December 25, 2015 – Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas morning starts in the usual way with a breakfast of bagels and lox with cream cheese, onions, and capers. We wash this down with a bottle of Schneider Weissbier served in our Brasserie du Pilat glasses. The glasses were acquired a few years ago when John and I visited the Parc du Pilat in France. Yum, what a great breakfast!

Christmas breakfast!

Christmas breakfast!

We then open the presents that we have given each other and prepare to go over to Jonathan’s for more Christmas celebrations.

Sarah opening a present

Sarah opening a present

Jon makes a wonderful prime rib and the whole family gathers to enjoy the feast! Nathan and Sam are still excited about getting their presents and show them to us.

Christmas feast!

Christmas feast!

Sam in his new dragon pajamas with Auntie Leigh

Sam in his new dragon pajamas with Auntie Leigh

 

December 24, 2015 – Pilat Eve

On Christmas Eve we have an orgy of hors d’oeuvres, singing, and opening presents. We call it Pilat Eve. Here are some pictures from the event –

Nathan opening a present

Sam opening a present

Nathan showing Mom his new interactive Lego set

Nathan showing Mom his new interactive Lego set

Sam approves!

Sam approves!

Sarah looks happy opening her gift!

Sarah looks happy opening her gift!

Jon working at the sewing on his gift beanbag

Jon working at the sewing on his gift beanbag

John is a tidy opener

John is a tidy opener

Gram and Gramps are enjoying the evening too!

Gram and Gramps are enjoying the evening too!

John and Mary pose in front of the fireplace

John and Mary pose in front of the fireplace

Jonathan and Nathan enjoy a game of Connect4

Jonathan and Nathan enjoy a game of Connect4

December 6, 2015 – The birthdays

Where has the time gone!? Here it is another birthday. George and I are celebrating together as usual but we seem older and gimpier this year. I turn 67 and George is 72. We both have knee problems. It’s been a lot of birthday celebrations since I was 29 and he was 34.

This year we are spending the birthdays in Lodi. We are going to three wineries and having dinner at a place called Wine and Roses which is a hotel, event center, and restaurant.

I am expecting that wineries in Lodi will be garage-type affairs or maybe off the back of someone’s pick-up truck. But, no! The first place we go to, Oak Hill Farm is beautiful. The wine is tasty and the server knowledgeable.

Mary, Karen, and George in front of Oak Farm Winery

Mary, Karen, and George in front of Oak Farm Winery

 

George and Mary with vintage car (like us!)

George and Mary with vintage car (like us!)

Interior of Oak Farm Winery

Interior of Oak Farm Winery

We go to a couple of other wineries but they are more like my original idea of Lodi wineries. They appear to be repurposed  bungalows. The wine is just okay.

For lunch we stop at the Lodi Airport Airport Cafe. It has been suggested to us by the server at Oak Farm. It’s right on the runway of the local airport! It kind of reminds me of the Airport Inn in Red Bank. The fare is sort of upscale lunch stuff but my eggplant sandwich is greasy and the fries served with it are enough for three people. John munches some of them but there are still plenty left over.

Mary in front of the Lodi Airport Cafe.

Mary in front of the Lodi Airport Cafe.

Later in the afternoon we check into our rooms at the Wine and Roses Event Center/Hotel/Restaurant. After a little nap and shower we meet for drinks and dinner.

Karen and George in the bar

Karen and George in the bar

Mary and John in the bar

Mary and John in the bar

The food is good but is somewhat spoiled by a very noisy group who hover around our table shrieking, hugging and high-fiving each other. We are not the most popular people in the place when we complain. George and John are very annoyed and I am glad the whole encounter ended with no one getting punched!

Another celebration done.  Happy Birthday to us!

 

 

December 7, 2015 – Thanksgiving, 2015 (a little late!)

We have ten for dinner – Mary, John, Sarah, Jonathan, Ryan, Nathan, Sam, Leigh, Rose, and John. Leigh is Ryan’s sister and Rose and John are  Ryan and Leigh’s parents. It gets confusing around here sometimes with all the John/Jons.

There are lots of contributions to the dinner. John P. made the turkey and the gravy.  I made roasted creamed onions, mashed potatoes, and brussels sprouts. Sarah made sweet potatoes. Jonathan made green beans and dressing. Ryan made cranberry sauce.  Sam made crescent rolls. Rose and John made stimparata (a Sicilian olive dish), veggies and dip, and three pies – mince, apple cranberry, and pumpkin. All the food is delicious and there really are not too many leftovers.

It is a lot of work and I am pretty tired out and my back is really hurting by the time we sit down for dinner. I need to find a way to simplify the preparation, presentation, and clean-up. I will work on that for next year!

My hollowed out squashes filled with flowers

My hollowed out squashes filled with flowers

The table all set

The table all set

John's turkey preparation ready to go into the oven

John’s turkey preparation ready to go into the oven

My roasted creamed onions

My roasted creamed onions

Everyone chooses their own plateful

Everyone chooses their own plateful

The family around the table

The family around the table

December 6, 2015 – Happy Hanukkah!

After getting all my Santas settled in their correct places, we moved on to Hanukkah tonight. John made some incredibly delicious latkes which were thoroughly enjoyed by us and by our next door neighbors. Indeed, the wafting smell of grease and frying potatoes probably had the whole vicinity wishing that had latkes tonight.  Happy Hanukkah!!

John’s recipe for Potato Latkes

(This is best done outdoors due to the lingering smell of grease and slickness of the floor after frying in the house.)

Ingredients:
5 medium russet potatoes
1/2 medium onion
1 tbs table salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs flour or matzoh meal
1 tsp baking soda
Lots of vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup olive oil for frying
Important power tools are electric fryer (I use an electric wok) and food processor with coarse shredding disc.
Wash and dry potatoes; leave skin on.
Shred potatoes in food processor.
Shred onion in food processor.
Combine potato, onion, salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and flour/matzoh meal.
Add baking soda.
Heat frying oil mixture  to 375 degrees F.
Take a blob of potato mixture and press out liquid to make a 3 inch disk.
Slide into hot oil.  Make a batch of 6.  Fry until GBD.  Remove on rack to 275 degree oven.
Let oil temperature recover between batches.
This should make 3 batches of 6 latkes each.
Enjoy!

 

John with his fry station set-up (outside!)

John with his fry station set-up (outside!)

Sliding one in!

Sliding one in!

Frying disk of potato yumminess

Frying disk of potato yumminess

First night candles and latkes

First night candles and latkes

December 5, 2015 – Xmas decorating begins

I have a few Santa figurines. Well, maybe like over 100. They are all in individual boxes which are packed in bigger boxes that are stored in a loft in our garage. Some Christmases I put them all out and others, just a few. I think this is a go for it, put them all out kind of year.

John graciously gets the ladder out and we start transferring the boxes of boxes down. Our assembly line of Dad to Mom, to Sarah works well and we have all the boxes in, in an hour. For the next several hours we unpack. We repair those who have become unglued over their sojourn in the garage this past year. I start to arrange them. I run out of steam. At least I have a picture of the behind the sink set up.

Kitchen Santas include, coffee and tea Santas, gingerbread house Santa, turkey platter Santa, rolling pin Santa, chocolate Santa, Italian  bread Santa and more.

Kitchen Santas include, coffee and tea Santas, gingerbread house Santa, turkey platter Santa, rolling pin Santa, chocolate Santa, Italian bread Santa and more.

December 4, 2015 – Ethiopian dinner

Misr wat, atakilt, and faux injera

Misr wat, atakilt, and faux injera

Tonight I try to make an Ethiopian dinner much like we have at Zeni’s in San Jose. There is not a single person in our household who does not preface Zeni’s with mmmmm…Zeni’s!

I think my atakilt which is cabbage, potatoes, and carrots in an aromatic blend of spices is pretty good. Tonight I also made misr wat, spiced lentils. But one of the best things about Ethiopian food is that it is served on a platter lined with injera, their bread made from the ancient grain, teff.

I try making a faux injera with AP flour, rye flour, club soda and vinegar. Sarah and I try making it as a crepe but it doesn’t work out. Then we try baking it in a thin layer in the oven. It still comes out after 45 minutes tasting weird and not thoroughly cooked.

I think my Ethiopian-at-home adventure is over. The next time I want authentic flavored I will go to Zeni’s. Mmmmm….Zeni’s.

December 3, 2015 – The Daily Claus

Back in 2011 I did a series of Santa scenarios using my endless supply of Santas. I don’t think I ever put them on my blog. I guess I could write about all the hideous things that are going on in the world but I think I will post these pictures over the next few weeks interspersed with some real time events.

THE DAILY CLAUS "Dr. Santa, do you think we can save him?" "Hand me my glue gun, stat!"

THE DAILY CLAUS
“Dr. Santa, do you think we can save him?”
“Hand me my glue gun, stat!”

December 2, 2015 – Borax Visitor Center, Boron, CA

(We visited the Borax Visitor Center on November 10, 2015.)

One of the games we play in the car is “How many towns can you name that are (fill in the blank.) In this case our game is, how many towns can you name that are elements. Boron is one. Situated in the Mojave desert between the towns of Mojave and Barstow, it is kind of a bleak place. We’ve stopped in Boron before to see their museum but we’ve never been to the Borax Visitor Center which is situated just north of CA 58. After twelve years of plying this route back and forth between Pleasanton and St.George, it is high time that we pay a visit.

The Borax works include a giant pit, refinery, and visitor’s center. The visitor’s center is open daily. Down a long road you approach the refinery, then turn right past the pit, and finally ascend a hill of tailings to the visitor’s center which is buried at the top like a bunker.  There are plenty of things to see outside and at the overlook first.

The Visitor's Center is two quonset huts mashed together.

The Visitor’s Center is two quonset huts mashed together.

Here's the 20-mule team logo.

Here’s the 20-mule team logo.

Better yet, there's also a life-sized 20-mule team!

Better yet, there’s also a life-sized 20-mule team!

We wander around the yard in front of the museum and look at a big tire and also walk up to the platform with a great view of the works and giant pit.

So you think I look tire-d?

So you think I look tire-d?

Giant pit! (2 miles long, 1 3/4 miles wide and 755 feet deep)

Giant pit! (2 miles long, 1 3/4 miles wide and 755 feet deep)

Trucks entering and leaving the pit with ore

Trucks entering and leaving the pit with ore

 

A really large truck filled with ore

A really large truck filled with ore

The mine produces about three million tons of ore per year which is refined down to around one million tons of products in the on-site refinery

The mine produces about three million tons of ore per year which is refined down to around one million tons of products in the on-site refinery

Now it is time to go into the museum. We are met by an earnest young employee who shows us a movie and answers our questions to the best of his ability. (This guy who is probably in his mid-20’s has lived in Boron his whole life. It is a town of 4000 people in the middle of the desert. When we told him we were from the Bay Area he opined that he’d like to visit San Francisco some day. It’s hard for us to imagine why he would stay in Boron.)

As we walk around the museum we see displays of ore, a giant crystalline piece of boron ore and information about Ronald Reagan and the supporting cast from Death Valley Days. There are displays of all the things that boron is used for including,

  1. Agricultural products (boron is a micronutrient essential to the proper growth of vegetables and fruits such as corn, alfalfa, coffee, fruite trees, peanuts, grapes and strawberries.
  2. Ceramics
  3. Detergent (Borax)
  4. Fiberglass
  5. Glass
  6. Flame retardants
  7. Wood treatments (Borates are effective against fungus, termites, and ants.)
  8. Flat screen TVs and computers (Borates are a key ingredient in Liquid Crystal Displays.)
Unrefined ore from large rocks to fine granules

Unrefined ore from large rocks to fine granules

John doing a thorough job of totally understanding boron

John doing a thorough job of totally understanding boron

Some television and movie notables who started out on Death Valley Days

Some television and movie notables who started out on Death Valley Days

Rio Tinto Minerals operates this mine. They have a long history dating back to 1872 when the company founders began mining borates in Nevada. The operation is now global.

Another interesting Rio Tinto open pit mine that we have visited is the Bingham Canyon Mine located 28 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Originally a copper mine, it now extracts a variety of minerals in a pit that is 3/4 of a mile deep. It is immense and definitely worth of visit.

December 1, 2015 – Blogtacular

Over the last two months Sarah has been writing an entry every day on her blog. The idea was to get her back into the mindset of recording what is going on in her life.  There was a time when I made a post every day with a thought that was circulating through my brain, a word that had captured my fancy, and an encouragement to live a healthy lifestyle. Then I had a small siege of hurtful comments and I stopped putting personal thoughts in my blog and only wrote about family events and travel.

This month I am going to try to write a post each day. Some of it will be about events already passed like Thanksgiving. Some will be about what is happening next like the celebration of The Birthdays next week. Several will no doubt be about food, a subject near and dear to my being. And maybe I will be brave enough to say Happy Holidays again and express a personal opinion without worrying about the haters coming after me.

When I write an intention down, I am much more likely to follow through.