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Those Trees

December 27, 2016

This photo was shot on this day in 2015. I like the trees in Winter. Love them in Spring, too, and Fall.. but especially in Winter.

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This photo was shot on this day in 2014, probably while standing on the driveway..

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And this in 2013, definitely from the driveway…

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And 2012, from down the street…

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I just like that December 27 seems to be a shoot trees day.

Dog Gone It

December 26, 2016

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Look who I found roaming around the hood. Clearly, belongs to someone… but seemed a bit lost here.. hope he makes it home.

December 25, 2016

Here are some shots from Christmas 2016:

Peter and his new putter…

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(He’s also wearing a nice new sweater and shirt…looks so nice.)

The three of us and a few of our favorite things…

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That’s a fancy, felted wool hat handmade by an artist at the Artery, Jim’s new arctic-grade down coat, and Peter w/ aforementioned putter, sweater and shirt. Just a samplin’

Jim gave me some special lenses for my iPhone camera… for example…

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We did some carol singing at Monica’s and Dror’s..

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That’s Dean, Peter, Nina–Ben’s new sweetie from Slovenia–and Ben.

Here are 3/5th of the Dean/Annita Frame kids.. Alan, John and Monica:

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Some strong family resemblance there!

Didn’t get a good one of Marie. And could only speak with Mark via phone (in DC). And this was the first Christmas without Annita (though she was living in the convalescent home last year). Sure missed her being there.

 

Here are Maita with Matthew and Dean:

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Peter and Ben at the dinner table–cousins and friends:

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Da cousins:

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And that’s a wrap.

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News from the Peterson/Johnson clans: Staci’s dad, George, died unexpectedly on Christmas eve. George was a joyful character, owner of KC Brannagan’s in Long Beach, and loved by many. They all continued with their plans to celebrate Christmas at the Johnson’s… it was important for everyone to be together. Petersons gathered the night before at Mom’s for Christmas Eve dinner. Mom wasn’t up to a big crowd on Christmas day, but the boys all headed to Staci’s and Eric’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Eve

December 24, 2016

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Christmas Eve, for which I’ve not a single Christmas tree, Christmas table, people or food shot, was a lovely time spent with the Cavins. I can hardly believe I missed photos…. because we’re all so cute and we put together such a spectacular dinner. But there you are.

I’ll give you the food line-up anyway and you’ll have to trust me that it was a handsome meal: great apps, hot cider and wine; Jim’s beef brisket and black beens, my squash and apples, Bill’s scalloped potatoes, Sabrina’s chopped and sauteed Brussels sprouts, and salad; pound cake and Harry & David pears, and my rocky road, toffee and cookies. And more gift cookies and peanut brittle… no shortage of desserts. It was all so yummy–some great chefs amongst us–and the company so relaxed and comfortable.

Yay.

 

Busy Baking

December 23, 2016

I thought I might skip baking this year due to my stupid hip, because maybe I’d have trouble standing for long stints in the kitchen, and who needs more Christmas cookies and candy anyway, and isn’t it time to shake up the traditions a bit, and well, I considered all that, but then thought maybe I’d just do one trial batch of a new cookie, maybe just that, and some Christmas day muffins, but that would be all… and before you knew it, I was baking, and four days later I’d pretty much done the usual amount, even though I’d planned to cut way back on the number of deliveries.

And, having chosen to do it–fought to do it against my own will–I enjoyed it a lot.

Weirdo.

Started on Monday with umpteen dozen Snowballs.

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Now.. these Snowballs were a new thing, a variation on the butter balls (Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies, pecan sandies… all the same) that I make every year. The distinguishing feature of these was chocolate… chocolate chips. And they were o k a y… but not the same. I got complaints, believe it or not. And… I have to agree… they are not the same. Going back to the Silver Palate’s fabulous butterball recipe next year.. not messing with a good thing.

I’ll tell you what I think I’m gonna ditch, though… been thinking about it for awhile… these rocky road things I’ve been doing for about 7-8 years:

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I even came up with a funny little twist–adding a marshmallow to the top just for a visual pow–but I’m really unimpressed with them. Been lured by how easy they are to make–seriously.. minutes to assemble and lay out on a tray to harden, after a quick melt of a bag-o-chips and mix of the above ingredients–but, they just aren’t fabulous. Easy, but not something to really luxuriate over.

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Buh bye rocky road.

Hello, maybe, chocolate-covered toffee. It doesn’t hold a candle to Denise’s, and isn’t as addicting as Lisa’s peanut brittle–both holiday essentials hereabouts–but it’s easy and kind of no-fail… and I got good reactions to it.

Start by stirring until brown (about 10 minutes) a mixture of sugar, butter and vanilla. Pour that over some nuts (toasted whole almonds, or crushed, or none at all). Then, while still molten hot, sprinkle chocolate chips over the top:

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After a couple of minutes, the chocolate is soft, and smooths right over the already hard toffee. Then you can sprinkle some chopped pecans on top:

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That sets up, and after about an hour or two, break it up and voila:

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After a few days, I’d amassed an impressive quantity of stuff, all ready to pack up for delivery and hostess gifts. (I hate the term, “hostess gift,” …. so sexist fifties.)

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Finished the holiday baking spree with a couple dozen muffins–one batch of gingerbread, which I’m insanely in love with, and one batch of lemon poppyseed, which, though incredibly fussy, a la Williams-Sonoma, are incredibly good. I love them both, and even though I’m really the only one around here who likes and eats them, I’m gonna continue making them for the rest of my holiday life.

 

 

 

Toddies and Tidings

December 22, 2016

Continuing the dinner with friends theme of Christmas this year…we had Phil over. Rarely do we get a few hours of unencumbered time just to talk and hang out. Seems whenever we see Phil, it’s in passing, or at another party with lots of people. Tonight, though, we got to actually talk and catch up.

He arrived with toddy fixings. Wuhoo! Bourbon, spiced pear liqueur, lemon juice, an orange dotted with cloves, honey and boiling water.

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Peter hung out for a while and they got a good long game of chess in (ended in a stalemate):

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Amina dropped in in time for dessert (Jim’s bread pudding and gelato), which was a nice surprise. Sat by the fire and Phil did a bit of this:

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Lovely, lovely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HFTH #13

December 21, 2016

It’s that Home for the Holidays time of year again! We’ve missed one or two since the tradition to gather local musicians for a holiday-themed, if unconventional, concert began thirteen years ago. We’ve enjoyed each and every one.

The show always begins with Joe Craven shaking sleigh bells in the rear of the theater, at the top of the stairs to quiet the audience. Then he sings the line, “Happy Holidays,” as he slowly descends on his way to the stage, followed by “Home for the Holidays.” Regulars (most of the crowd) know to respond in kind when he pauses after each line.

Then it’s about eight different musical acts, each typically performing three songs, mostly holiday-themed. Most of the performers are returnees year after year, and many repeat certain favorite songs.

Knock-your-socks-off talent, heavy doses of local humor, smily-worthy warmth, many familiar faces in the crowd, set changes on the fly, and lotsa improvisation and inside jokes make for just a great night.

Some of my favorites:

The insanely talented and funny Joe:

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Rita Hoskings:

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Little Charlie (Baty):

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Tracy Walton, Chris Webster and Bill Edwards:

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And a new act this year, this 14-year-old harpist who got the first-ever HFTH standing ovation! Her name is Alaina Rose, who’s played with the Sacramento Youth Symphony, the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and the University of the Pacific Youth Orchestra. Ridiculously poised and talented:

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You can tell we’re in the first row.

The talent and passion blow me away every year. I walk out hurting from all the smiling.