Saturday, December 28, 2013

Home, Home on the Range, Part 3 of 3

Decorative kale at the Arboretum: about the only
kind I haven't tried feeding to Dear Husband.
One afternoon during our visit, "the girls" dressed up and went to tea at the Arboretum. This is one of Grandmother's favorite things to do. She first took me when I came on a solo visit when as a kid, and it was just as fancy as I remembered it. There were three courses (soup, sandwiches, dessert) and three kinds of tea. Afterwards we visited the special exhibition next door of every kind of angel: glass angels, metal angels, porcelain angels, fabric angels, shell angels, beaded angels, wooden angels, lace angels.... The restaurant and mansion were sumptuously decorated with green garlands, wide ribbons, large ornaments, and strings of crystal. What a treat!

First course: Tomato Basil Broth with Cheese Wafer. Served with Apple Spice Tea.

Second Course: Tea Sandwiches. Served with Peach Cinnamon Hibiscus Tea.
The Smoked Salmon Pinwheels and Open-Faced Chicken Salad were favorites around the table.
The china was Spode with a Christmas tree, which you can just see through the finger sandwiches.

Third Course: Desserts. Served with Darjeeling Tea.
On the left, Grandmother admires the sandwich pyramid. On the right, Mother and the desserts.
Cousin E liked the Chocolate-Covered Strawberries best. There were also cookies, truffles, and scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream ("sugar and fat" according to Aunt J ;-). We took the cellophane-wrapped Gingerbread House home with us.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Home, Home on the Range, Part 2 of 3

Photo credit: Brother #2

One day of our holiday trip was sunny and fine, so a group of us drove out to the shooting range. Dad had given the cousins a gun safety lesson at home, so after watching an introductory video at the shop, we were ready to hit the targets with a variety of handguns. The kids got pretty good from 5 yards. I was so proud of them for trying this new and intimidating activity. We might make recreational shooters out of them yet... I mostly shot my uncle's Czech police pistol at 25 yards. My best shot was the second one I took at this Ace of Hearts, direct to the right atrium. BAM! I also tried my aunt's 6-shooter revolver. Not sure if I actually hit the target with that one: it's got quite the kick, as you can see in the last photo.

Photo credit: Dear Old Dad

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Home, Home on the Range, Part 1 of 3

Dear Husband and I celebrated Christmas with my father's side of the family. We drove over the plains and flew over the woods to get to Grandmother's house. There we met cousins, aunts/uncles, my parents, and my younger brother. I had finished the chapter I was editing on Christmas Eve, so for the first time since September, I had no dissertation work that *had* to be done. Instead, I practiced both domestic and defensive arts, played cards, watched movies, talked, and ate, ate, ate.

With so many of us descending on Grandmother's house, I didn't want her to go out of her way getting cooking or baking. I mean, guests are cheap, indentured labor for the duration of their stay! So I volunteered to head the baking detail with my mother. She had offered to make her yeasty Christmas bread, so I suggested sugar cookies, figuring the cousins could decorate them together. Then somebody requested "something chocolate," and somebody mentioned the way rum balls help you survive family gatherings, and suddenly we had quite the list. In addition to 4 dozen sugar cookies, I decided to make cocoa rum balls (a two-fer!) and paleo snickerdoodles for my dad. One aunt and uncle provided the cookie cutters and decorating supplies, so we went to town.

Commenters on the online cocoa rum ball recipe said they tasted too strongly of alcohol, so I halved the light rum and added orange juice. The base is vanilla wafers moistened with syrup. For nuts I used Grandmother's immersion blender (above) to pulverize pecans for a true Texas delight. I rolled them in gold sprinkles to give them an expensive look (below). They were a big hit!

The paleo snickerdoodles were tricky. Made out of almond flour, coconut oil, and honey, they have no wheat, eggs, or butter. This batch turned out sweet but dry. Dad says he might have to tinker with the recipe to add some applesauce for moisture. (Photo: Mom using Grandmother's stand mixer.)

Photo credit for these two pics: Dear Old Dad
Finally, sugar cookies, which never fail to delight. In addition to the reindeer, snowmen, stars, and Christmas tree shapes, I showed my cousin how to roll out snakes of dough from the scraps and twist them into candy canes and wreaths. There are some at the bottom of second photo above. If you have food coloring, you can make them green or red as appropriate.

Photo credit: DOD
Meanwhile, the menfolk caught up on their shuteye...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Merry Christmas, from Dear Husband, Frau Doktor Doctor, and The Cat

p.s.--I loved choosing and wrapping presents and couldn't resist sharing two of them with you.

That is one jolly Santa Claus! He's bringing my grandparents a flask of a delicious amber liquid. Wonder what it could be...?

And it looks like my Father-in-Law is getting that miniature Hadron Collider he asked for!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent 2013

I recently participated in a "lessons and carols"-type worship service at our church on the 2nd Sunday of Advent. In addition to choreographing and performing a dance, and liturgizing, I also did one special reading the compiler of the service had picked out. A theater professor, TM has a great ear for dramatic readings. I liked this one so much that I was surprised and sorry I hadn't come across Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-) while researching Bay-Area poets this spring.

Ferlinghetti is a Beat poet who wrote "wide-open" verses. He co-edited the City Lights magazine and ran the City Lights Pocket Book Shop, where Allen Ginsberg and other counter-culturalists met. Before settling in San Francisco, Ferlinghetti had a peripatetic life, from New York to France to Mount Hermon (!) to UNC to the US Navy to Columbia University. He earned a doctoral degree from the University of Paris in 1951.

"Christ Climbed Down" is from his extraordinarily successful 1968 volume, A Coney Island Life of the Mind. With the exception of the dated reference to "tinfoil Christmas trees" (remember the Charlie Brown Christmas special?!), it is still timely for us during Advent 2013.

~ * ~ * ~* ~

"Christ Climbed Down"

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down 
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit / and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagon sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings