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!
We then open the presents that we have given each other and prepare to go over to Jonathan’s for more Christmas celebrations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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,
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.
Wood treatments (Borates are effective against fungus, termites, and ants.)
Flat screen TVs and computers (Borates are a key ingredient in Liquid Crystal Displays.)
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.
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.