Staging

Technically I am off work this entire week, except that yesterday I had a conference call and some stuff I had to send out, and some updates to do, and this morning I had another conference call and so on, but I made it very clear that after 10am, I was going to be out of reach. I suspect my inbox will be in a mild state of panic by the time I return, but oh well.

I picked up my little sister and her family at the airport this morning, by doing my usual double-loop around the airport, because ever since they put in the new parking garage and reconfigured the parking, I get confused every single time I go there. The signs do not help, as they point to the different terminals, and thus make it seem as if there is different parking for each terminal, when in reality there isn’t and would it kill them to put up a sign saying ALL parking?

Anyway. I am at least smart enough to give myself extra time for the inevitable ‘how do I get to the damn parking garage’ kerfluffle, and was there waiting for them at the bottom of the escalators as they came down to get their luggage. Then we headed home, after making a brief stop to get coffee for my sister (who likes a little blood in her caffeine system).

When we got home, my sister and I (okay, primarily it was her, while I occasionally handed her things and shooed the cats off the kitchen island, where technically they are allowed to be because we gave up years ago when it became clear that allowing them on the island meant they were less likely to then try to get onto the counters, except that they aren’t helpful when one is trying to roll out dough) made several batches of gingerbread while my brother-in-law cut templates out of cardboard and then cut out all the pieces. We also made chocolate crinkles and here is where I have to giggle because when I travel, I make sure to always bring yarn with me, while when she travels, apparently she likes to bring baking paraphernalia with her, like her favorite cookie scoop, and pastry bags and tips, and so on. I did manage to appall my sister (heh) by the fact that I only own one whisk (because most of the time I don’t ever need more than one at a time).

By the time Richard got home from work the house smelled delightfully of gingerbread and chocolate and yummy things. We ate lasagna for dinner stuffed with veggies, and ate cookies for dessert. Everyone camped out in the living room with the cats and various laptops and Kindles and so on and we chatted and laughed and oh, I wish they lived closer so we could do this more often. Sigh.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Abode

Last night, as we were working our way through the massive list of Stuff That Has To Be Done, I pulled out a new toy for the cats (well, by ‘new’ I mean I picked it up for half off last year during the after-Christmas sales and only yesterday remembered I had it).

This toy required some minor assembly. I especially love the back of the box, which includes this reminder.
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I really want to know what happened that led the marketing department to insist that *that* be included on the outer packaging.

Next I had to assemble the box. It has a scratching pad for the base. You will notice Sherman is testing it out for me.

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All assembled – a rare, cat-free shot. I especially like the little chimney at the top, which is large enough to reach a hand down inside to tickle an unsuspecting cat. Not that anyone in this house would do that (whistles innocently, looks around shiftily).

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At this point I put it on the floor in the dining room. Two nanoseconds later, Sherman charged into the room and DOVE inside. The little toy that dangles from the front (although shortly before this it got smacked hard enough to flip up to the top) did garner some interest at first, but it’s attached rather loosely so I am figuring that is going to disappear pretty quickly. Mainly, though, Sherman just seemed to like curling up inside and hanging out.

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That picture was taken shortly after I put it down on the floor. I figured, okay, he’d play and then the other cats would get a chance to check it out, and eventually, like with every other cardboard thing we give them, we’ll be picking bits of cardboard up off the floor. However, Sherman apparently fell head over heels in love with it, to the point where he actually stayed in there for *hours*. He only left the little house when I headed downstairs to go to bed (he and Ingrid are my constant under-cover bed buddies every night). And this morning, after all the cats followed me back up the stairs once I got up, he went right back into it, and has been camped out in there for the past hour. Clearly this was $5 well spent.

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Here. I give you a teeny tiny video of Sherman playing in the box, shortly before he decided to just curl up and fall asleep in there. Please note presence of Nutmeg in her squishy heated bed, pointedly ignoring the entire thing.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Santa-fied

Yesterday while I was off performing the last concert of the year, Richard was off picking up the packets, and outfits, for the annual Santa Run. I heard about it last year, and we actually did sign up, but then life got busy (as it often does) and we weren’t able to actually do it. So this year I was determined we were going to make it happen.

So we got up this morning, and after gulping down large amounts of coffee, we put on our Santa suits – or rather I put on mine (which was apparently meant to fit someone several feet taller than me – the pants came up nearly to my chin) and Richard simply slapped on the hat and the beard because he was worried he’d end up too hot in the rest. We managed to get there just in the nick of time, and it was nice to see there were just a few other similarly clad people also taking part.

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It was quite a lot of fun to walk along the route, surrounded on all sides by people dressed like Santa (or in some cases, like elves or reindeer). People in passing cars were honking and waving, and as we came along the river, there were dozens of people out on boats, also dressed in Santa suits, waving and cheering us on. It was drizzling a bit, but the beauty of wearing a hat and Santa suit is that I couldn’t really feel the rain at all, and by the time we were done it had all but cleared up anyway. It was definitely a lot of fun and I’m really glad this year we were able to take part.

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Today I give you a handy recycling tip. Don’t throw out those old projector slides! Just find yourself some kittens and let the fun begin!

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Soaring

Last concert of the season tonight. At rehearsal on Monday we spent most of it wandering around in the huge space (tonight’s was in a cathedral), singing here and there, checking to see which area would have the best acoustics for which song. Tonight it was obvious we’d picked all the best spots for each of the pieces. There was a good crowd for our last performance, in spite of the cold and the rain.

It’s been a crazy kind of week, with work and rehearsal and parties and performances, and it was nice to end it on a high note (pun intended, hah), but oh, I am so glad now that it is over. Still so much to do before the family descends on our house for Christmas, but I’ve got an entire weekend to devote to nothing but getting ready. Huzzah.

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Yesterday was Beethoven’s birthday, and in case you didn’t happen to see it, Google did an awesome Doodle for it. Those of us who read music probably can do the puzzle a wee bit faster than those of you who can’t, but that’s okay – no one is judging.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Gustatory

We had our annual cookie exchange and yarn swap last night, and it was a lot of fun. Many, many cookies were consumed (all in the name of taste testing, of course). The yarn swap started off, as it usually does, very politely, with everyone reaching for an unwrapped gift instead of stealing a previously wrapped one, but then the end hit and that’s when the stealing kicked in in earnest, and that is how it usually goes as well. This is one of the things I look forward to each December, and it didn’t disappoint.

Tonight, however, was a bit more low key. I made this Sweet Potato and Lentil Pie for dinner and am happy to declare that I have *finally* found a recipe with lentils where the lentils did not take over everything with their very boring lentilness. Granted, the recipe used up nearly half the pans and pots in the house, but it was definitely worth it.

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Today’s amusing thing is the British Medical Journal’s special Christmas edition. Is this an annual thing? If it is an annual thing, how is it that I have never heard of it before? There is an entire collection of articles that amuse me greatly. Examples include:

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Melodious

Two more Vox Musica concerts down; only one more to go. Both this past weekend’s concerts went really well, plus there was the bonus of running into a friend I hadn’t seen in years, and also knowing that a bunch more friends got to experience our music for the very first time. All in all, a good weekend.

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Today I give to you an epic battle between a fierce creature and a mighty, terrifying object. Warning. May induce a squee. You’re welcome.

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All the things

The beauty of having a two story house is that when things are a wee bit hectic, one can usually get away with only cleaning the public half. However, since it’s our turn (in my family it rotates locations every year) to host Christmas this year, the usual ‘clean the top floor, ignore the bottom floor’ plan doesn’t work. Also, considering that November = Nanowrimo for both Richard and I, and then December = performances for me, and Holidailies, and we’ve both been super busy at work, and also I have a test knit I’m trying to squeeze into the middle of all of that, and also toss in six hairball horking, shedding cats, the condition of the house (both upstairs and down) has started to reach what might politely be called ‘my god, what *is* that?’.

So tomorrow afternoon, we’ve scheduled the big guns to come in (cleaning service) to try to bring things back to normal, which means the last few days have been spent (in between the usual chores and me dashing off to performances and other social obligations) scurrying around trying to clear off every surface and finally actually put away the piles of ‘I dunno what to do with this so I’ll just leave it here’ things that tend to build up around this time of year, and check for stealth hairballs so no one else has to deal with it, and ugh, I know people are still yammering for stupid hoverboards, but seriously, why hasn’t technology come up with a self-cleaning house yet?

Anyway. Before I get back to gathering up all my random yarn and knitting paraphernalia and stuffing everything into closets, here is today’s bit of fun. Did you know there is a Christmas Carol Hotline, where if you call them, they will sing you any Christmas carol you want? Well neither did I! Possibly I am now trying to come up with the most obscure holiday song to request. Possibly. Hmm.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Tart

Yesterday was technically my Friday off, which is of course why I ended up working anyway, except while sitting in my sweats at the dining room table. Ah well. I suppose I could be upset about it except that I really do like the project that’s been sucking up so much of my time, and also if one is working from home in sweats, one can also zip into the kitchen from time to time and whip up some cookies.

For the last few years I’ve made a huge batch of gingerbread men for the annual cookie swap, but this year I pondered the fact that the Meyer lemon tree in the backyard is once again determined to blow us away with the sheer volume of fruit (for a tree that is barely four feet tall, it is disturbingly prolific), and so instead I made Almendrados, because hello recipe that calls for 4 teaspoons of lemon zest per batch! As an aside, grinding almonds in the food processor is really, really loud and the cats do *not* approve.

Of course the downside to requiring a vast amount of lemon zest is that then one is left with a lot of naked lemons lying about on one’s kitchen counter, and so this morning I decided to ask Google what to do about it. Google obligingly provided a recipe for Lemon Pancakes, although it also required lemon zest which meant that I *still* have naked lemons on the kitchen counter (but fewer than before, so hooray for that).

I am…ambivalent about the recipe. They were okay, but I prefer a thicker, more cake-like pancake and these were a thinner, floppier sort of affair. So this one isn’t going into my ‘to keep’ pile, but hey, if you are the thin, floppy sort of pancake lover, I can highly recommend it.

In the meantime, all this cookie baking and pancake making means I have now made it through roughly 1/100th of the lemons on the damn tree. Okay. Perhaps I exaggerate. Maybe it’s really closer to 1/99th.

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Today’s amusement is the 2015 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. For some reason I was not aware of this annual tradition until now. How could I live with myself if any of you readers were also similarly unspoiled? #BARKYEAH.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Posted in Baking, Life | 3 Comments

All of us the same

There are a lot of random things I could talk about today, but instead I think I’ll just point you to today’s nifty thing. A lot of you are probably already familiar with Humans of New York, but if you’re not, I highly recommend following him on Facebook. He originally started out just taking pictures of people in New York and posting them with little snippets they were willing to share about their life, but in the past year or so he’s traveled around the world, photographing and interviewing people in numerous countries. His current series is based on interviews he did with a number of Syrian refugee families who have just been granted entry into the US.

I read his posts, and also often read the comments, because for the most part, they are surprisingly positive (a rarity on the internet, to be sure), and it reminds me that, despite all the ugliness and racism and hatred being embraced so fervently by some segments of the population in the US, that the vast majority of us are still good and kind and decent people who are trying to find some way to help. And I hope that when those refugees come over, and try to figure out how to settle into their new lives, so far away from the homes that were torn from them, that this is the view of America that they see. Not the ugly, vile hatred and bigotry that is being spewed from the mouths of certain politicians and the sad, bitter people who support them, but the open hearts of people who refuse to let the actions of a small radicalized minority of a persecuted people keep them from helping the larger majority of those who are in desperate need.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Pieces

So it is now the 8th, which means we’re solidly into December now, and if you are anything like me, you may be starting to have a teensy tiny panic about everything that still needs to be done before Christmas, like getting Christmas cards into the mail, and figuring out what the heck to put in people’s stockings, and staring at the calendar trying to work out when it is you’re going to actually have time to bake all the things, so *obviously* what you need is a way to waste a whole lot of time.

Ask and ye shall receive. You’re welcome.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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