This is the 799th post to this blog, and it’s five years old. So, I thought it’s a good time for a new blog – up to HTML5 and responsive standards.
This is the 799th post to this blog, and it’s five years old. So, I thought it’s a good time for a new blog – up to HTML5 and responsive standards.
It was just me, John, and Mark for Christmas.
I got up and made a kind of cafe miel – the day before’s coffee heated in the microwave with a big slug of milk, then honey stirred in and a little cream dribbled in.
Then I baked the cinnamon rolls that had been rising in the fridge overnight. They were good, but no surprise, since King Arthur Flour called it their Cinnabon style buns – they were deemed too sweet by my family, although I was not informed of this until the next day. I just thought they were a little doughy – but on reflection the dough did have almost twice as much sugar as the recipe I usually use.
We opened presents – I got a new microwave and ice skates, and one of John’s photographs, that he took away to frame before he gives it to me for real. I think the microwave was for the menfolks as much as it was for me – the one I’d been using, where none of the digital readouts or the clock or the timer worked – pissed Mark & John off more than me. Then we had the cimmy buns and scrambled eggs with salami and cheese (I dismantled some of the last of the salami wrapped around cheese cubes on a stick left from the party) for breakfast. John and I had tangerine juice mimosas made with fresh squeezed clementine juice and a bottle of Costco Proseco that someone brought to some party or other, that I retrieved from the basement fridge.
After that, Mark went for a walk, and I lay on the couch and read with cats on top of me while listening to John snore. I got the duck ready. I decided at the last minute to use Jamie Oliver’s recipe instead of Julia’s, which meant rubbing the duck with orange zest and chopped herbs, stuffing it with garlic and oranges and herb sprigs, and then arranging it on a rack over a pan with chopped carrot, celery, duck gizzards, and a cinnamon stick in it. I roasted the duck for a little over an hour, then put it in a smaller pan, and drained the fat from the lower pan. Which I used to anoint some potatoes to roast. I put the duck and the potatoes back into the oven to roast more on timer, and we walked to the shopping mall to see Star Wars. I ended up with all fat and no drippings to speak of, so I never made the gravy. I flamed the duck, feeling quite smug that I had the brains to transfer it to a platter so I didn’t ignite all the fat in the roasting pan – and confounding my male kibitzers who thought I should have the matches in hand, and pour the orange liqueur in other spots … them not knowing that it’s not the alcohol that lights – it’s mostly water – it’s the fumes. Even without gravy, after the flames died down, we ate the duck and the potatoes along with a salad of spicy greens and balsamic vinaigrette, followed by a big plate of cookies, and we were perfectly content. A few of my bites of duck tasted like the Christmas duck of my memories, that my mom used to make, orangey and garlicky and ducky.
Mark and I watched the Downton Abbey season 5 Christmas show, and nibbled on cookies, and I finished the Proseco, with ice cubes. Went to bed at 11:40, so we were up almost until the end of the Christmas Day. Pretty good for old farts.
I’m “working” at home on a Monday – I’m going to call it a sick day, laptop in bed with me grading – also sleeping. I woke up with a ridiculously sore throat at 12:42 last night, choked down three tylenol, debated whether I had to go get cultured for strep, and then emailed everyone at a little before 7:00 to say I was working at home.
The party was Saturday, and although I felt really well-organized and the neighbors even came over to help move furniture and vacuum, the first few hours were pretty hectic. There were a bunch of kids, rearranging the coats by playing on top of them, getting themselves locked in the bathroom, and one little girl in a glitter dress shedding glitter absolutely everywhere.
I didn’t photograph any cookie platters – but I set up a “pack your own” cookie operation in the back bedroom – put out all the buckets of cookies and containers and ziploc bags and suggested donation amounts by size of container. I think people really liked it.
My personal theme for this year’s party was do less, don’t hurt yourself, and I think I for the most part succeeded, except there have been some scheduling unfortunate juxtapositions, like the above cold, and more that I will get to in just a minute.
I was up until about 1:30 cleaning up after the party. I cut my finger on a wine glass, and then John cut his worse. Which all would’ve been OK, except we had to get up and drive to Milwaukee on Sunday morning to see our first foster kid, Kaylah, graduate from UWM. A great thing, just unfortunate timing. Cruel.
When I got back I was so tired I just lay on the couch for a hour with cats, while the kids watched the Packers. Then I got up and finished washing platters and putting furniture back, and was just in time to watch the Sunday night cable show season finales in real time, starting at 8:00 instead of 10:00 PM, Homeland and The Affair, with a little plate of cookies.
An interlude in cookie season.
Yesterday I packed all the boxes for shipping. I think Hammie wanted to help.It was raining all the while I was packing cookies, not very hard, but it got harder after dark. I kept checking the towel dams, and everything was dry until the last time at 11:00 when I thought I’d be able to sit, relax, watch the cable shows. Uh, no – big flood when I went down, up under the bed, the rug … the clean up procedure is load the wettest towels into buckets, carry them to the other side of the basement, spin them until they’re damp dry in the washer, and then either replace as dams, or run through the dryer. I sopped, went for more towels, got a load in the dryer, watched some TV, went to bed and kept setting timers to go down and keep checking.
Not a good night. Followed by not a good morning, when I went down and had to do more towel swapping and spinning and drying, wiped up my trail of muddy footprints from the night before, and then stepped in cat poop while scooping the litter. Last night I thought I should sit on the side of the bathtub and wash my feet with nice warm water, but I never got around to it until morning. As I was sitting in the bathroom smoothing on some dry foot cream, I heard the white cat puking in my room, beyond.
But I got all the boxes shipped – 18 in all.
And here are the cookie pics from the last week:
Tomorrow a little cookie party south in Chicago – hard squash hummus, goat cheese with leeks, meatballs, cookies. Then back home to shop for the real party on Saturday.
A few years ago I had an art exhibition at my supper club house. One of the artists wanted to do something related to women’s work, and talked about endurance baking for a couple of days, which struck me as funny, since I do endurance baking for 2 – 3 weeks every year at cookie season. She did jello instead of baking for that event, although I did see her selling cookies at a Bach Dancing & Dynamite concert like a year later or so, after which she also remembered to return my Betty Crocker cookie book that she’d borrowed .
Over the weekend, I did endurance baking – I made the two most time consuming cookie kinds – the spoon cookies and the baby rugelach that we call nukhorns. They take a long time because both types are formed by hand. I made the dough for the spoon cookies on Friday night, before the symphony, filling up one of my largest mixing bowls with a mixture of browned butter (3 pounds of butter!), sugar, flour, and vanilla. I spent Saturday night digging out little mounds of this dough and shaping them by pressing them into a spoon – and they’re sandwich cookies, so you have to make both sides of every sandwich. I had 175 cookies which means I made 350 little mounds and stuck them together with jam, which took me until 1:30AM. I mixed up the dough for the rugelach on Saturday morning, cottage cheese, butter, flour, and sugar, and formed it into disks – I think I has 11 – then on Sunday I rolled out the dough, and cut it into triangles and rolled them up like little croissants. Like last year, I feel that a great weight has lifted. I made the baby bassinet tupperware, about 4/5 full, plus two ice cream buckets.
In fact, I am considering taking a night off from cookies tonight, Monday … I just finished two hours of online class presentations, and now have to open the web conferencing software for another group to practice.
On Saturday morning, I also made 2 kinds of slice & bakes – the ginger cookies, and the cranberry pistachio icebox cookies. I was kind of disappointed with the cranberry pistachio ones – couldn’t get the size right, and they just seemed messy.
They’re big dumb galoots.
But the Pfeffernusse are small and cute, as they should be, and the Packers won on a Hail Mary and all Wisconsin went to bed happy.
And earlier in the day, I made another kind of coconut cookie, Maida Heatter’s chocolate coconut slices, that I think I tried once before, and had a disaster, but they worked this time. I was contemplating replacing the coconut butter balls with the slices, and they must’ve known I was making them grudgingly. The biberli came out really nice, and I made the windmill cookies, using slivered rather than sliced almonds, but it’s a difference only I can see. And I made fewer windmills, since it occurred to me that much as I like the windmills, I always have a lot of them leftover. And it all added up to a 5-cookie-kind-day.
We got back to Madison on a rainy Thanksgiving Day, and I started prepping for dinner on Black Friday. I did the pies – pumpkin chiffon, apple with cider caramel sauce and crumble top, and the most raved about cooking mag dessert from Bitten Word, the grapefruit cornmeal cake from November 2015 Food and Wine. Except grapefruit’s not really in season yet, so I made it with lemon and lime. I also pickled carrots, made two kind of cranberry sauce, and cubed up the bread for the stuffing, and crumbled and toasted the cornbread. By 11:00 when I knocked off I was feeling tired and cranky and like nothing was really coming out right – the cornmeal cake sank in the middle, the apple pie seemed a little too dark, as was the graham crust for the pumpkin, I accidentally used part white vinegar, because that’s what I grabbed first, instead of cider vinegar for the carrots, the pesto-cream cheese-ricotta cheese log seemed too bland…. And I never baked any cookies. But it all seemed fine in the morning, when I did bake some cookies. And of course that’s all I photographed, cookies and desserts, and the raw turkey in the sink.
The pumpkin pie was nice and fluffy. Seems like the Moravian ginger thins are better than last year, maybe because I used regular Crisco. The co-op stopped carrying the vegan shortening I’ve been using, Earth Balance in sticks. Instead of the shortening, they’re now carrying about 6 more flavors of the vegan margarine, in tubs (yuck) – Earth Balance has started making spreads and culinary spreads. At about 5:00 PM I realized that I was not going to make the Brussels sprouts. So all the vegetables were casserole dish types, except the mashed potatoes. When I told John & Megan and Belinda & Stephen that apologetically, Stephen joked, “well, I was told there’d be Brussels sprouts”. John and I decided that sounded like a PS Mueller cartoon – Pete would know what that guy would look like, the one who showed up at Thanksgiving dinner saying “I was told there’d be Brussels sprouts”. The casserole dish vegetables were corn pudding, glazed sweet potatoes, and creamed greens with pepper jack cheese, and crumbs on top.
On Saturday, I went out and finished the cookie ingredient shopping. Costco, Willy West, and Woodmans. I made the springerle, and set them to dry. I think I got them right this year, but we’ll see if they get spotty like last year. Mark and I went to see Brooklyn. We wanted to see it at TIFF but it only showed twice and we couldn’t get in. We both read the book and thought Nick Hornby did a good job of compressing the story into the moving, without leaving too much out. I guess Colm Toibin thought so, too. We stopped at Sentry and Whole Foods to get a few cookie things I forgot – although the quest for pistachios was unsuccessful (I bought 6 tiny bags at the co-op on Monday, along with cream and waxed paper – more stuff I forgot). We ate giant turkey sandwiches for post movie dinner, and I don’t think I did any other cookies for the day. Oh, that’s right, I worked. And sent out the party invites.
On Sunday morning I baked the springerle before brunch, which was cinnamon chip scones made with the leftover whipped cream, and potato cakes made with the leftover mashed potatoes. I made the fruit nut balls, and recorded lectures for both classes, and marinated the dried fruit for the baby fruit cakes. That I baked and glazed on Monday. I mixed up the dough for the Pfeffernuse. Oh and I made the turkey broth – 4 quarts, from our 15-pound bird carcass, a lot easier to handle than the double that amount I got from last years 18 pounder.
Tuesday was broiled tofu, finally. I had tried freezing it, as recommended by a tofu bahn mi recipe, then I put it in marinade on the Monday before Thanksgiving, thinking we’d have it in our Primanti Bros sandwiches. Which never got made, so the tofu just sat in the fridge over the holiday. And I steamed some of the also-neglected Brussels sprouts to go with – hey, it’s not turkey.
I should be frosting the ginger creams, but I think I’m going to bed and do it in the A.M. Five cookie kinds done, six if you count the UN-frosted ginger creams, 12 days until packing & shipping, 18 days until party. Not all photographed yet, but it’s too dark anyways, so sure, I can go to bed.
OK, here’s the plan – I’m in Chicago, came down on the bus on Tuesday for the tree lighting. I started cookie season with the jam cookies on Sunday – 225 and they are all safe in the freezer – and on Monday, lebkuchen, or Basler Leckerli – a new blending of old recipes, plus the glaze from this one that I tested for Food52, one batch glaze for a double batch of cookies.
Today, Wednesday, we’re going to be tourists – after I finish grading, which I am avoiding right now – and then go to the opera, Merry Widow, with Renee Fleming, who sang a few Christmas songs at the tree lighting last night. While we were standing around for an interminable 45 minutes waiting for them to light the tree. Made more interminable due to the set up at Millennium Park. You could either see the tree or the stage. They had a parade of local dignitaries and performers – TV news anchors, the mayor, Ms. Fleming – but we opted to be by the tree, so couldn’t see and could only barely hear what was on stage, made even more difficult because of the helicopters circling, but that turned out to have nothing to do with the tree lighting. We walked back south separately – Mark went up to Xoco to buy carryout sandwiches & guacamole for supper, while I want straight down Wabash, wanting to get back to the apartment to open an online meeting for students. Besides the streets closed and congestion for the tree lighting, there was also a huge police presence, especially around Roosevelt Rd. The cops were there to try to control demonstrators marching after the release of video showing a police officer shooting a kid, 16 times. A year late. We probably should’ve walked half a block and joined in – but old fogeys that we are, we watched the demonstrations on the news instead.
I finished grading by 10:00, and went off to have breakfast at Little Goat, where we our party of two was seated immediately, not like our wait on a Saturday morning with both kids. We split a cinnamon roll – Little Goat’s thing is to serve them warm with lots of cream cheese frostng melting over. We both had the small biscuits & sausage gravy, one biscuit. I think I should make biscuits and gravy with the tube of bulk breakfast sausage I got from the new pig last week. Mark got 2 eggs on the side, and we split a side of potatoes. Shoulda had a Bloody Mary.
We walked to the Art Institute, past a gigantic Whole Foods, Marianos, trendy restaurants – I am still marveling at how gentrified the West Loop has become.
We walked through Steiglitz and David Adjaye shows, then walked through Millennium Park again, and up Michigan Avenue, to sit in various couches at Crate & Barrel. Now that my kids have grown up and left home and my cats are getting old, I am thinking it’s time to replace the old black leather clawed up Ikea couch.
— Debra Shapiro (@DebsLunch) November 25, 2015
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, the plan is to dodge the parade, and get the 10:30 holiday schedule train back to Harvard, and drive to Madison to be back early afternoon-ish, and start Thanksgiving prep. And make one cookie kind, the Moravian Ginger Thins. And watch the Packer game and eat Primanti Bros sandwiches. And call family members and friends who are celebrating Thanksgiving elsewhere.
At my computer at 7:28 AM on a Saturday, because we were awakened by Mark’s cat, who was trying to bury something in the bed … I will spare you the scatological details, but they involved a long-haired cat with a hairy butt, and a misunderstanding of what things really must be buried in her litter box, and not the bed.
On Tuesday, I drove out to Waisman’s farm in the rain to pick to pick up pig. It was an illustration of all the reasons why I’m glad I don’t drive to work – or commute into Madison from one of the outlying towns, like where Waisman’s is. It was raining, heavy traffic, dark and hard to see. It was also quite warm, 55°.
But worth the trip; here’s the massive list of pork I brought home:
3 packs of bacon
2 tubes liver sausage
1# bulk breakfast sausage
1# ground pork
Pack of Breakfast links
2 loin roasts
Giant pork steak
3 packs pork chops – 2 each
3 ham steaks
After I put the pork away, I spent the rest of the night trying to make the towel dams hold – but it was just raining too hard. I thought I had everything basically secure, with a load of wet towels in the dryer. I meant to just sit on the couch for 20 minutes and then go swap the towels, but I fell into the most delicious sleep in front of Jimmy Fallon, with Hammie all snugged up next to me – and was awakened 40 minutes later by the dryer buzzer. I went downstairs to find about 1/2 inch of water on the basement floor, coming up under the bed. I sopped everything again, using everything dry thing I could find including an old mattress pad and a flannel sheet that I’d been saving to pad furniture in a move, put another wet load in the dryer, and this time lay on the couch with Hammie and the black cat, until 2:00 AM when I went and checked everything again, added more dry towels, and finally went to bed.
On Thursday, on an only slightly colder, but much windier day, I went and got my winter CSA share – what Megan’s been calling my Thanksgiving box. Here’s what was in that:
Beauty Heart winter radish, 2 (I got 3, actually)
Beets, 3 lb
Brussels sprouts, 1 – 2 short stalks – 2lbs. when pulled off the stems – perfect amount for Thanksgiving dinner
Carrots, 6 lb mixed colors
(orange 4 lb, yellow 1 lb, purple 1 lb)
Leeks, 3 lb
Parsnips, 3 lb
Rutabaga, 1 or 2
Butternut squash, 3-6, ~12 lb
Sweet potatoes, ~10 lb
Red Maria potatoes, ~5 lb
Carolla potatoes, ~5 lb
Red onions, 1 lb
Yellow onions, 4 lb
Then finally on Saturday morning in the snow, and about 26°, (after kitty cat cleanup), we went and picked up the turkey in the parking lots out back of the indoor farmer’s market – a 15-pounder from Matt Smith.
On Saturday night, I made a small bone-in pork loin roast from the pig – I mixed up orange marmalade, hoisin sauce, and garlic, and rubbed it on the meat. It made a delicious black crust that according to the latest reports, is probably carcinogenic. With it we had a vegetable gratin that I “leaned” quite a bit – used a pint of half & half instead of heavy cream, and maybe 2 TBLS butter instead of the whole stick the recipe called for. It sure was good – yellow and orange carrots from the Thanksgiving box, and celeriac from the last box of the regular season.
On Sunday we tried the bacon, to go with home made freezer waffles, and applesauce, and Mark made some eggs with cherry tomatoes from the indoor farmer’s market and Farmer John’s cheese. The bacon is fattier than some of the other kinds we buy, but it sure is tasty fat – and probably another tasty carcinogen. But as Meredith said today, “It’s not like bacon was ever supposed to be good for you”.
On Thursday, a terribly windy day, I sat on the upper deck of the double decker bus to the Twin Cities, to meet Mark who was already at the techy librarians conference. The bus was full and I had to share a seat, so I only got out my computer to shut it down – there was no room, and it was too bumpy to type because of the wind.
The first keynote was an expert on digital governance. Even after her talk, I’m not really sure what that is, but seems like another kind of project management.
The second one was the technology director of the Digital Public Library of America. He rambled quite a bit, but the main message was check your privilege before you create metadata and linked data (the new data format for libraries that is going to get our collection info out on the web with all the other stuff), because whose story are you telling – or description are you creating, I guess. Kind of in opposition to most of the discussion I’ve been hearing, and my thinking around the topic, which is that getting library, archive, & museum data out onto the Web is inherently good – because we’re not selling anything, and have reputable data – so we will class the joint up.
The closing keynote was a library consultant, who talked about getting out of your comfort zone – the echo chamber – to bring about innovation and organizational change. And a lot about SXSW.
In between I heard talks about altmetrics, linked data, data visualization, and trying to de-dupe a collection of 25 million MARC (the old library data format) records for government documents.
My brother lived in Minneapolis for about 6 years, from 1988 – 1994. On Friday, I went past his old old place across from Loring Park on the way to the Walker Art Museum (and the Claes Oldenburg cherry on the spoon). On Saturday I went near the last place he lived before moving to Seattle, near the Minneapolis Institute of Art. I fell and skinned my knee on that walk.
On Friday night we went to dinner with a big group at an Indian place, Dancing Ganesha. Good spicy food, but everything I had on that night, down to my bra, smelled like curry. On Saturday I could’ve easily skipped dinner, because we had a big lunch with the conference, but Mark wanted pizza and a salad so we went to Pizza Luce, and split a small pie and a salad with apples and walnuts and blue cheese.
On Sunday, we spent the afternoon walking – visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Art, to see a Delacroix show, that was about his influence on other painters, and honestly didn’t have much Delacroix in it. These were my two favorite paintings & story in the show, one by Delacroix and one by John Singer Sargent, both now in the UK National Gallery. We went back to the hotel by way of the Walker sculpture garden again. After working up an appetite that way, we went to Restaurant Alma, a 3-course fixed price dinner. Mark had been there before, and liked it so much he wanted to go back. I sort of wanted to try two courses instead of the full three, but even though the menu had assurances that a la carte was perfectly OK, there were no prices. Probably price-wise the fixed price was better. It’s the type of place where they list the ingredients and you figure it out, like the warm roasted beets I started with, subtitled petit basque, pickled chilies, chorizo sauce, that turned out to be the beets, a few thin slices of chorizo – which must’ve been house cured and was very good, and a foamy white faintly cheesey sauce, which was the petit basque, kind of melted, I think. I liked my middle course the best, a coconut and rice crepe, supposed to be filled with pulled pork, but I opted for the vegetarian filling – roasted butternut squash. I thought if I was going for three courses, I should do whatever I could to lighten them. I couldn’t detect the coconut in the crepe, which was nicely herb-y, nor the cucumbers in the description. For thirds I had the duck two ways, 3 slices of breast that were way too rare for me, and a confit leg that was delicious, with a puddle of apple puree (applesauce) and parsnips and Brussels sprouts. The vegetables were there but so tiny, they just kind of merged into a bed of matter the meat sat on. I would’ve preferred a couple of visible sprouts and hunks of parsnip. Everything came decorated with fresh chives.
We stopped at Norske Nook in Osseo for pie on the way home on Monday. I’d been craving sweet potato, so I had pumpkin, which inspired me to bake a sweet potato pie on Wednesday night. Lard crust.