Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas in Vermont

Traditions, like promises, are made to be broken.  And then, of course, rebuilt even better!  For many, many years, Christmas was spent at my parent's house.  Breakfast in the morning, open presents, lounge around (maybe a little nap), too much dinner, too much wine, and then over to my cousin's for coffee and cake (she lived around the corner).

But then my sister had kids and my cousin sold the house and moved into an apartment, and her kids had kids so things changed.

For many years Christmas morning was spent at my sister's house.  Then everyone went home for a while, cleaned up and prettied up and went to Granny and Pop's for dinner.

Then my sister moved from the apartment on the same street where we all lived (I was okay with the move--she's walking distance to Flying Fingers) and we started doing breakfast and presents at her house, then the break, then back to her house for dinner. 

My hobby is knitting (and some other things but really, a lot of knitting).  My sister's hobby is checking out the local real estate magazines everywhere she goes.  Unlike knitting, it rarely (almost never) ends up with a finished product.  But much like my experience with Snowshoe Farm at Rhinebeck, sometimes the stars align.  Two years ago, she saw a really beautiful piece of property in Vermont in the little local real estate rag while she and her hubby were weekending at an inn.  They went back to the same inn a month or so later--it was very romantic--and lo and behold, the same property had been reduced.  And then it happened again.  And again.  And again.  So they made a bid.  A really, really low bid.  And it was accepted.  And whiz bang boom, they were the owners of 12 acres in Vermont. With a pond.  Overlooking a bigger pond.  And only an hour north of Webs. They threw up a cute little house up and before you could say "you're gonna want four wheel drive" we were all off to spend Christmas in Vermont.

I drove up the Taconic on Christmas Eve.  It's a road that never ceases to amaze me.  It was a very clear day but not the type of day that you would call crystal clear.  The sky had a bid of milkiness to it that was the perfect foil for the golds, browns, greens and reds of the winter landscape.  There wasn't a cloud in site so the shadows on the bare trees were crisp and fine and dramatic.

Of course I didn't manage to stop and take any pictures but I have tremendous trust in your imaginations.

I made it Manchester just as it was getting dark and paid a visit to Judith at Yarns for your Soul.  It's a lovely shop with lovely things owned by a lovely woman.  Judith is also from the Y.O. so you know you can count on her. 

I bought this.  It's Malabrigo Sock in the colorway Stonechat. 

And this.  This is delicious on so many levels.  It is Arauncania Ruca in the color 4.  And, dig this, it's 100% sugarcane.  It is smooth and soft and silky and I love it.  My sister is actually picking up two more skeins for me on her way home (did I mention that I have an amazing yarn family).

And this.

This may be my favorite.  It's two skeins of local alpaca made especially for the shop.  And please note the hang tag with the photo of the alpaca that it came from.  In case you can't read upside down, his name is Hazlenut.  He lives at Marlee Farm and seems quite content.  Not to mention soft.

From there, on to Windham Hill Inn to check in and then up to Sissy's for dinner.  When my sister and bro-in-law started staying there, my sister was tickled by the treat platter they put out every evening in the lobby.  So, since Granny and Pop and I were staying there and everyone else was in the house and things had all gone full circle and I liked the way it all felt (still do as a matter of fact) I called the wonderful innkeeper Katja and she made us a beautiful treat plate to bring to the house.  Of course my sister had plenty to nibble on as well.  There was shrimp cocktail, and cheese and crackers (which I couldn't live without), and delicious little cocktail franks and then takeout Italian food from a great little local place.  And family.  And a fireplace.  And wine (Pop was gracious enough to drive my car back to the inn so I could indulge).  And then the coziest sleep I've had in a while.

The girls and I stuck bows on all the presents and put them under the tree.  A wager was made on what was in the Lily Pulitzer shopping bags that Granny had for all the women.  And Lucy the dog collapsed from fresh air poisoning.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about Christmas.

And honestly, I haven't forgotten about my blog.  Life just got in the way.  So here's BadKitten Day 30.

As usual, apologies for the advertisement. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Twelve Eleven Ten

Yeah baby!  It's my birthday!  This will have to be a multi-post topic because, so far, it's been fantastic!  The celebrating actually started on Wednesday with lunch at the new Japanese place in Hastings on Hudson with Debby and Jeri.  Deeeelicious! 

Then off to knitting group where there were presents (more about those in the present post).

Then last night a party at Pat's house (of the tomatoes) with delicious treats, delicious wine, delicious friends and, ahem, delicious brownies.
This morning it was off to the Mead House for the Fun with Fiber group where we finished the red velvet cake.  (Did I mention there was red velvet cake?  Really really good red velvet cake!)

From there I took myself up to Flying Fingers to buy myself a birthday gift.

It is so not me--I don't usually go for metallic--but this was outrageously beautiful so I bought it.  And then I realized that, since I got it with the money my cousin gave me for my birthday, I was technically not buying it for myself.  So I get to buy myself another birthday gift!  Woo Hoo!

Tonight it's more time with friends and then family dinner tomorrow.  And if I feel like stopping then, I will.  If not, I will keep on celebrating.

And of course, in celebration of my birthday, here's BadKitten Day 29 (Hey--that's funny--we've all been joking about it being my 29th birthday).

Friday, December 10, 2010

A quick hit and run post

On the way to knitting group last night something really funny happened.  I was looking for a parking spot and there was a perfect spot right across the street.  I was sitting in a LONG line for the traffic light so I blew a u turn and took the spot.

Then the car in front of me pulled out and the guy two cars behind me in the line did the same thing and took that spot.

I was gathering up my stuff so the driver who took the spot in front of me and I were getting out of our cars at the same time.

It went like this.

Me:  Copy cat!

Him:  I thought of it first.

Me:  Yeah, well I did it first.

Both of us had a big pause.

Then he looked at me and said,

"Yeah, well my car's bigger."

I laughed all the way up the block.

Here's BadKitten Day 28.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's nice to be nice to the nice.

Some people were really nice to me today.  I'm just going to dwell on that for a while.  For a while I felt better than I've felt for a long, long time.

BadKitten Day 27.

P.S.  Does anyone want a kitten.  I know of a bunch of real cuties that need homes. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Yam What I Yam

Sorry--I couldn't help the pun. 

I did the math and this year marked the 23rd Thanksgiving dinner that I've cooked.  Although not necessarily on the Thursday.  When I graduated from college, I moved into a house in East Hampton with three guys.  Yeah, my Mom was thrilled.  But they were truly wonderful men and to this day, I hold all other men to their standards.  We moved in on Memorial Day weekend.  We had a great Fourth of July party (we had the perfect lawn for it), on Labor Day we had a big bunch of friends over for a barbecue.  But, then (minor chord), along came Thanksgiving.  It was our first real family holiday--and we were a family--that we weren't going to be spending together.

So the Sunday before Thanksgiving we made a feast.  We invited a few friends over and ate until we were stuffed.  And then we had pie.  And then the next year, on the same Sunday, we invited more friends.  And the next year there were more friends.  And so on. And so on.

And we had rules. 

1.  I cooked.
2.  We all ate one table.
3.  Real plates, glasses, silverware, etc.
4.  Everyone was welcome.  The door was open. 

And it was good. 

The last year we had it, just before we all moved on our separate ways, we had 85 people.  We borrowed tables and cloths and all the things we needed from people's parents and aunts and the VFW.  The table actually wound through the house from the dining room, through the living room, down the hall and then spiraled around the TV room.

So, if you haven't gotten the picture yet, I love Thanksgiving.  To me, it is a generous, welcoming holiday with no other baggage attached to it.  There are no gifts, no obligations, no worries.  And really, cooking for it is really easy.  Basically, you stick a turkey in the oven and you boil water.

Unless you're me. 

If you're me, you give yourself a theme every year.  Last year, all the side dishes were from Silver Palate cookbooks. They are my absolute favorites, and sadly, one of the authors had died.  The year before that, my theme was sweet and savory in the same dish. 

This year, the theme was "the pantry".  I went really simple this year with some hopped up pantry basics.  Corn (but with leeks--holy crap it's so good), peas (but with prosciutto and onions), simple roasted brussels sprouts. 

I think the simplicity of the meal this year was really driven by the fact that November 25th was a completely loaded day.  If you've been a reader for a while, you know that I lost a good friend last year.  He died the night before Thanksgiving so, my big celebration day, was the anniversary of his death (someday remind me to tell you about Halloween).

Every year, there is at least one recipe that is my own creation, and this year I decided that it would be in honor of him.  He was a smart, Southern man who loved a good glass of bourbon.  So that was my inspiration.

And here you have it.

Peel five pounds of yams and cut them in chunks,.
Peel one nice onion and cut in in chunks.

Dump them in your big pot, cover them with water, throw in a good handful of salt and set them on a high flame.  When you poke them with a fork and they fall off the fork, they're done.  Drain them and put them all (yams and onion) back in the pot.  Add two cans of sweet potatoes in light syrup (drained please) and half a can of pumpkin puree (leftover from pumpkin cheesecake) into the pot.  Give it a good pinch of ground ginger and about 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cloves, a stick of unsalted butter and about a cup or so of heavy cream.   Whip it up with your hand mixer until it is smooth as silk.

Now take your big skillet and toss in a bag full of chopped pecans.  Put them over a high flame and toast them just until the kitchen starts to smell like pecans.  Drop them in a little bowl and put the pan back on the flame.  Start melting another stick of unsalted butter. Add about 3/4 cup of brown suger and swirl, swirl, swirl.  Don't stir it.  Just swirl it.  And don't walk away from it.  As soon as your kitchen smells like Willie Wonka has just arrived, you're carmel is golden and you're a little afraid that the sugar is going to burst into flames, turn the stove off and add 3/4 cup heavy cream.  It's going to bubble up like mad but that's a good thing.  Add in a 1/4 cup (or so, ahem) of bourbon.   Turn the flame back on, grab your wisk and melt all the carmel into the cream and bourbon.  Add a little tiny pinch of salt along with the toasted pecans.  Let it simmer for a few minutes until it gets a little thick. You'll know when it's just right.  Take it off the flame and let it cool a little.

Spread half the yams into your big pyrex dish and smooth it was a spatula.  Pour the caramel and nuts over the yams and then top with the rest of the potatoes. 

At this point, you can put it in the fridge until you are ready to finish it.  I made it the day before and it held up great.

When it's about a half an hour before you're going to serve, put the dish in the oven at about 300 or 350 and warm it gently.  Five minutes before you're ready, drizzle the top of the potatoes with some more bourbon (added fire power) and put a scattering of mini marshmallows on top.  Pop it under the broiler and watch it like a hawk.  As soon as the marshmallows catch fire, it's ready.

And it's delicious. 

Almost as good as BadKitten Day 26.  I refuse to fight with YouTube so I'm just giving you a link.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Really, you're kidding, right.

So I wrote the post the other night and today I sat down at the computer (which has been on since then) and discovered that I never hit Post.  I hit Preview. Sure.  But Post?  That just seemed to be out of the question.

Did any of you ever watch the show "The Young Ones" in the 80s.  It was a British comedy about four guys sharing an apartment.  There was Neil--the hippie, Vivian--the punk, Rick--the people's poet and Mike--the lady's man.  And it was hilarious.

One of my favorite episodes was the one where they FINALLY decide to do their laundry.  And Neil, poor stoned Neil, was putting the laundry in the washer and the washer keeps spitting it out because it is so damn dirty that it refuses to wash it.  Neil, in turn, goes running looking for help from Vivian all the while yelling "Vivian--technofear!". (Earlier in the episode an animated sock refuses to get into the laundry bag saying "I'm not going in that bag--it smells in there" which is kind of funny to me because the post I had written for you was about socks.)

Anyway, now I know how Neil felt.  TECHNOFEAR!

Here's BadKitten for you.  I'll get my act together sometime soon.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dag Nab It

I would like to blame technology or the weather or that woman from EZPass but, I have a feeling that this time, I have no one to blame but myself.  Let's just say that lately I have had a profound inability to follow directions. 

Which would explain why I've had to start Joy's socks three times. 

And why there's been no daily BadKitten. 

I hosted Thanksgiving (more about that another time) and did my annual take-all-the-paper-off-my-desk-and-stick-it-in-a-laundry-basket-in-my-bedroom.  I thought (maybe I shouldn't use the word thought because obviously, I wasn't thinking clearly) that I had preset my posts.  You see, the BadKitten list is in the laundry basket. 

But I clearly didn't so I've left you all hanging.  This is almost like the day the music died. 

BadKitten will return tomorrow--with a vengence!

There has been knitting going on her in the Y.O.  I may have lost my mind but I cast on this today in a really, really fuzzy mohair.  There's no turning back on this yarn.  Pray for me.