10987654321Happy New Year!

Am I ready? No, but I never am. I never feel  like moving forward on the last day of the year. I have always been that way. I have a cassette filled with all my thoughts and feelings on New Years eve 1980. I was eight years old and would sneak away from the party to record my morose little thoughts about life on cassette.  How another year means we are getting older and closer to death...ugh! The background is filled with music, people laughing and talking, having a good time. But there I was having a real hard time with change and moving out of the '70s.

Today I went on a small hike and hung out with peacocks at Mayfield Park. It's just what I needed on the last day of the year but didn't know it.  I still have mild tendencies towards nostalgia and melancholy on the 31st but the hike cheered me up. Auntie Mame and The Apartment are two movies I'll watch tonight and I have a lemon and herb roasted chicken in the oven...stuffing and veggies because I still can't bring myself to leave the house to celebrate NYE. January 1st is always a wonderful morning though, I have always loved it, clean slate. I always wonder why I was so freaked out the night before. Happy New Year!!!


On the 5th day of Christmas...

Just about spent five wonderful hours gathered around a table with friends, champagne and yummy treats. Mentioned were the Towle 12 Days of Christmas sterling ornaments/pendants. They began production in 1971 and ran for 12 years. I have heard of them from time to time but never actually saw what they looked like until this evening when I did a Google search. 

I like the feeling of spending the 12 days in a sort of relaxed and casual bliss. Spending the evening chatting and exchanging information, ideas and stories with women I love and  haven't seen in awhile fits right into my idea of Christmas. Now I need to look up Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup because I tried some today and they are so yummy.

Honestly,  I am not crazy about the song the 12 Days of Christmas, it's like that bottles of beer on the wall song. Songs like that have long frustrated me since I was a kid.  But I do love the 12 Days of Christmas motif.


On the third day of Christmas....

It is only the third day, says the girl who can never get enough Christmas and likes it to linger {all and every single one of those} twelve days. Yesterday was the end of my most perfect turkey and stuffing ever. All gone and now only a yummy memory.  The turkey was juicy and flavorful. I baked it with herbs and apples. It's a magical thing when you try one of your Grandmother's recipes and find it tasting exactly like Grandma's right?  So was my cornbread stuffing, just like my Grandmother's, it was not flawed. Christmas eve dinner was made by someone else, it seems, not by me, it was so... is there such a thing as cooking infallibly? Maybe it was a Christmas miracle or something but everything I cooked or baked or mixed that day came out super yummy and touched  by the Divine.

Tonight I made a lentil and sweet potato soup and it was alright. Nothing special.  My husband must love me dearly because he has yet to dislike anything I make.  I am very critical of my own cooking and baking but always trying to improve. I've learned to move on and forget disasters and try, tray again.  There is much I'd like to improve on and the day to start over is fast approaching. Until then we continue to hibernate and watch episodes of  AbFab, Taxi, Dick Van Dyke and Cary Grant films. I got a few Vladmasters for Christmas too!



Merry Christmas

Turkey in the oven making the house smell nice and cozy. Mother Nature gave me a nice Christmas gift and is making the day extra special. Today is severely overcast and it's grey and dark as can be at 12:45pm. I spotted my first wild parrot this morning. He was perched on the tallest branch of the tallest tree squawking his heart out. I discovered he is a Monk Parrot and they like to live in colonies near tall moon towers and stadium lights. We have a school nearby with a football field, maybe the lights attracted him. I hope to see more of him and friends.  I tried to photograph him. My camera was not set to black and white, it just turned out that way.

When I see how our tree sparkles and kitties snoozing on the chair in the living room  with the yummy scent of Balsam and turkey roasting I just feel so warm and fuzzy inside. My favorite time of year. Merry Christmas from us in Beatsville!!!!!!!!!!



We had a full moon tonight. I spent the day paying visits and greeting visitors. I tried to light luminaries under this beautiful moon but failed.  Earlier today, my  friend Heidi dropped by with her homemade eggnog. It was her second batch. I asked for the recipe but she said it's tricky and instead just brought me some more. I felt so greedy. It's the most delightful eggnog I have ever had in my life. It's delicious and so balanced. I taste everything equally, nothing stands out, such a creamy blend.  It's 190 proof, contains Everclear and is to be sipped in tiny, liqueur glass amounts. It's so well balanced though. I wouldn't say it is for everyone. Claude had a sip and got an instant pain between her eyes. I'm a lightweight and not a big drinker but all I get is the cozies after I drink this wonderful Christmas elixir. Heidi says this is how she was taught to make it. Her grandmother used grain alcohol. I am under the impression now that this is how Germans make eggnog.

I've been watching old movies, baking breads, cookies and even made a gluten free fruitcake. I love being able to take time off from the day job and just cook and bake. From moment to moment things can be so relaxing and peaceful, so very Christmas.  Then there are brief brushes with mild chaos. Heidi's eggnog makes everything sweet and mellow and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 


Sugar Plum Fairy

I have always wanted to see the Nutcracker with my mother for Christmas.  I love this ballet and we'd watch the version with Baryshnikov that would run on PBS in the early 80's.  The only time we sort of saw the Nutcracker was when I was in it, decades {and decades} ago. We didn't watch it together. I was backstage for half of it and didn't see much. The tickets to the Ballet Austin production of the Nutcracker go on sale in September and I always forget to buy them. By October all the shows are almost sold out; the last row of balcony seats are all that are left.  This year I remembered and bought tickets for the whole family. It was a special event for all of us.

Ballet Austin was impressive and did not disappoint. The dancers, music, costumes and set were all so perfect. The entire production was flawless and surpassed my expectations. I couldn't help but get a bit  misty when the curtains opened.


Recalling Christmas parties and stuff

Our office Christmas party is tomorrow and it is supposed to get as warm as 78 degrees.  UGH! Christmas parties during work time remind me of  when I was in school and we'd begin our Christmas party at noon and have it last until school ended at three. Nothing ever got done that day. Lots of kids high on candy and excitement. To be honest it really isn't that different with my co-workers.

In 1979 my mother received a few gifts from her students that made such an impression on me I remember them to this day. I even remember where we were opening them how the Carpenter's Christmas album was playing. On the last day of school, before Christmas break, we'd help my mother open all the gifts she'd get from her students. This was super fun for us, there were always so many to open. Even though they were all for my mom we enjoyed tearing into the Christmas paper and finding total surprises.

One year my mother received a modern interpretation of the Virgin Mary done in what looked like amber colored glass. It was in fact all made from sugar. Interesting piece of work.  She had it on display in the house for a few months, maybe it was only a few weeks.  My brother and I eventually tried to eat the piece, all on the sly of course. It was ruined and then trashed. I remember it sticking to the side of the trash can.
That same year she received a shrug like sweater that at first looked like a thick scarf. I remember thinking the design was very clever. I wanted so much to wear it but it didn't fit. There were pen sets, lots of Whitman samplers and a Christmas brooch or two. She also received a cute, calico quilted traveling bag set with a brush and mirror.

What I remember most of all was the bright, turquoise tube top. I had never seen a tube top and when I first opened the gift I thought it was a purse of some sort. I picked it up and saw both openings, no strap, so I showed it to my mom and told her the mini skirt fit me. She laughed and said it's not a skirt, I then thought it must be a  large belt. When she explained what it was and how to wear it I was horrified. I had never seen my mother in anything strapless. I had never been in anything strapless, it was all sort of naked.  I can't recall who gave it to my mom anymore but whoever did must have wanted my mother to be comfortable and a bit more on the casual side. She said it could be modestly worn under a shirt too but she never wore that top, not even around the house. I would play with it wearing it as a skirt then wrapped it around several of my dolls and stuffed animals to keep them all together in this group hug sort of  position.

From what I hear not many schools do Christmas parties anymore. My teacher friends all get gifts but  no one seems to receive the mother load of chocolates, pen sets  and apparel my mother used to get. Shrugs and tube tops are still out there.


playing around


Plain ole minutiae with eggnog

Goat shares seem to be popping up slowly around Austin. The one I discovered is in Llano, TX and that's just a bit too far for us. Since I can't have my own backyard goat (really, I looked into it and it sounds like a full time job and a real handful of concerns if you want one to milk) the next best thing would be a goat share. There is an initial refundable deposit and then a monthly payment. What I get out of the deal is my very own goat who I can visit out in the country and raw goat milk for yogurt and cheeses, Mexican hot chocolate and baking. It would be cool to have a duck share (eggs) and sheep share (wool) as well.

I'm Photojojo crazy!  I love to browse and browse this website.

This year I am checking out all the gluten free Christmas recipes off yummy gluten free blogs. The three I find myself on constantly are Gluten Girl and the Chef, Cannelle et Vanille and Simply Gluten Free. Unlike the recipes in my life thus far, these all seem that they need to be followed closely. When I made gluten free biscuits and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner I had to do both over.  I am so use to just loosely following recipes and having everything turn out just fine. I hope to become familiar enough with gluten free ingredients so I can eventually adapt all my regular recipes. It isn't always as simple as substituting a gluten free flour mix for regular flour.

Seems every year I watch Rudolph I can appreciate the tedious work it must have been to create it. This year I couldn't help but notice every little finger move. A few years ago I bought the book,  The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass and it explains all skill that went into making these cartoons. "Animagic" has a warmth to it and I just don't see computer generated animation capturing that. I am biased though. When I was a kid one of the things I really wanted was a cute, fluffy puppy. I never got a furry pet so the next best thing was to have my cute, fluffy stuffed animals come to life. I think this is why I always enjoyed Rankin & Bass cartoons, they looked like stuffed animals and toys come to life. I also enjoyed the music. Their cartoon The Night Before Christmas isn't stop motion and the characters have a very distinctive 1970's look to them but I still like the music. It was made in 1974 and Broadway was big at the time or experiencing a revival. Even commercials  had a lot of the Chorus Line influence in them. Remember those old McDonald's commercials with all that singing and dancing. I digress...
  The WGN Christmas clips are back!


Leading up to St Nick's

Happy St. Nicholas Day! Did you get gifties in your stocking? Our tree arrived on Friday. 
This year it's tall and full. Setting up tree was the beginning of a Christmassy weekend.

We all attended a sing along and lighting of the tree at the state capitol. The Gardener's Feast kiosk was there and we all had their yummy tamales.  These have to be the best tamales in town. I found myself ordering a dozen. They are lard free, gluten free, no trans fats and they had plenty of vegetarian choices. What I liked the most was that most of their flavors were traditional though not as well known in Texas. They had the sweet raisin ones my Abuelita used to make. They didn't have any sweet pineapple. I am afraid 1982 will forever remain the last time I ever had those tamales. 

We then headed over to the Elizabet Ney Museum ( Formosa) for their Christmas event. This museum is my favorite place in town. It was nice to see it at night and wander among the statues. It's a wonderful studio.We finished our night at Blue Genie.

On Sunday we spent the evening on the couch by the tree watching the Christmas episodes of old TV shows.  It was cozy and nostalgic, nice things to feel during the season.



We don't see snow much in Austin, TX.  We get ice every now and then. Earlier this year we all enjoyed a freak snowfall in February that lasted all of 90 minutes or so. Maybe less. Everyone brought out their cameras and ran outside, phone calls were made, work stopped, and all you heard were squeals of delight while we enjoyed the "snow".  It was big news on all channels, people interviewed, tons of footage of {us} Austinites trying to make snowmen, Texas snowmen that were more dirt and mud than snow.

This weekend, at the traditional Christmas sing along at the state capitol, I looked up and spotted bugs in the light. They didn't look like moths and other light bugs, they looked like snowflakes just starting to fall from the sky. So that's what they were while we sang Christmas carols, crazy snowflakes, teehee. Thank you, Fred Rogers, for giving me such strong powers of  make believe.


Christmas Cat