Thursday 12.24.2015

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It’s Christmas Eve, Internet.
Well. Sort of. It’s early morning on the day that will become the Eve, but it’s close enough and I’ve got that Christmas cheer going on, so bear with me. My wife is asleep, adorable in her stripey elf pajamas and my dog seems indifferent to me at the moment so I’m watching 1980s porno (Corruption, 1981 Vinegar Syndrome) and considering going downstairs to make a pizza. My cheer not withstanding, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas here in Philadelphia. It’s 60* outside and pouring rain. I don’t need it to snow, but I’d love it if it were just a little colder and I had to wear mittens and a scarf instead of shorts and a tshirt.

Either way I’m glad that the ‘big day’ is almost here. As a godless heathen who has more than a passing fancy to proclaiming secular love for Odin and Satan, Christmas is my second favorite holiday right after the equally gaudy Halloween. There’s pagan idolatry all around, I get things from people I love, I give things to people I love and there’s cookies and candy everywhere. This year I think I did pretty good by Julia; I told her what I got her before I even bought it, ruining the surprise, but it’s something she really wanted  and the stocking stuffers and assorted little things I got to fill out the space around our tiny tree will fill in the surprise factor just fine.

I’m dying to know what she got me; one of my longest standing Holiday traditions is to try and ‘spoil’ Christmas by figuring out what presents ‘Santa’ got for me before I tear off the first piece of wrapping paper. It’s a by-any-means-necessary campaign and I’m usually quite good at it, but this year she’s managed to keep things secret and as I sit in our living room (the porn ended and I made that pizza after all) and stare at our little tree I haven’t the foggiest idea what to expect on Christmas morning. You win this year, Wife, but I’ll have my revenge.

We have to be up in a few hours to go do a work thing, then we’re going to spend Christmas Eve day in the worst possible place- near the King of Prussia Mall, eating a Christmas classic- Bahama Breeze (Im a sucker for a Cubano and Mojito) and seeing the new oh-shit-its-available-online Tarantino movie in glorious 70mm. The wife says we have to wait until Christmas morning to open presents (loophole of ‘if it’s after midnight it’s technically Christmas’ has been shot down) but I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

It’s been a really great, fun, adventurous and stable 2015- Maybe I’ll get around to a New Years Post- and this is going to be a really rad Christmas. Now let’s see if I can unwrap my gifts and get the wrapping back on where she won’t notice….

 

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Tuesday 12.25.12 (Christmas)

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I’m not really a Christmas person.
Still, humbuggery aside, I’m really looking forward to spending Christmas with Natalie, Erin and Shaun. I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday preparing my contribution to the dinner; it was really nice to get in the kitchen and work out some new recipes.

Meat: Pork, Bacon and Reindeer Sausage with dried cranberries, fresh and dried cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, white pepper and allspice. I’m curious to see how the flavors develop. I seasoned the meat on Sunday, ground and stuffed it on Monday… so they should be perfect when we cook them later on today.

Desert: Cinnamon Orange Zest Ice Cream with Orange Slices (candy). I modified my favorite ice cream recipe- the Chai Tea one- by steeping herbal tea bags in the milk. The tea has Black tea, rosehips, chamomile, cinnamon, lemongrass, peppermint, jasmine tea, papaya leaves, anise seed, ginger root, orange peel and orange oil. I used six egg yolks, so it’s a fluffy aerated ice cream.

Butter: Erin bough crusty bread for dinner, so I put together a chive and parsley salted butter. I always feel like a Kitchen Wizard when I make butter. It’s a simple process- whipping cream + kitchen aid mixer + time, but it’s always exciting to watch the solids separate from the liquids and become butter.

4 X 6I know that Natalie is making some kickass brussels sprouts as well as a baked brie. Not sure what Erin and Shaun have planned, but when it all comes together I’m sure it’s going to be a really fun dinner. Then we’re going to see Tarantino’s new film, Django Unchained. I loathe Jamie Foxx; absolutely detest even seeing his face, so I’m not really sure if I’ll like it or not, but… Movies on Christmas are a tradition, so what the hell.

(updated after Christmas)

Ok. So the ice cream was amazing. The spices and sweets worked really well together and the six egg yolks in the custard made it nice and airy. Total win there. Regrettably the sausages didn’t fare so well… turns out that I forgot on of only THREE steps in sausage making… to blend the ground meat into a paste. Instead I just stuffed the casings with ground meat. That led to a weird texture and dryness, since the fat wasn’t evenly distributed throughout. On the upside, the seasoning before grinding thing left them tasting amazing, just a matter of remembering the proper prep next time. In fairness with my caloric restrictions I haven’t really been eating/making sausages, so it had been a while. Not going to beat myself up over it. Plus Christmas dinner was really fun. I was really glad Natalie and Erin finally got to meet. The movies turned out to be overwhelming- I remember back when Xmas day wasn’t a really popular day at the cinema, and you could go see movies without any hub bub. Django was packed; almost every seat taken and the whole theater complex was packed. I guess the studios see the potential of Xmas releases now and are stacking the deck, cause man… I almost regretted going there were so many folks. The movie was good, lots of great cameos (Lee Horsely!) and well worth a second screening despite it’s 2hr 45 min run time.

I couldn’t have asked for a nicer Christmas.

Photo: Rabbit Graffiti, Montreal

Sunday 12.23.12

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Cookies will be the death of me.
There’ll be an extra half an hour at the gym today to compensate for these, but dear lord are they good. My friend Dennis dropped them off at the bar for me last night; they’re amazing. He uses crushed up lays potato chips in his cookie dough- which adds a nice saltiness to them and renders them extra bad for me. Which is a good thing. I’ve gotten so much more comfortable with little treats here and there these days without any of the food guilt that I had a few months ago. Staying fit, maintaining a healthy diet and making sure I’m taking care of myself should be a good thing, not something that causes me guilt or makes me obsess. It’s a balance, but I’m finding it easier as the months pass. My friend Brad told me that when Dennis brings him cookies he freezes them, so he can bring out one or two all year. Now that I’ve had a few and sated my craving for salty chocolatey goodness I think I’m going to do the same. That or I’m going to lay in bed with Bailey, watching a terrible movie (In the name of the King: A dungeon siege tale. Seriously horrific but oh so good)  and eat the whole dang box Who knows.

I’ve spent the morning preparing the meat for this years Christmas dinner; Natalie and I are going to be joining Erin and Shaun for dinner on Tuesday. First time that she’ll be meeting my best friend, and spending Christmas together. People will talk, I swear. My contribution to dinner is going to be a first time recipe for me, so I’m hoping that they turn out well: Spiced Christmas Sausages. Pork, Cranberries and Cherries with orange zest and a spice mixture of white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne and allspice. I’m hoping that all of the flavors mix well together- particularly the orange zest. I used three oranges and it yielded so little zest that I’m not sure it’ll register flavor-wise in the final product. I might give in and go buy a bottle of dried zest to augment it. Not sure. I’ll fold in all of the spices and let it set for the night before I grind and stuff the forcemeat tomorrow and if I’m not feeling the ‘oranginess’ of it I’ll add the dried spice. It’s been so long since I’ve made sausage- the whole process is so fun and frustrating and even a little icky. Dealing with the casings- which are just hog intestines but it makes people more comfortable to call them casings- usually ends up a comedy goldmine. I’ll try to remember to take pictures.

There’s going to be five pounds, so hopefully they’ll get eaten. I put half of a pound of bacon in the meat to add a little extra fat content, so… I don’t really see how they won’t.

I’m really looking forward to it despite my normal ‘Anti-Christ(mas)’ sentiment. Working at Amazon.com for all of those years makes you really despise the Holiday season. Mandatory Overtime, fatigue, stress… It’s taken me a few years to get through that mindset of being beaten down over the course of November and December and just hating Christmas on it’s own merits. But I think we’re going to have a nice chill time, a great dinner (now that Erin is an omnivore!) and a fun trip to the cinema afterwards to see Django Unchained. I think this is the first time that I haven’t had to work on Christmas in about 13 years. I worked it voluntarily at TLA, mandatory at Amazon and at the bar my shifts have fallen on Eve/Day up until this year. It’s weird to just have it off. Same with New Years. Just… off.

I’m still trying to make sure that I can do the Boston trip. Money is much tighter than expected, but I’m still 70/30 on being able to make it- some last minute AIRBnB guest have given me some much needed ‘play money’ so… with that I may be able to pay all of my bills, do Boston AND be comfortable with $$ for the Tampa trip. I’m used to roadtrips or flying to cities that are pretty easily dealt with via public transport- Florida is the first time in a while that I’ve had to secure a rental car which added a significant amount to the trip’s total cost. After Hurricane Sandy the rental car situation is a little less friendly than had I booked before- cars were shipped up to areas affected by the storm and the price for the remaining ones rose a little. Nothing terrible, but more than I expected to spend, so… tighten that belt. The rental car for four days ended up being $60 more than the roundtrip price of the plane tickets. Surreal.

547550_4920485537460_44065609_nAll this talk of bad-for-me food reminds me that I need to go to the gym as soon as I’m done making the spice mixture for the sausages. I’ve been trying to add a lot more upper body routines to prep for the Warrior Dash thingie that Shaun, Erin, MB and I are going to be doing in May and I’m finally getting more used to taking ‘days off’ so I’m not overworking the same muscle groups. I’m really starting to see the results, and I’m planning on doing both the ‘couch to 5k’ and ‘100 pushup’ challenge thingies starting January 1st. I think I mentioned before that I’m keeping my cardio at an average 9.5minute mile, but that’s on a machine. I need to get more used to running outdoors on uneven terrain so I figure starting in January when the weather really sucks will be a good smack in the ass to keep me on my toes- it’s so much more satisfying to work out when I don’t want to than when I do. Goes back to that whole balance thing I guess.

Regardless of how you spend them, I hope all ten of you that read this self indulgent mess I call a blog have a happy and fun Holiday!

Photos: Cookie! and Tricep workout at the gym

Thursday 11.15.12

The last few days I’ve been behind on everything.
The bed situation kept evolving, what started out as frustrating ended up being costly and obnoxious. I swore my mattress was a full, but it apparently wasn’t. So once the broken piece was replaced and the bed put together, I was thwarted from laying down the mattress because it was a few inches too long. I had to make the choice between disassembling the frame, bringing it back to Ikea and swapping it out, then doing a rebuild… or just going and buying a new mattress. Which was something I was going to do anyway in the near future so in the end it was just easier to buy the mattress now and finish the setup.

Then there was the drama of disposing of the mattress. The whole thing monopolized two of my three days off. But at least it’s done and all I have to worry about is painting and decorating the room as time and finances permit. The new bed already makes things nicer, so with a few more touches the room will be much more cozy. As more AirBnB guests stay there it’ll be financially more feasible to have their fees pay for redoing the room. I like the flow of it.

Erin and I had a rare Wednesday night movie night- we both got passes to the preview screening of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ at the Riverview. It was good. Not great, but.. decent. The film was shot here in Philly, so every time they’d show a landmark- which was often- the woman behind me would not so quietly say “oh, that’s Jewelers Row! that’s JEWELERS ROW!’ or whatever. It seemed to always take her by surprise that the movie shot in our city featured… our city. It was a free movie, there were only about 15 people there and she wasn’t too disruptive, so… patience.

I’ve been working on Christmas and New Years plans the last few days. For the first time in about 12 years, I’m totally off for  both holidays. That’s mindblowing for me. So I’m trying to do something really fun and not just sit around the house watching movies.

That means theres a potential for a roadtrip on one or both Holidays. I’m thinking Boston. I’ve been meaning to go and it’s in the ‘not too bad a drive’ distance of five or so hours. But North Carolina is also on the plate. A lot longer drive, for sure, but I haven’t been in way too long and I think if I powered through the drive as soon as I got off work on Sunday night (again, either holiday) it wouldn’t be terrible and I’d be in the Carolinas before evening on Monday. Just running ideas around- not married to any particular destination so feel free to suggest something.

Photo: Sticker. Stay Weird.