Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Christmas Baking 2009, Round 1

Christmas Baking 2009, Round 1
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
I did my first round of Christmas baking today.

Today's dishes: ginger-wasabi popcorn, fudge sauce, barbecue spice rub, sugarplums, chocolate-filled croissants, apricot rugelach, and chocolate gingerbread bundt cake.

Only one of my planned recipes met with disaster, because my oven was running a little hot. Two cookie sheets of mixed spiced nuts ended up burning. They weren't uniformly burned, just enough so that they tasted gross. After sampling I decided to toss them.

Oh, I also made some cheddar and chive scones today. Don't like the recipe I used as much as the Cooking Light and America's Test Kitchen recipes for scones I've used in the past but they were satisfying enough with a couple of cups of coffee.

I've got cranberries marinating in a simple syrup for tomorrow's two-fer recipe: sugared cranberries, with the bonus of leftover cranberry-infused simple syrup! Must mix up some cocktails with that this holiday.

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Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines

Tomorrow may just be the day when I finally get the plumber into the house to install the heat exchanger and pressure gauge for our defective heating system. We got our settlement in October and have been talking with this plumber for weeks trying to schedule him to come in. I can't imagine how frustrated I'd be if we'd actually had to go with the full-on "rip out all the walls and pipes" plan at this point, with the cold weather upon us and scheduling conflicts abounding. Fingers crossed for good news and an effective solution this week!

Kate celebrated her 14th birthday this weekend, with a girly sleepover on Friday that dragged well into Saturday afternoon. Red velvet cake was made. I used Pinch My Salt's recipe and dirtied about every bowl in the house in the process but managed not to ruin anything in the kitchen with red food coloring. The girls were gleefully using the Domino's online pizza creation tool to create concoctions but Chris talked them into getting their actual pizzas from Stellar Pizza so they'd be, you know, edible. One Beanie and one Fidalgo Four Cheese later and the girls settled down to watch Star Trek together. One of the girls couldn't stay the night so I drove her home a little after midnight and, aside from having to put a stop to some rough-housing at 1am, the whole thing went off well and Kate was happy.

It was poignant for me because I'm all too aware of the changes looming in the future for these girls. Not bad changes at all, just that they're on the road to becoming lovely young adults. The girl who left early had to do so because she needed to spend the weekend working on her high school applications! Some of these girls have known each other since kindergarten but with Seattle's new school boundaries they're all most likely going to different schools by next year. Some are applying to private schools or magnet schools or out-of-district schools because the choices we're presented are difficult or dubious.

Kate's got three options under the new school plan. One is a small alternative school that had historically been good but last year was merged into a building with another orphaned program and an existing middle school. Parents complained that the new building didn't have proper science labs for high school science requirements, the building has several million in needed building upgrades that haven't been addressed because of the Seattle budget crisis, etc. There's not even a Nova school webpage anymore, so I don't know what to expect from that program, though it is a natural transition for kids from a school like Orca (250 or so kids, alternative education curriculum).

The second option is a new math and science magnet school. This is currently a regular high school in a recently upgraded building. It's the closest HS to our house and currently one of the worst programs in the city (lowest WASL scores... frex, less than 7% of students passing
the state's science requirement, highest dropout rate, highest suspension rate, lowest SATs). The new superintendent has decided to remake this school into a School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). The school will have accelerated math and science "academies" and an extra-long school day to add an additional full period. High focus on math and science with few to no options for electives and extra-curriculars and a school population of 1600 students. Kate is good at math and science and is currently on track to be able to enter HS having completed freshman math but that's all a huge switch from her educational experience up to this point. No idea if it would be a welcome change or a complete disaster for her.

The last option is the default high school: a failing high school with about 1500 students where 1/4 of freshman fail to earn the 5 credits necessary to advance, where only 28% meet standard in math and 18% meet standard in science. And, of course, there's also the issue of gang problems in the big Seattle high schools. Not exactly high on my list of places to send my child.

Of course all of this is what I see through my mom glasses. The kids are only vaguely aware of what lies ahead for them, nervous but excited about high school's opportunities. Four years of high school seems like a long way off and long time to get through when you're 14. When you're 40 and looking back at how fast those 14 years have flown by, being one high school career away from adulthood is more akin to a race car hurtling into the final lap, checkered flag in sight.

Speaking of mothers, my mom called Kate for her birthday and then talked to me for a while. She shared the results of some of her recent medical tests and will be needing more surgery in 2010, this time it'll be removing a section of her colon and will be a much bigger deal than the relatively minor sinus surgery. She hasn't talked to the surgeon yet so I don't know what the timeline is. She seems to think that she can put it off until the summer but I told her to let me know what the surgeon actually says. I suppose there's a chance that this will spoil the cruise we're supposed to take with Kate's class in May and, of course, if our experience with her sinus surgery is any indication she's going to need a lot of outside help with her recovery whenever this surgery takes place. I'm steeling myself, as I will inevitably be called up for duty.

Nothing to be done about it now, so I'm setting my sights on Christmas and chugging ahead towards the new year. Must decide on a holiday menu since it will be just the three of us for the first time in years.

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November Food Recap

It all started around my birthday. I got a great response to my call for birthday recipes and my head was swimming with the possibilities. Chris threw me a delightful brunch with a dozen friends, rich with food and cocktails. In fact, it was Serafina's first day with their new seasonal menu and everything but two Serafina standards was new to me.

A few days into my 41st year, I was assaulted by yet another food extravaganza! I choose the word assaulted on purpose because I've never had an experience quite like it. Ray and I went out to Elemental @Gasworks which I hadn't even heard of before let alone been to (I'm a bit out of the loop on the hot new high end places these days) but Ray had and thought I would enjoy. I'm glad Ray had been to the restaurant before and warned me a bit about it because it apparently has a bit of a negative reputation with some foodies and I could easily have been put off by the experience if I hadn't been warned in advance. Here's the deal: if you're going to go to Elemental, you'd best be prepared to have the experience wash over you and be willing to go with it. Host and owner Phred Westfall said approximately five sentences to us through the entire multi-course dinner. He offered us a table, asked us if we were ready for a cocktail, asked if we had any food allergies, and um, pretty much nothing else. There was no pretense, no gushing over how the greens were locally sourced or this vintage of wine came from the Yakima region. Nothing. No explanation whatsoever. When a small poultry dish of some sort was set in front of us I actually tried to ask Phred if it was quail or something else... but he dropped the plate and was off again without a word of acknowledgement. Another time I had fallen behind on the wine pairings, to the point that I hadn't even tasted the glass in front of me when he was ready to serve the next course... and there went the wine glass, bye-bye, I don't even get to taste it because it no longer goes with the food in front of me. the lighting was also very dark, so honestly it was hard to see what we were eating! I can really see how this would rub some food-lovers the wrong way!

That said, I had a fabulous dinner. The food was EXQUISITE. Yes, many times I was forced to stick my finger in a sauce and say "I think it's mustard... and hazelnut..." or "Yes, there's some sort of fish with this salad... I'm not sure what it is... it's GOOD though." I had the best lamb chops I've ever had in my life, that had me unashamedly gnawing the bones to get every scrap of meat right in a public restaurant. Each course was served with a generous pour of a paired wine and wow, by the time we finished dinner I was a little woozy. I wish I could even remember (or knew to begin with) what I'd eaten! It was lovely and they're clearly very talented, kind of the anti-Herbfarm (where they give you a little menu of what you've eaten as a keepsake).

The following week I took advantage of another birthday gift, this one from John and Jenny, who gave me a gift certificate to Theo Chocolate. Wednesday night I attended one of their Chocolate University classes, "Chocolate: Exotic and Erotic" where I learned how to make simple chocolate scrubs, lotions, and lip balms in the first half and then listened to a lecturer from Babeland (NSFW) who delved into the erotic and sensual (chocolate lotion, chocolate candles, chocolate body paint, and ahem, more) and was a great presenter, lots of humor. I passed on picking up a "better then chocolate vibrator" but did gluttonously spend the rest of my gift certificate plus some picking up assortments of chocolates (including their collection of scotch-infused chocolates, using great single malts like Oban and Talisker!) and several seasonal varieties plus a couple of body scrubs and lotions from our earlier presenter, whose products I was familiar with already.

Rounding out November was Thanksgiving. We spent this Thanksgiving with John and Jenny and their extended family, which was a great deal more fun than staying home just the three of us let me tell you! We participated in the potluck dinner by contributing Kate's favorite Pumpkin Pie (which she made herself) plus some Wild Rice Stuffing, a cranberry-pear-ginger cobbler (recipe I'll post later) and a cranberry-vanilla bean sorbet that didn't set up properly in the ice cream maker but was really yummy anyway. We ate SO MUCH, sampling everything we brought, plus turkey, gravy, bread stuffing, brussels sprouts, grean beans, and more. So good, a really nice night.

I've bene doing a little more cooking again after a bit of a hiatus where Dragon Age consumed me and pizza, beer, and xbox sounded like the best thing in the world. I'm better now. A couple of the recipes I've been particularly pleased with include Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew and this Corn, Clam and Mussel Chowder, without the mussels.

I've been tinkering again with my website, hoping to find a better way of displaying my recipes for people who want to browse or print them but I'm still unhappy with the way things are so I'll keep limping along with the current format for now, I suppose.

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