Tag Archives: Christmas

What is the Holiday Spirit?

(Author’s Note: Yes, I’ve been away too long. No, this break up isn’t permanent. To demonstrate this, let me share with you a reading  I performed that was received quite well at my company’s Holiday party.

Also note – I’ve turned off comments. This is permanent, for reasons that I will gladly share with you. If you feel the need to respond to any of my thousands (!!!) of posts, feel free to e-mail me via the contact form.

- Kate)

All rights reserved by masahiro miyasaka. Used via Creative Commons License.

I’ve been doing Quality Assurance now for fifteen years. It is a very long time to be in that sort of job position, and it really begins to affect the way that one looks at the world.

To illustrate this, I would like to share with you a recent corrective action I wrote.

 

Dear Santa,

I am entering this corrective action against a feature that you had implemented upon your sleigh long after your initial design had been approved. I can find no documentation surrounding the implementation of your RLD, better known as your Rudolph Lighting Display. As you know, Section 21.93 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines a major change as a change that affects fit, form, or function. Adding a ninth reindeer whose primary function includes illuminating a relevant pathway to the aircraft, fits that definition.

I strongly recommend sitting with your  SME/DER to determine your best course of action in light of this finding. Perhaps documenting an alternative means of compliance? Regardless, I would expect at least you to be able to answer a question regarding what is the mean time between failure for reindeer.

Love,

Kate

 

I’m pretty sure I’m getting a lump of coal this year.

Before getting too much further into this, let’s take an opportunity to thank the members of the Employee Activity Committee. If you guys could stand up, lets take a moment to thank them for all the work they’ve done here tonight.

In discussing over the entertainment part of tonight with Norma, the initial thought was that I would read from one of my books. I understood where she was coming from, but the idea didn’t seem that…festive…to me.  So I suggested that I could write something especially for tonight. The question though, was what?  I asked Norma, and she said “I dunno, something that puts them in the Holiday Spirit.”

What is the Holiday Spirit?

 

It’s a simple question, really. One that is often asked in various holiday specials and sung in a multitude of songs found on light rock radio stations after Thanksgiving.

 

What is the Holiday Spirit?

My parents raised me agnostic, so I was raised under the holiday tradition of bright lights, family get-togethers,  and many awful songs. I didn’t have access to some of the more religious components of the season. When I was a child, I didn’t connect with the sanctity of the season. As such, it has taken me far longer to understand what the “Holiday Spirit” entailed.

As a child, everything I knew of this spirit, I gleaned from the various animated holiday specials that I watched on an annual basis. A Charlie Brown Christmas taught me that procuring a sickly tree was a just reason to be mocked. The Year without Santa Claus taught me that Christmas is best left to the professionals, and, as an added bonus, also  taught me that Global Warming and the Coming Ice Age is little more than a battle between the Heat Miser and Snow Miser. The Little Drummer Boy taught me that everyone digs a drum solo.

Let’s talk about The Little Drummer Boy for a moment, because it was my favorite Christmas Special. Sure, I recognized that the story was about the simplicity of the gift being appreciated by Mary and the Baby Jesus, but what had me enthralled was the fact that the drummer boy was able to connect with the animals with his drumming. The Ox and Lamb kept time! What a conceit!

The only time that I’ve been able to communicate with animals with music was when one time, when I was singing, my cat coughed up a hairball.

Anyways, somewhere in all of these shows resides the Holiday Spirit, but clearly I was too young to figure it out.

My misunderstanding was so bad, that, when in fourth grade, when asked by my teacher  to give an example of what Christmas means to me, I wrote:

 Christmas means to me, that even when someone steals your presents, trees, and roast beast, if you just stand in the middle of town and sing, the burglar will turn himself (and his dog) in, and we will hold a feast in their honor.

Yup, 9 year old me, not only plagiarized  The Grinch who stole Christmas , but I turned it into an adorable story of felony breaking & entering with a touch of Stockholm syndrome.  This was something my fourth grade teacher explained to me later, after I read her note on my homework which read simply “Please see me after class.”

My understanding of this “spirit” became even more confused as I entered my teen years, where I was apparently under the belief that the Holiday Spirit meant that I was to get whatever music I desired, and that the failure to get said music provided just reason to throw an appropriate tantrum. This belief led to the “REO Speedwagon” incident when I was thirteen, the “Night Ranger” incident when I was fifteen, and the “Metallica” incident when I was seventeen.  While at the time I believed the change in my musical tastes illustrated some measure of maturity, in truth, all of the incidents are too similar in motivations to demonstrate any measure of understanding of what the Holiday Season is all about.

I would like to think that I grew in college, and to some extent I did.  Mostly I renounced my material ways, and understood that the Holiday season isn’t really about gifts, either in the giving or receiving. Unfortunately, I painted everyone with the same large brush, mocking anyone who participated in such a gross, materialistic way, and that even a simple purchase of garland or tinsel meant that one was complicit in the great Holiday-Industrial complex conspiracy, and that even humming “White Christmas” meant that you were brainwashed.

Luckily for my family, I spent most of the holidays with college friends, where I attended various anti-Holiday parties with various English and Theater majors of the university I attended, and consumed holiday feasts consisting primarily of Wild Turkey, and Cranberry and Vodka. This was when I first understood what wisdom was. Let me say that if I now have to consider a choice between  going to parties where their primary theme is “No one really understands how miserable the world is but us” against the option of oh, I don’t know….let’s say test witnessing, I’ll choose test witnessing every time. I have truly become older and wiser.

It wasn’t until my first year after college that I started to truly understand what the Holiday spirit meant. I was on my way to a family get-together, sharing a ride with my older sister. About halfway through the drive, long enough, mind you, to demonstrate that she had given full on consideration of what she was about to say), turned to me and said:

“Don’t be a fargle.”

Actually, she said more than that, to which I’ll get to in a minute, but I need to explain the word “fargle”.

You see, my family works blue. We curse, a lot. Not drunken trucker level of cursing, but certainly a level to which it would be appreciated by a drunken trucker. So when I say “fargle” ,  for the sake of decorum, I’d like you to fill in your own obscene gerund and/or  epithet.  The point I want to illustrate here is that my sister called me a fargle.

Actually, what she said was even more profound.  What she said was “Don’t be a fargle.  Christmas isn’t about just you. And…would it kill you to smile for the sake of the rest of the family?”

At the time, I took it as a personal admonishment, which it was. But upon reflection, I realized how much this correction to my behavior was an apt description of the Holiday Spirit.

We live three-hundred and sixty some odd days of misery, of stress, or of indifference to our fellow travelers on this planet. We live in our own tragic routine, a rote application of what we’ve defined to be our lives.  Thomas Hobbes once wrote that the state of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. But the collective “we” have been able to create this holiday season that allows us to celebrate what we can be – Joyous, Peaceful, and full of friendship and love.

The Holiday Spirit is the embodiment of that understanding.  It’s a feeling where we understand that we’re all in this together, and that we share this planet with one another. And that for at least one day out of the year, we should try to smile with one another, or, at the very least, we shouldn’t begrudge another for striving for an uncynical joy. Because the holidays aren’t about you, or me. It’s about us.

And let’s face it: Our lives in this season would be far better off once we understand that we shouldn’t be such a fargle.

Happy Holidays Everyone! May you and yours have a full day of peace and joy.

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Divinity

12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 12

This is the last holiday recipe of the year. Can I get a “Hallelujah?”

Amen, Brothers and Sisters!

I bring this recipe forth today, as it has been said by others that it is Divine, that it is the Divinity. Can I get a “Hallelujah”?

Amen.

The moral of the recipe is that one can find the Divine in anything – a child’s smile, the song of a bird, and yes, even a recipe thats primarily egg whites, granulated sugar and corn syrup. Can I get yet one more “Hallelujah”?

Amen, Sisters and Brothers.

Alas, the recipe I used resulted in really thin divinity, so I’ve altered the recipe so as to provide the congregation with thicker, more sinful, cuts of the white fudge.

‘Cause that, my friends, is the true meaning of Divine – Something so wonderful that it seems that it seems wicked.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Note the sorry state of the divinity in the picture. The recipe instructions below tell us where I went wrong.

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, and hot water. Cook and stir till sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil. Stop stirring and let the sugar come to temperature.

Cook, without stirring until 250 degrees F is reached.

In a large, steel or glass mixing bowl, beat 2 egg whites with salt until stiff and forms peaks. Pour a constant stream of the syrup slowly over the egg whites.

Beat on high for about 5 minutes or when soft peaks form. Make sure the divinity loses it’s gloss and holds its shape. This is where I failed, and you can see the results in the picture.

Finally, mix in the walnuts.

Spread in a lightly greased 8″x8″ pan, and cool before cutting.

Makes 9-16 pieces of divinity

tags technorati : Recipes Candy Divinity


Gather ’round, children!

It’s Christmas Eve and Jolly Old Saint Kristen’s gonna hand out the internet’s finest food related links of 2006 (more or less) to you, in this one-time only kind-of-a-blow-off-because-come-on-it’s-Christmas-Eve post!

(Seriously, give me a break here. I still gotta wrap a bunch of gifts and figure out a way to somehow muffle the sound on this freakin’ Barbie keyboard my kid’s been asking for all year.)

Anyway! Let’s see what I’ve got here for you…

For you metrophiles, I give you: a collection of recipes from the MTA NYC Transit retirees. Some of the recipes sound pretty good, some that border on the bizarre, and some that you’re going to need a translator for. So…. pretty much like living in New York, come to think of it.

For those who love all everything in the kitchen — the cookbooks, funny foods, cool gadgets, etc. — I give you: Food Maven, written by the same woman who brings you Coconut and Lime. (In the interests of full disclosure: I was interviewed via email by Food Maven a while back, but I’m pretty sure I only came to her attention after leaving a number of omg i <3 yr blog!!1! fangirlish comments.)

For anyone who’s worn out their copy of Lilek’s Gallery of Regrettable Food, here’s an equally hilarious collection of Weight Watchers recipes from the 1970s: The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970s

For a blog that will inspire even the humblest of beginners: The Fumbling Foodie. If Dave can teach himself to make White Chocolate Souffle with Raspberry-Chocolate Sauce, I know I, for one, am certainly inspired to do it as well.

For the snarky TV watcher in us all: Television Without Pity’s recaps of Top Chef. It’s everything you wish you had thought up to say to your coworkers over the watercooler.

For people looking to read a blog about NYC food that a genuinely good read (and won’t make you feel like you’re not too cool enough read it): Madison & Mayberry, the “culinary adventures of a Southern girl in the city.”

For fans of everything kawaii: Cooking Cute, featuring bento lunches so unbearably cute, you can’t see how anyone could possibly eat them and destroy all that cute.

For everyone so inspired by that last blog you’re ready to rush out and pack your own bentos: Bento TV, featuring all the how-to bento videos you could ever want.

Well, that’s the bottom of Santa’s pack, kids. Have a great Christmas — or at least enjoy your day off — and I’ll see you back here in two weeks!


12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Elfin Shortbread

12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 11

Ooof. Out of all of the cookies I’ve made so far, these have impressed me the least.

I was looking for another ‘novelty’ type cookie, and found these little treats. Teeny tiny cookies appeal to some base instinct within me that I yet to figure out.

But after making them, they ended up being nothing more than tiny pieces of shortbread. The novelty of the idea of the recipe did not match up with the reality of the results. Alas, this happens from time to time.

And yes, when we’re referring to Santa’s workshop helpers the word is ‘elfin’. When we’re referring to the pointy-eared snobs of Middle Earth, it’s ‘elvin’. And when we’re referring to the peanut-butter and banana sandwhich afficianado, it’s ‘Elvis’.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons red+green colored sprinkles

In a mixing bowl, whip together the butter and sugar. Add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get a doughy consistency. Stir in the sprinkles. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To bake, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Take the dough and place it one parchment paper. Roll it into 1/2″ thickness. Then cut into 1/2″ by 1/2″ squares. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet into the oven and bake between 14 to 16 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on the sheet.

Makes a lot

Technorati Tags: Recipe, Cookies, Holiday+Cookies, Shortbread


12 days of Christmas Cookies: Almond Coconut Drops

12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 10

Here we are, heading into the homestretch of this cookie marathon. Let me state, for the record, that I have hit the figurative “Cookie Wall”, where I’m not sure I can bear to face another recipe and another load of cookies to make. I just thank goodness that Tara’s coworkers have taken on the task of eating a fair majority of the items I have baked thus far.

Which comes to what I believe to be a new law – Let’s call it “Kate’s Law of Christmas Cookie Baking”. This law states that “Unless one is a professional baker, one should make no more than five different cookie recipes for any Holiday season.”

Meanwhile, to answer a question posed to me by the ever lovely Tara – These are not macaroons, for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is that macaroons need egg whites, which this recipe lacks.

  • 2 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract (Amaretto will also work)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat yoru oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the coconut and the corn starch. Stir in the condensed milk and the almond extract and mix well. Lastly, mix in the slivered almonds.

Drop the coconut dough, one teaspoon at a time, onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, spreading the drops at least one inch apart from one another.

Place the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet.

Makes 2 dozen cookies, give or take

Technorati Tags: Recipes, Cookies, Holiday Cookies, Coconut Drops


12 days of Christmas Cookies: Kris Kringles

12 Days of Christmas: Day 9

I remember these cookies from my childhood, but did not know that they were called Kris Kringles until recently. It’s one of those names that make little sense to me, as the dominating ingredients (various citrus zests) seem to be the antithesis of the traditional Christmas giftbringer of Germany.

But they are fine looking cookies, that is for sure.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup AP Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • pinch o’ salt
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 12 candied cherries, halved

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until the butter becomes slightly whipped. Then beat in the egg yolk, lemon zest and lemon juice. Once combined, add the flour, orange zest and the pinch o’ salt. Mix until the dough forms and the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and place inthe refrigerator for at least one hour.

Immediately prior to taking the dough out to use, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the beaten egg whites and then roll in the chopped nuts. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Top each cookie with a cherry half.

Put the cookies into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately place on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 2 dozen +/-

Technorati Tags: Recipes, Cookie Recipes, Holiday Cookies, Kris Kringles


12 days of Christmas Cookies: Rum Balls

12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 8

These little treats contain three of my favorite ingredients (sugar, cocoa and rum) and places them into a cookie. Rum? In Cookies? It’s like I’ve died and gone to liquor heaven. And since these are no-bake cookies, the alcohol doesn’t burn off. Can life get any better? I think not.

Since there’s still alcohol in the cookies, one might wish to avoid handing these out to kids. Not that I think that there’s enough alcohol to do any damage to the kids, but rather because I think the adults need their own cookies. Let the children have their sugar cookies and rice krispie treats. We have our rum balls.

One could easily replace the rum with any number of other alcoholic beverages. I’d recommend bourbon, vanilla vokda or cinnamon schnapps. However, I personally like the rum because it allows me to use my favorite brand of rum – Sailor Jerry’s (or as I refered to it recently, “The breakfast of Champions).

  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 1/4 cups (vanilla wafer cookies
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardomom (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • Powdered sugar and sweetened cocoa powder, to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the pecans on a baking sheet, place in the oven and toast for about 8 minutes.
After cooling, chop the pecans with either a knife or place in a food processor. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Gronud the vanilla wafers by either placing them in a plastic bag and smashing the bejesus out of them with a mallet, or place them a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Add the crumbs to the bowl with the chopped pecans. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, cardomom and cocoa powder and stir until combined. Add the corn syrup and rum and mix well.

Chill the dough for one hour and then shape into 1 inch balls. Place the remaining powdered sugar and the sweetened powdered cocoa into two seperate small bowls. Roll the rum balls in either the sugar or cocoa.

makes 3 dozen

Technorati Tags: recipes, cookies, rum balls