candy we bought in the store together.  They were chocolates with no mention of peanuts but I didn’t read the ingredients, something anyone in proximity to life-threatening allergies knows you must always do.  He had a horrible reaction, epinephrine, 911, hospital, the whole extent of it.  The next morning he was back home playing with Power Rangers.  The candy did not have nuts but had less than 1% peanut flour.  It was written in a font smaller than the rest of the ingredients under them.  Which is how my mom missed it when she read the ingredients as she used to do constantly.  This was long before peanut allergies were ubiquitous and it simply was a foreign concept to many people. Thankfully, such an irresponsible label would be unlikely today.  It’s funny because I have an almost photographic memory--it is very, very accurate.  Everyone in my family swears I remember this incorrectly and that I was not involved in the buying of the candy at all, that I stayed home with my dad.  It’s really the gleaming example to me as to why memory is not a reliable narrator.  Who knows what tricks and edits are played in the face of trauma. 
Anyway, my compulsion to protect serves me well in most relationships because the other party ultimately has free will, even if I prefer they didn’t.  Where it would turn disastrous is with children.  My poor children would live in a fabulous, beautifully decorated, but padlocked cage.  It would be like Martha Stewart’s year of house arrest.  I also have a highly emotionally manipulative side and when the poor things did try to run to freedom and go to school or ride their bikes outside the fences I would probably be like “I guess it’s okay.  IF YOU WANT TO KILL ME--I WILL DIE” and then dramatically faint onto an Eastlake chaise.  That’s assuming the surrogate that would bear these children didn’t already run for the hills and become a Lifetime movie after I kept her comfortably imprisoned. And then the babies would need to nurse and I’m pretty sure Amazon doesn’t sell breast milk.  I’ve always thought I should start a company where gay men trade sperm with lesbians for breast milk.  The working title is Cock n Trade or Breast and Butter but I’m still working on it. 
So anyway, this holiday brought up those feelings and I think both my sister and I wish the other would have children so we didn’t have to.  She thinks I should because I’m domestic, nurturing, love children, and everyone has always said, in future tense, with no thought of using subjunctive you’ll be such a good dad.  The consensus for my sister was always more like yeah you would work it out. Most people don’t know my sister well enough to know that she would in fact be a ferociously wonderful mother. Of course there is still our brother but he will probably have a non-legal commitment ceremony with a woman named Wind or Leaf and they will live in a van going from National Park to National Park and donate all their money to reforestation on Mars to escape ~corporate shackles, man~ and they’ll only bring the children home every other Summer Solstice.  Also he’s enough younger than us that there’s no pressure on him for a while.  My plan is just to wait a while longer and then adopt a couple 35 year olds and skip parenthood to grandparenthood.  That’s what I’m suited for, I think.  I’m basically one brooch away from being a grandma anyway. 
You can understand how the subject at hand had us both thinking and acting irrationally. By Saturday evening, we had made peace (and she made some fabulous White Russians) and by Monday I was writing about it in kind of a tongue in cheek but I was right way.  And then I got a text from my best friend with a screenshot of the Buckeye Alert about an active shooter on campus.  I think she might have been driving or at work but the text above the screenshot was “where JMJ?”, my brother.   I had just called him to wake him up ten minutes before, so mercifully I knew he was not on campus.  But no one else knew.  He is preparing to graduate and working on his thesis.  At this point, his remaining classes are all neck deep in science, so with the only information that morning being that there were multiple shooters in Watts Hall, a math and science building, concern for his whereabouts was on many minds.  The 911 call was at 9:52 AM at 19th and College on OSU’s Campus.  His class was at 10:45AM at 18th and College that morning. 

Yes, my rant was suddenly embarrassingly trivial to me.  And though the morning felt unbearably dark, as afternoon came the news got better.  What everyone feared and expected to be a mass casualty was not.  There are 11 victims who sustained horrific injuries ranging from severe to minor, but all are expected to live.  The fact that there was a police officer on the scene within one minute of the 911 call and he had the ability and wherewithal to kill the attacker in such a short period is miraculous.  And such a testament to the Ohio State University and the City of Columbus Police.  The officer is an Ohio State University police officer, however OSU police have access to City of Columbus training, so this highlights their successful and important relationship.  His name and face are now well-known here, but in case you haven’t seen, this is Alan Horujko, the absolute pride and joy of every Ohioan. 

It is common here for outdoor Christmas decorating to be done before Thanksgiving.  Predicting our weather is much more art than science, so December can be absolutely wintry with snow and ice—warm and more akin to October—or usually, a giant weather orgy containing a little bit of everything.  In the week before Thanksgiving, I noticed people out in droves putting up their Christmas lights and garlands as usual.  But following the collective sense of horror, relief, and pride on Monday, I’m noticing a lot more people out in a second or third round of decorating.  I think many are truly ready to rejoice and to celebrate. 

So forgive my unusual and far reaching introduction to my series of Christmas posts here, but it was all pogo-ing around in my head and needed to come out somewhere.  How we always kicked off Christmas in my family was to drive around and look at Christmas lights.  As is customary for many other families. Of course this was before unlimited options in music, so we only listened to one album: Christmas with Johnny Mathis the updated version of the original, Merry Christmas by Johnny Mathis.  The update includes my sister’s favorite, Marshmallow World.  My favorite was always We Need a Little Christmas.  And the only Christmas song my brother likes is Holly Jolly Christmas.  That tradition isn’t exactly the same anymore, but I uphold it in some way.  How do you kick off your holiday season?  Christmas in my family has evolved and evolved and now it’s a big cocktail party where the emphasis is less on dinner like Thanksgiving and more of a big, messy cocktail party.  There are no gifts anymore, too much alcohol, and always at least one truly horrifying dance between my aunt and me to Last Christmas.  Last year it happened around 2:30AM and I am so glad I don’t remember it very well.  Tell me about your family’s Christmas!  In Australia, it seems Christmas is more of a lunch on the 25th?  In Europe it seems to be more of a dinner on the 24th?  In America, it is all over the place. 

My favorite style of OSU flag

How big? What do you make?  Do strays have to be cleared with the host before they’re invited?  Gifts?  100% Christmas music or a mix?  I also want to know all about Hanukkah.  When is your favorite time for it to fall?  Having it start on December 24 and end on January 1 this year seems fabulous to me, but maybe not?  Tell me!

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Hello! Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving! Mine was wonderful. I don't have many words today.   I tried but I'm in a bit of a sour mood regarding something completely unrelated to Thanksgiving and it was creeping in and throwing things way off.  Here is an excerpt of what I started to write in what was supposed to be a Thanksgiving post that turned rant:

"...I told her she’s free to do whatever she wants and also suffer the consequences.  It was a classic WASP threat said with an icy stare and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand.  The kind where you clear all distractions, turn toward, and stand your ground without moving an inch.  She might need one wayward holiday to learn.  Who knows, her chart is mostly Gemini..."

"...We all know what happens to those people when they stay like that.  They get mauled by bears camping or hit by cars running or have strokes giving elitist lectures to their fat friends.  Then the fat friends meet for happy hour and talk about how the stress of staying thin and smelling bad because they’re afraid of aluminum is what led to the stroke.  Then we order some potato skins and a half priced but still over-priced bottle of wine..."
"...Well, the reasons are many.  Mainly I don’t want to exploit little souls so whatever vapid husband I have and I can have cute Christmas cards..."

Yes, my Scarlett O'Hara Syndrome (SOS) is flaring up.  I'll probably post that at some other time but I haven't made enough sense of it.  So today we'll go with more pictures than words, a very rare occurrence.  I'm going to take Barbie on a looooong walk, and work on Christmas decorating and get rid of my bad vibes.  
The day started with a casual breakfast and watching the parade.  I kind of hate the parade but I refuse to miss a moment.
Do you watch it?  My favorite element is the extreme awkwardness of the lip-synching performers + the on-float
extras who just sway and wave their hands. 

Whatever was left I used as garnishes later! I couldn't love my Thanksgiving plates more.  
Barbie claiming a good seat early

Though the lure of a warm fire proved too hard to resist

-The silver was my grandmother's.  I inherited it by force, a tactic some legal experts call theft. It would have been liquidated otherwise.  
-Fuck anyone who liquidates family silver.
-The glassware is a mix of Fostoria and good ol' Libbey.  The Fostoria glasses are all in the color Topaz, but not all the same pattern.  The wine glasses are Fostoria #6007, if you see them in Topaz, let me know.  They were my Great Grandmother's.  I collected the water/ice tea glasses in thrift stores and eBay.  

-Fostoria's Topaz is a surprisingly versatile color as it works in every season.
My mom made the napkins.  They're a beautiful linen

-The placemats are collected vintage 
The dinner plates are Doulton before Royal Appointment, pattern Watteau. I loooooove them.
More commonly, they have a romance scene in the middle.  I love the white center and decorated border. 
My dome finally got its big moment! I cooked two turkeys.  One sous vide, which was superior in taste and so much easier...

and one roasted whole to look beautiful.  I carved it for leftovers.  I will admit, the house smelled amazing with the roasting
turkey, something a sous vide turkey can't compete with. 

If you don't have one already, I highly suggest an electric carving knife before next Thanksgiving.  So much easier!
Also, Anova has a Black Friday sale going on and sous vides are $99.  A very good deal considering my first SV unit in 2012
was almost $400.  

Yes, this was quite the fire hazard.  I kept a close eye and snuffer nearby. There is some blackened bittersweet.  That's okay.

Not sure if the scale really shows here, but that bowl is massive.  There are 4.5 dozen roses in there.  Note this is my grandpa's place setting, he requires a lot of butter.  I have trouble finding bowls that are large enough in diameter but not 
too tall.  This one is just right.  13 inches in diameter and 4 inch sidewalls.  The flowers are just below line of sight, so
there is no obstruction in view of conversation.  
Oh I feel calmer already.  Please please tell me about your Thanksgiving?  How did it go? What was the disaster?  There's usually at least one.  Thank you so much for reading this year, I so enjoyed it.  A blog is only fun when people read and I really appreciate all of you who indulge me.  I think I might do Christmas this year, too.  Christmas is a very different creature from Thanksgiving in my family...