Before the year in review, the last few weeks in review.
Chad and I are dreadful at thinking of presents to buy for each other, which I attribute partly to our poor impulse control and partly to our tendency to give all the obvious ideas to others. So I suggested to Chad that he might look for a watch to replace my broken one, which I thought would require some looking. And indeed, after a day of holiday shopping, he said he hadn't found anything.
One night over dinner, something got me on the subject of either presents or breakfast, and I said, "You know what? Screw the watch, I want a new toaster oven for Christmas. This one is the bane of my morning existence. [*] It was really cheap, we'll just give it to charity and get one that doesn't drive me crazy."
Because Chad knows me, he knew I wasn't kidding. So he agreed, and we passed on to other subjects.
[*] It was also new, actually, but I really didn't like it. I had not fully expressed my dislike for it until then, because I'd sent Chad to buy it alone one weekend when I was working, and it seemed tactless and unfair to criticize a choice I'd explicitly opted out of. Especially since I might have chosen the same, not realizeding I didn't like certain things before I'd tried them.
One night in the middle of December, I got a haircut and hit the shopping centers, picking up quite a few presents, and, in passing, a 50% off watch from a mall kiosk. Came home triumphant, displaying my shorter hair, my full shopping bags, and my new watch . . . and then saw the look on Chad's face.
"But I told you to forget about the watch!"
After apologies, explanations, and jokes about my cutting off my hair, I said I would return the watch the next day, and then realized—
"—Hey! Does this mean I'm not getting a toaster oven?"
"I didn't say that."
Maybe ten minutes later, I went into the kitchen. Halfway through filling my water bottle, the thing I'd been seeing out of the corner of my eye finally registered, and I laughed and laughed.
It was, of course, a new toaster oven.
Merry Christmas to us.
(My new watch is also very nice.)
As a general matter, we were better about dealing with holiday stuff in a rational manner this year: we did almost all of our shopping on weekdays, when things were less hectic; I actually wrapped presents ahead of time; I was able to take a reasonable quantity of time off for travel; and I made good use of my external brain, a.k.a. my Palm, to keep track of things. (In full geek-out mode, I created a database listing everyone we buy for and what we got them for Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries where appropriate. Next year I'll add new columns for 2007; never again will I say, "but did we get that for them last year?")
So while we had a lot of travel over Christmas, we were in reasonably good shape for it. Saturday and Sunday still passed in a bit of a blur: party with Mom's side of the family - crash for night - drive drive drive - crash for a couple of hours - Christmas eve with Chad's father's side of the family - CRASH. Good times, though.
As is becoming traditional, Chad's folks came up to our place for dinner post-holidays. Last year we had an awful experience at Buca di Beppo; this year one of our favorite restaurants, Cella Bistro, was a bit slow because they were really busy, and then was very slow because the kitchen had to re-do two of the entrees because (believe it or not) they weren't quite rare enough. Which is very unusual and welcome in a restaurant, but still, twice in a row is enough: next year we're cooking.
Last night I, err, was asleep at midnight. I'd been at a party next door, but started feeling a little unwell and came home to lie down. I made it to about 11:40 and then, despite my best efforts, I was out until Chad came home around 12:30. (His comment: "I knew you should've taken a nap."). Oh well.
* * *
Finally for the last few weeks, dear Internet, will you help me tweak a recipe?
This is from Alton Brown's baking cookbook, I'm Just Here for More Food, except halved, because the original recipe is only managable with a stand mixer. The one below made 27 cookies scooped with a #30 scoop. Measurements given in weights except where volume seemed more appropriate. Digital scales are nifty.
Oatmeal Raisin Coookies
- Fats and sugars
- 10 oz (284 g / 2.5 sticks) unsalted butter (whoops, I used salted)
- 6 oz (170 g) dark brown sugar
- 3.5 oz (100 g) granulated sugar
- Eggs and extracts
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (I refuse to do anything the size of a teaspoon by weight, but if you insist, that's 4.5 g or 1/6 oz)
- Dry goods
- 7.25 oz (205 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (5 g)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (3.5 g)
- 8.38 oz (234 g / 3 cups) rolled oats (plain old oatmeal)
- 4 oz (114 g / 1 cup) raisins (I suspect volume is more important than weight here, and possibly for the oatmeal too)
- Cream ingredients together, scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Oh, wait, you wanted more?
- Get the fats to room temperature.
- Combine the dry goods with a whisk, or in Brown's preference, by pulsing in a food processor (I'm not willing to wash that much extra stuff).
- Beat the egg and extracts together in a small bowl.
- Mix the fat alone to spread it around the bowl and get air into it.
- Slowly add the sugar. Mix until sugars no longer visible but can still be felt.
- Very slowly add the beaten egg mixture.
- Slowly add the dry goods until each installment is no longer visible.
(Optional: Promise your poor old hand mixer that it's done soon as it starts crying. Resolve that if planned new hand mixer still cries at cookie dough, you'll make space for a stand mixer, dammit.)
- Stir in the extras, here oats and raisins.
- Bake at 375.
Brown's recipe says bake two sheets at a time, rotate the pans at 8 minutes and bake 15-17 total. For a #30 scoop and one sheet at a time, rotate at 6 minutes and remove at 12 total. The goal is brown around the edges, which is thankfully very obvious.
- Let cool on sheet for two minutes, then remove to cooling racks.
Anyway, we like these, but they're a lot more cinnamon-y than 1 tsp would have suggested to me. We think that we might drop the cinnamon by, oh, a quarter to a half, and double the vanilla. That sound reasonable to you bakers? (Or is the salt in the butter throwing things off?)