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.

Labels: , , ,


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.

Labels: , , , , ,


Pressure Cooker

I'm feeling very loved this holiday as my friends and family have been very attentive, we've had plenty of time to spend together, we've talked on the phone or gotten cards from many many people. It's been lovely.

I was also completely spoiled with gifts this year as well. In addition to the already-blogged presents Chris replaced my very old (like "bought it cheap when I was barely out of my teens" level old) and thoroughly trashed bakeware with a glorious new heavy-duty set, some thoroughly awesome books, and a new pressure cooker.

My mom had a super heavy-duty pressure cooker when I was a kid but pressure cookers fell out of favor and weren't even really available when I was setting up my kitchen. In the last few years they've come back in style and there's a whole range of pressure cookers out there now, both stovetop and electric. R&C have one they've spoken highly of and I believe J&J have one as well. Chris got me a stovetop model, very similar to the version from my childhood. As I've never had the hardware, I also don't have too many pressure cooker recipes but R&C loaned me their pressure cooker recipe book.

I busted out the cooker for dinner tonight and put together a quick dinner of Spanish rice. It involved nothing more than chopping and cooking some onions and celery, then browning some Italian sausage, throwing the rest of the ingredients in and bringing it up to pressure. After about two minutes, when it was happily hissing away on the stove, the rest of the cooking time took a mere 6 minutes. Maybe 20 minutes from when I started chopping to when I started dishing up the finished meal. Additionally, Kate thought it was great and had two bowlfuls!

I definitely have to play around with it some more. I'm not sure if it's big enough to make portions for game night but it would certainly be perfect for whipping up some meaty main course for the guys if it is.

Labels: , ,



Snow? On Christmas day? IN SEATTLE?!

Yes!! Woo, could this holiday get any better?

We're heading over to Ray and Christine's for dinner in a short while (and packing our overnight bags, just in case) but so far this Christmas break has been flat out awesome.

SNOW! Wheeeee!

Labels: , ,


Christmas (Eve) Miracles

It's always nice to get a surprise gift in the mail.

It's especially nice to get a gift that Santa had told Mom he was going to bring but then he didn't shop in time his elves couldn't keep up with demand and so couldn't deliver.

Friends who drop ship surprised gifts of ROCK BAND to little (and big) girls who really, really wanted it are cool as hell. Or, hella cool, as "the kids" used to say.

Thanks Hal! Hope you have a really good Christmas out there on the other coast. We'll certainly be rockin' out in your honor.



A Girl and her (borrowed) Dog

A Girl and her (borrowed) Dog
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Rosie (the World's Sweetest Dog(tm) ) is once again our guest this Christmas. Kate loooooves it when Rosie comes to visit. This was the scene last night as we packed up and went to bed.

Labels: ,



Woke up late this morning after some much needed sleep. I fell asleep on the couch trying to watch tv and relax last night then moved up to bed where I slept and slept some more. Today is the first day of several consecutive days with my family. No school, no work, just time off to do what we like.

When Chris was reduced to trying to watch Casualties of Love for the 'humor' value, I started to dread a full weekend of thumb-twiddling while we waited for the "fun" to start. I knew what presents I had for my family under the tree and was fairly sure that they'd result in a more fun weekend than watching horrific reruns.

So, I suggested that we open presents right away. Chris was game but Kate looked horrified. "But it's not Christmas yet!" I pressed my case. Wouldn't the weekend be more fun if we opened our presents and had them instead of sitting around waiting? Chris, knowing what he got for me, was convinced and remained in favor. We wore her down with a steady application of pressure. (Yes, the 12 year old was the one least interested in opening presents... can you believe it?)

Anyway, we opened up. Kate put her Santa hat on and delivered the goods.

Chris got me the holiday classic: DIE HARD! Woot! W00t! I love Die Hard and until we got together Chris had never seen the movie but he's become a fan as well. It's a holiday tradition and now it's finally mine, all mine, the first three movies in the series and the Yippee Kai Yay bonus disc.

My score of for Chris as the complete series of Homicide: Life on the Street. It's a massive 35-disc set that includes the cross-over episodes and more. It comes in a sweet miniature filing cabinet and both of us have coveted it for years. It's no longer regularly available at Amazon and it's become outrageously expensive on the secondary market but I found it at and unbelievably sweet deal and snapped it up. In fact, I couldn't believe that I'd gotten it for the price I paid... I double and quadruple checked that I wasn't buying the wrong thing but no, it was the right one. It went over as well as I'd hoped and now we have all vacation left to delve into it. Whee!

I still have stocking stuffers so Kate will have more things to open and enjoy on "real" Christmas but I have to say that I loved being the responsible adult and being able to just declare the today was Christmas. Kinda like being able to decide it's okay to eat dessert before dinner. I regret nothing.



Christmas is Over

For us, Christmas is over already. Tomorrow there will be stockings even though Kate knows the whole secret to Santa this year and we'll go over to Ray and Christine's tomorrow afternoon for a while. Low key and laid back, nothing too different from how we'd spend a typical Sunday with the crew. The big stuff is over. My mom, brother, and sis-in-law left to go back to Portland this morning. We had our big dinner (I did skip making the squash/rice side dish after all) last night and opened presents after that. We also went to see Eragon at the Cinerama and so, because of its proximity to Top Pot donuts, we had donuts for breakfast. Typical for my family, we munched donuts while Pramas explained to my SIL about Pol Pot and the campaign to exterminate Cambodia's intellectuals. Nothing says Christmas with the family like the Khmer Rouge, eh?

We actually had a very nice family visit, though our lack of a spare room was sorely felt as all our guests (including Rosie) hunkered down with the Christmas tree in the living room. I sent the family packing with a trunk full of leftovers, including half a pumpkin cheesecake. My brother called when he got home just to tell me once again how good the food was.

I spent my day playing with this. I've finally joined the world of the real MP3 player, woohoo! Pramas even got pink to match my birthday shoes and my new phone. (I've been on a pink kick this year.) Kate also got a Scrabble set so we played that tonight, too.

Not that Christmas is all about gifts, but I have to say that the gifts I received this year were fabulous. I got clothes items that fit and that I love, I got food and cooking items that I'd been coveting or that were perfect together (one gift included coffee beans, another was a spiffy new coffee making device (thanks Hal!) for example), I got books and music that I've been positively reveling in. All hits and no misses. Pramas also got me a Truthiness kit from Subversive Cross Stitch that I can't wait to tear into. I stayed up way too late reading Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation (thanks Will!) and we finished off a big chunk of the various sweets and goodies that were delivered to the house (thanks Rob, thanks Ev!).

Feeling very good about my holiday this year. No grinchy feelings at all. How nice!

Labels: , ,