28 December 2007

Photo of the Day: South Haven Lighthouse

The day after Christmas, my dad and I took the kids out to the pier in South Haven, MI. Because of the winter storm a few days before with really high winds, everything on the water was totally frozen. Even though I walked all the way down the frozen pier to get up-close pictures of the lighthouse. This one, shot from a distance was my favorite.
This was taken with my Sony Cybershot 7.2MP

22 December 2007

Peppermint Bark Fudge

I snapped up this recipe from the blog Coconut and Lime. This is a foodie blog that I've just discovered, but the recipes are not only accessible and easy to make, but also incredibly tasty!

Since the fam was coming over for a family game night/ pre-Christmas gift exchange, I whipped up this fudge earlier in the morning. This is the recipe as C&L wrote it on her page.

14 oz sweetened condensed milk

12 oz high quality semisweet chocolate chips*

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup peppermint pieces (about 4 candy canes)**

Directions:In shallow, heavy pot, heat the butter and chips over low heat until melted. Stir to occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the condensed milk and candy canes until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Pour into a buttered 8x8 inch baking dish and allow to cool 15 minutes. Then refrigerate the fudge for 2 hours or up to overnight. Unmold (if it sticks, run the point of a knife along all four sides and slide a thin spatula underneath to remove) and cut into 1 inch squares. Store at room temperature in an air tight container.Yield: roughly 40 squares

*C&L recommends the use of a high quality chocolate here. For me, this didn't really make a big difference. Besides, I'm a big fan of Toll House semi-sweet chips anyway.

**C&L also recommends breaking the candy canes while they're still in the plastic. I did not go this route. I was quite anxious to get some use out of th mortar and pestle that we got recently, so I promptly tossed the canes in there and ground them until they were mere flakes of peppermint. When I tasted this fudge, I think I am much happier with the outcome than I would have been with bigger chunks of cane.

This recipe was quick and easy, and everything worked out great! The only suggestion that I have is that once it's in the pan and has been in the fridge for a couple of hours, to toss it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so. This seemed to help the fudge harden very quickly since I was pressed for time in getting the fudge to actually set up. Also, because it gets so melty once it's at room temperature, I recommend storing this fudge in the refrigerator until just before you eat it. Don't worry, it won't be too hard. It softens VERY quickly once it comes to room temp.

So try this fudge. It's fantastic! Thanks to Coconut and Lime for sharing!
PS: I'm at home in Michigan, and I managed to get my hands on several photo albums of old family photos (mostly of me, naturally!). Over the next few months, I will be posting some of the most memorable in the collection. ;)

20 December 2007

A Norman Rockwell Christmas

This is what Christmas at our house looks like every year:

Andrea and I get a real tree and trim it together. We've made it a tradition that she single-handedly carries the tree up the stairs to the house (I'm afraid of being poked by the needles) over her head. I can't find the picture for it, but it's usually quite the sight.

The general celebration of Christmas at our house is pretty awesome thanks in no small part to Andrea. She single-handedly puts much of the Christ back in Christmas, with great big gobs of generosity. Over these last few years, she's managed (probably without really knowing it) to make me want to celebrate this holiday again with all of the excitement of a child, and stop complaining about all the commercialization of it, because there are people (many, in fact) out there who don't really buy in to the commercial parts of it. Rather, it's about love, family, giving, and celebrating old [and making new] traditions. Over the years, and between the two of us, we've managed to create traditions of making and sharing candy, giving to charities, donating toys, invoking the spirit of St. Nikolas, hanging (and filling!) stockings, trimming the trees (with a pickle!) and even sprinkling lots and lots of warm Christmas cheer onto the cold hearts of a couple of ersatz Scrooge McDucks (even if Christmas cheer does come in the guise of Gluehwein and hot, mulled spirits!). It's a great time to watch people come around to our version of celebrating the holiday. It's a beautiful thing.

So here's to Andrea for always making Christmas into the stuffs of Rockwell.
On second thought, we're way better than Rockwell!

Merry Christmas to all!

07 December 2007

Self Portrait in Gingerbread

Lauren and I spent Wednesday night making Christmas cookie. Well, really Lauren was making the cookies; I only helped to decorate while I watched Mickey's Christmas Carol on her laptop. Her mom sent her a bunch of old fashioned cookie cutters, the great copper and tin ones that she used as a kid. We made angels, santas, reindeer, bells, trees, stars, and gingerbread.

Decorating was ever so much fun especially since we used inappropriate colors for everything which resulted in blue reindeer and orange trees. We even tried to mix in this gold luster dust that I have. Aside: The makers claim that it is completely non toxic but recommend using it for decorating only and not for eating. My question is if you're using it to decorate food, as is its purpose how then do you avoid eating it? Sadly though, the dust did not turn the frosting sparkling or gold but kind of...salmon. My favorite reindeer is this slightly blurry guy which to me resembles more a slightly deranged bunny rabbit than a reindeer.

In the end, since the gingerbread man cutter was so large, Lauren only made two and we each decorated one.

Later that night as we put away the cookies I noticed something interesting about our g-men. They were us!! Other than the fact that mine somehow looks like a baseball player with a lazy eye (completely unintentional), our g-men somehow reflected us in the height difference. The proof-us:

(and no, neither is this a perspective issue nor am I standing on a box-that's the actual difference in our heights)

And a second look at the cookies:

Coincidence? I think not.

06 December 2007

First Snow

In DC, many people like to pretend that just because we're south of the Mason-Dixon line, that we're Southern. Therefore, we don't get wintry weather. This is in fact, definitely NOT the case. As you can see below, we got more than a couple flakes last night. The pictures below are from our back yard around 7:00pm. I tried to capture good images of what it looked like coming down. My camera was freaking out a little bit because of the light hitting the flakes. These pictures turned out pretty well though:

And now I will rant:

Usually we get our first significant snow around Thanksgiving. This year, we saw our first flakes fly earlier this week. Those 15 flakes were enough to back up traffic on the Beltway for hours during the morning rush hour. Being a Native Michigander, I scoffed at the idea of going 10 mph on the highway just because there were some flurries. Back at home, they'd still be going 80mph on the freeway, and this wouldn't be a problem at all. Not here though, snow that fails to even stick to the ground will shut down Metro, and leave people abandoning their cars on the side of the road.

Okay...so I'm exaggerating; but only a little.

Yesterday morning, we woke up to more flurries, and even colder temperatures. This time, they actually stuck. My daily commute from DC to Tysons Corner showed itself for the offensive thing it is, even though everyone tells me I'm going "in reverse." I laugh in their faces. Yesterday, my commute took 2 and a half hours. I work 14.1 miles from my job. If I'd know that it was going to take that long, I would have spent my 2.5 hours taking Metro. By the end of the day, there was about an inch and a half on the ground. Surprisingly, my drive home only took an hour and a half. I suspect that lots of people went home early because of the "weather."

This morning, I decided that rather than brave the unsalted, untreated, icy roads filled with "inexperienced" winter drivers, I would spend my first 3 hours of the day working from home rather than wasting it sitting in traffic. It's safer for me to just stay off the roads altogether. Not because I can't drive in it (I surely have the experience of MANY Michigan winters under my belt!), but because the city has no ability to plan in advance for snow that they know is coming. It creates unsafe conditions for everyone because they're "shocked" that we got snow this far south. Hello? It snows like this EVERY year, it's about time that we start to learn how to sent salt trucks and plows out to be ready when the first flakes fly. Period. Put a Michigander in the Road Commissioner's office. We know how to handle weather of all kinds, but especially the frozen white stuff.

05 December 2007

Surprise Ornaments

So Lauren and I are doing our thing tonight (which means mostly that we were enjoying the CBS family classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer while drinking wine) and I decided to take more ornament pictures. In my study of the tree I was quite surprised to find this:

Hello-what are you? "Lauren," says I, "why is there a pillow on the tree?" "A what?" "There's an ornament on the tree and it's a pillow-with fruit on it." Lauren came over and we both inspected this new ornament neither of us had ever seen. "Huh."

Five minutes later, while I was photographing our smaller themed tree in the dining room I hear: "Moglie..." "Si?" (occasionally we speak to each other in Italian but it's pretty limited to: moglie, si, ciao, grazie, and prego). "There's a Hershey truck on the tree." "A what?" (deja vu all over again there). "There's a Hershey truck ornament on the tree!" I went over to her and by gum there was indeed a Hershey Truck ornament on the tree:

So now the big mystery is, from whence did these come? Are there more? Will they multiply overnight? We are rather confused. St. Nikolas does not come until tonight so he didn't bring them; I'd be shocked if J.Fo. contributed them, bah humbug that he is. Perhaps Grizz? She knew we were concerned over the sparseness of decoration on this year's tree (due more to a larger tree than a disappearance of ornaments) but when did she hang them? She didn't do it this morning so perhaps last night? A mystery...

Camera: Kodak EasyShare Z740

Vintage Christmas

One of the first things I did when I moved to DC (well, ok technically I did it when I went back to MI for Thanksgiving) was to nick some of my favorite Christmas ornaments from the cupboard under the stairs. My family's tree has never been one of those ueber expensive 'themed' trees but has always been a real family tree with ornaments of all types, styles, and ages. We have a number of glass ornaments that are on their way to being antiques; those that have survived the years unbroken anyway:

03 December 2007

Christmas Ornaments 06 and 07

Since Lauren posted her new Christmas ornament I cannot but do the same. I love peacocks (at least the idea of them-the actual bird is a loud pain in the ass) but any peacock representation, picture, figurine etc has to be mine.

However, I'm going to one up Lauren and also post last year's ornament because I really like it too. In fact, after we dismantled the tree I couldn't bear to pack it away so I hung it in my room!

02 December 2007

My 2007 Ornament

Every year, Andrea and I pick new ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree for that year. I know it's a little bit blurry, but I just couldn't get my settings right, so this is the best it's gonna get for now... In any case, this is my 2007 ornament:

01 December 2007


Every year at the Nuernberger Weinachtsmarkt (Nurenberg Christmas Market), it's a tradition to do Christmas shopping while drinking Gluehwein (trans: Glow Wine). The reason it's called "glow" wine is because it's warm, and the alcohol gives everyone's cheeks a nice warm glow.

At our house, it's also a tradition to drink Gluehwein in the lead up to Christmas. Today, I started off the season by making a fresh batch and sharing it with my roommates. In fact, I'm drinking it right now.

2 bottles dry red wine (1.5L)
1/2c white sugar
1/2c water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cloved orange, quartered

Combine water and sugar. Add cinnamon and orange quarters. Heat until boiling. Once the water is boiling, take out the oranges. Pour in the 2 bottles of wine. Squeeze the orange quarters and place everything back into the pot, and stir. Heat the mixture until just warm.

Strain into mugs.