Thursday, December 27, 2007

post-Xmas relief

Of all the Christmas gifts we gave and received, the one that made the biggest impact was the case of food poisoning somebody gave us. Thankfully only D and I were lucky enough to get it; imagine the horror if we had all been sick with it together.

But we are on the mend. The worst of it is that I wasn't able to hit any stores on the day after Xmas, so as to buy more ornaments for next year's C family gift exchange. I have decided that ornaments are all I am giving from now on. I refuse to believe I am the only one who feels that Christmas is way overboard, but D's family has never agreed to pull names out of a hat – we're expected to give gifts to each household. However, D has six siblings and we have many adult nieces & nephews with families of their own. So I give one ornament to each household. That way everybody is treated equally and I don't go crazy trying to figure out what on earth to get for each family. Plus it's a lot less expensive and wasteful. Oh well, maybe there will still be some pretty ones left today.

The gifts were all great this year. D and P both liked their fishing poles very much, although D will certainly get a lighter reel than the one that came with the rod. I lucked out and found him a beautiful vintage Fenwick backpacking rod that weighs 4.75 ounces - weight is important to we backpacking geeks. P is over the moon about his guitar and has already made me tune it several times (new strings). P gave me a stapler and "the Mr. Darcy Movie," which you may know better as the BBC's version of Pride & Prejudice. And we are now positively swimming in miniature toy trains. Plus, D got us a wheat grinder, which sounds very Little House on the Prairie but is nice to have just in case. After all, we do have wheat in our food storage...

I want to share a recipe I made up last night and was over-the-moon in love with. This can be scaled up for more servings if desired. I wish I had made more; I was scraping the pot at the end.

Butter (1 or 2 tablespoons)
2 cans diced tomatoes, well drained
4 cloves garlic, chopped
dried oregano to taste, I used maybe ¼ teaspoon
olive oil (1 or 2 tablespoons)
salt (to taste, I used just a few shakes)

in a heavy pot (cast iron is good), brown the butter over medium heat. When the butter is brown, add tomatoes, garlic, oregano, olive oil and salt. The tomatoes should hiss a bit when you first add them. Stir; get everything hot and hissing. Then add ¼ cup or so of water – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and keep the pot from drying out and starting to burn. Cover, reduce heat to just above low and let simmer for 45 minutes or so. Eat it over noodles, toasted bread, crackers, whatever you please. You can add parmesan, but i didn't find it necessary (the boys requested it). If you have leftovers (unlikely), it can be recycled into a vegetable soup or pureed and used in a tomato vinaigrette.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

O kitchen, my kitchen

Lianna, the greatest roommate the world has ever known, requested that I share some before and after pictures of our townhouse kitchen. Lianna only ever knew it as a sad beige place with lots of crap left out on the counters and many dirty dishes in the sink (courtesy of my poor housekeeping skills). As it is likely going to be featured on the LA Times' remodeling blog soon (they like guest features), i'll share a sneak preview with my loyal readers (that would be all five or so of you).

Here you will find the sad before pictures and the glossy, well-staged after pictures. The main reason that the counters are not covered in junk and dirty dishes is because we had already moved out at this point and i staged it for pictures to put in the rental ad. Alas, my beautiful kitchen, which i miss very much, is now being loved by somebody else. Enjoy it, Ryan and Rossy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ye olde tannenbaum

Tree is up! we have almost no ornaments on it because E The Destroyer, who hears all and understands all, apparently has a short circuit in his brain that erases any admonishments of "Leave that alone!" or "Don't touch those!" So absolutely no presents will be set out until Xmas Eve. We have a few presents tucked into the branches of the tree, which i actually like the look of. We got guitar strings for P's teacher, Sr. Wright (don't worry, he doesn't read my blog) and i made a pair of earrings for Sra. Hernandez, the teacher's aide.

Speaking of school, I'm royally pissed off. Today was the Holiday Program (heaven forbid it be a Christmas program) and i didn't see one bit of it. The multi-purpose room at the school is ridiculously small, they apparently had multiple grades performing at the same time, and they sat the kids down on the floor instead of on the stage. So there was absolutely no room anywhere - parents were standing in full body contact and i couldn't even get through the door. I spent a few minutes craning my neck but E was awful and i finally lost my temper and left. I admit i muttered a few unpleasant words. Now I have to beg around and see if any other parents got in and if i can get a picture of Paul on stage.

I just mailed out the Christmas cards, which means that they probably won't get to anybody in time, but doggone it i am going to do SOMETHING nice and normal and try to keep some level of contact with long-lost friends. that's kind of what this blog is about, too.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

cheep cheep cheep

Christmas is coming, and i am a jerk. We haven't been to see any mall Santas, because i refuse to set foot in a mall until well into January. Actually, I can't recall the last time i set foot in a mall anyway. Although, heaven help me, i like to walk around at the Irvine Spectrum, which is just an outdoor mall. I have no Christmas lights up, but i'm not sure that's my fault, because i can't find any outdoor plugs near the front of the house. We have no Christmas tree, because we have been too stinking busy to go out as a family and get one. D tells me to just go out myself and get one, as he is booked solid right now, but honestly the thought of taking P & E to the tree farm alone is horrifying.

Although i am appallingly cheap, i think i have managed to scrape together a Christmas that will make our little family joyful. The boys are getting some Thomas trains and i lucked out and got inexpensive mud boots for them (since the backyard is mainly dirt). I found a big outside bowling set at a thrift store; it will be lots of fun to "go bowling" on the concrete slab in the side yard. I have been getting up early every Saturday morning to hit garage sales and thrift stores and I have found some really cool gifts. As always in the secondhand market, perseverance pays off. I have managed to get almost all of my "wish list" items for the boys & D. i even found a child-sized REAL guitar for P - made in Paracho, Michoacan, Mexico - which i have since found out is like the guitar capital of Mexico. P has been asking to go to Mexico forever, and he will be so thrilled to get a guitar from there. i wanted to get him one because i cannot practice guitar without him begging to hold it and play it.

"But Colleen," you may say, "you aren't poor. Why on earth are you so cheap?" I'm not sure. Part of me likes the thrill of the hunt - that moment when i spot something wonderful for five measly bucks. Part of it is compensation for the fact that it's outrageously expensive to live in southern California. Part of it is because we're saving money for P & E's missions & college, and so i like to keep our more frivolous expenses down. But I have to be careful, because of my genetic tendency to hoard and my addiction to pretty, colorful pottery.

Anyway, i think most of the gifts are done. i need to finish sewing gift bags (re-useable, no more wasted wrapping paper) and put together the C family gifts.

Oh, a quick E story. Yesterday at church, I was cleaning up my stuff after church was over, and D comes to the Primary room and says to me, "Do you have E?" Ahh, no, I did not. He got a worried look on his face and went back to Nursery to double-check if E was there. He was not. Nobody in Nursery knew where he was. We began running up and down the halls, asking everybody if they had seen him. Word spread quickly and people were searching in the parking lot. I was getting mildly panicked. Finally, somebody said, "I thought I saw him go through the overflow door to the chapel." So I immediately opened it. The 5th Ward, a Spanish-speaking ward, was meeting in the chapel. A man glanced over, saw my worried face, and pointed toward the front. I looked up to the stand and there was E, standing next to the pianist and watching him play a hymn. So I had to run up there in front of the whole Mission Viejo 5th ward and carry him out, which E was not very happy about. I was not embarrassed, just relieved, and cried just a little bit. later i was told that he had just wandered in, walked right up to the stand, walked around and checked out the organ before deciding to go watch the pianist play. Seeing as how he is incredibly blonde and Caucasoid and invaded a Spanish-speaking ward full of central American immigrants, i'm not sure why somebody didn't pick him up and try to find out where he came from, but oh well.

Of course the nursery ladies apologized, and I wasn't really angry with them - I'm sure they felt horrible and will be much more careful from now on. E is just his own person and does what he pleases and needs to be watched a little more vigilantly.