Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So long, 2009

We are off for a few days to ring in 2010 in style. I have a feeling 2010 is going to be particularly awesome--I think I do better in even years, and wll, this one already has lots of pretty amazing things planned.

So here's my not-so fond farewell to 2009.

While the past year was pleasant in many ways, there are a few things that 2009 can keep. My Top Nine Things That Can Stay in 2009 are:

1. New Year’s Resolutions. This is 2010, ya’ll. If the ancient Mayans and John Cusack are to be believed, we’ve only got two years until Armageddon. I suggest we all abandon the resolutions and prepare bucket lists instead.

2. Open microphones at award shows. This was a great list Sub Diva, and I’m going to let you finish, but People had the best Top list of all time!

3. Books about vampires. I love a good teenaged love story with the undead as much as the next gal, but how about we mix it up this year with some sea creature romances?

4. Pirates. Seriously, I said 2009, not 1709. And they’re not even vampires.

5. Guest lists at State Dinners. It’s harder to sneak into an R-rated movie than it is for breakfast in bed in the Lincoln bedroom.

6. Lax golf club laws. Poor Tiger.

7. TLC, a.k.a “The Learning Channel.” Let’s get real, folks. This is the network that gave us Jon minus Kate and What Not To Wear. Unless you’re majoring in family dysfunction and remedial fashion through public humiliation, you ain’t learnin’ nothin’ on The Learning Channel.

8. H1N1. But I don’t mind the built-in excuse as to why I can’t shake hands with a creepy dude at a cocktail party or refraining from dipping my hand into the bowl of Doritos that’s been passed around the room.

9. Top nine lists. In 2010 it’ll just look lazy.

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome 2010.

©2009 (for the last time!) Tracey Henry

Cross-posted at

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Recap

Christmas was what it should be--loud, excessive, messy and totally magical.

We picked up my Dad and Mary Anne from the airport on Wednesday and headed to the Lightning game which is always fun and a good excuse not to cook.

We got an early present on Christmas Eve morning when Santa dropped a load of snow on our front lawn. (I guess Santa was at said hockey game as well and may or may have not had some Zamboni remnants in his sleigh runners.)

The kids played in that for about 4 minutes until it melted in the Florida sunshine and then we headed over to Attention Home to deliver their gifts and got ready for church and partying. I enslaved my father into wrapping an obscene amount of presents and Matty tracked Santa on Norad all night and actually fell asleep before 11:00 because Florida was Santa's first American stop.

Christmas morning began early and lasted late, and we watched Christmas movies, ate too much, soaked in the hot tub and put together 811 toys. Perfect.

We spent the rest of the weekend perfecting the art of chillaxing which might have been the best present of all and a nice way to end 2009.

2010 should be so perfect.

Friday, December 25, 2009

One last thought this Christmas Eve...

The Norad Santa tracker is pretty much the greatest thing ever invented.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My To Do List:

1.) Wrap eleventy five hundred gifts.

2.) Enjoy the holiday.

Both of which I intend to over the next few days.

The kids are bouncing off of the walls--in that good Christmas-y way, and you just can't help but want to put on an ugly Christmas sweater and join them. It's about to get really messy, noisy and happy around here, and I can't wait.

Enjoy yours!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our family's secret recipe: German Twists

I wouldn’t have believed this unless site meter told me it was so, but many people stumble upon my blog/site from the search words, “German Twist Cookies.” Until this digital confirmation, I would have thought my immediate family was the only humans on earth familiar with this delicacy since I’ve never seen them anywhere except my family Christmases.

If you’re not familiar with them, I wrote about the process of epic baking them here a couple of years ago, but I never wrote out the recipe. Something I intend to correct today.

Great Grandma’s (Rick’s?) German Twists

1 package of yeast dissolved in ¼ cup of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar

At least 3 ½ cups of flour (You’ll need closer to 5)

1 tsp. salt

1 cup of Crisco (seriously)

1 cup sour cream (full fat version, it’s Christmas)

3 eggs-- 1 whole, 2 yolks

1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon
(Actually, I have no idea if these are the measurements, you have to just eyeball it, and I don’t think you can screw it up)

Clear your calendar for the day. Take a deep breath and begin.

Mix the flour, salt and Crisco in the mixer on low until it is dry and crumbly. Add the sour cream, eggs--one at a time until blended. Stir in yeast mixture gently to combine.

You will notice at this point that the dough is more bread-y than cookie-y. That’s what you want. If it seems too wet, add a little more flour, but it should be moist, not dry.

Place the whole bowl into a warm (heated but off) oven with a pastry cloth tucking it in. Sing the dough a lullaby. Let it rise and breathe in the oven for two hours.

After it has doubled in size, knead it gently and return it to the oven to rise another hour. Wonder why you didn’t just make Snickerdoodles.

Now comes the fun part. And by “fun” I mean “not really.” Divide the dough in half. Take your working half and roll it out on long sheets of plastic wrap lining your work surface. (You need a lot of room for this.) Roll it out into a long rectangle. The bigger the better. Sprinkle half of the rolled out dough with the sugar mixture--then using the plastic wrap to help you, fold the dough over onto itself. Roll out again, repeat the sprinkle on the opposite side, 3 more times until you finally get a long log-like thing of dough-y goodness.

If you have made it this far, congratulate yourself with a glass of wine or seven. I think a nice Malbec goes nicely with Crisco.

Okay, cut the log into ¾-1 inch strips. Give the middle a little twist as you place onto your Silpat-lined cookie sheets. Or if you recently burned your Silpat in a freak broiler accident--just use parchment paper. Trust me--these things become molten cinnamon sugar lava when hot--you need something to help get them off.

Bake in a 350 oven for 15-17 minutes. Watch them--they suck if you burn them. And don’t forget you’ve got the other half of your dough in the oven before you bake that in the bowl. That that I’ve done that before or anything. I’ve just heard...

Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring them to cooling racks, because you should use as many dishes as possible for this recipe.

Realize you now have to repeat the process with that other half of the dough and alternately weep and rejoice.

With any stroke of luck, they should look like this:

This recipe makes between 3 and 5 dozen depending on your rolling pin skillz, but feeds the soul of all who taste it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Women are from Venus, Men are from Tom Tom

Sean: You need to pick me up at the car dealer later after I drop off my car to be repaired.

Me: Okay, where is it?

Sean: On 60 on the north side of the street.

Clueless stare.

Sean: Sigh. On the right.

Me: Still clueless blank stare.

Sean: On the side of the hand you write with.

Me: Making typing motions and shrugging my shoulders.

Sean: Huge sigh. I can't believe I let you educate our children. The opposite hand of your left-sided freckle.

Me: My biological left designator that faithfully got me through elementary school and Driver's Ed has now faded with age.

Sean: Seriously, you need help. The opposite side of the hand you wear your wedding ring on.

Me: Processing those long logistics. Oh, okay. I know right where it is!

After almost 18 years, it's the little signs of romance.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My favorite part of Christmas--FOOD!

Let's talk food, shall we? Specifically holiday menus.

Our Christmas Day dinner is traditionally Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding. A classic. If you've never had Yorkshire pudding, I so recommend you try it. It's really simple, I swear, and you will be rewarded handsomely with beef flavored eggy pillows of goodness that melt in your mouth. The trick is just to get the pan and juices from the meat really hot--so take the meat out of the pan when it's done and let it rest before slicing, crank up the oven and put the drippings back in while you prepare the batter and you'll have guaranteed success. You can uses individual things like they did here, or just the pan you used for the beef.

Here's a recipe from, and it's sort of close to the one I use. I don't do those vegetables, but they look good. I make a homemade horseradish sauce and just season the prime rib with Kosher salt and pepper, and you're good to go.

I might have to add another special dish during the celebration week that I just discovered at this week's Sunday dinner. I have never made (or heard of) a New York Strip roast before, but let me tell you--delish! Just sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper, let it stand at room temp for an hour. Sear it in hot oil on each side and then stick it in the oven for about 50 minutes for medium rare (for a 4-lb roast). I made a pan sauce with a Madeira reduction, but you could use any sauce you'd like--my mouth just watered at the thought of Bearnaise...

I'm off to find a good egg bake recipe for Christmas morning. Sean teases me about it, but I know he would secretly miss it if it wasn't there next to the extra batteries under the tree.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I've got you, Hell Week

So I'm pretty sure this last week before school lets out and Christmas begins thinks it can take me down.

It's shaking its Monday at me screeching about Laundry and shopping. Tuesday's already wagging a finger with warnings of shopping, wrapping, baking, writing,and shipping. Wednesday's got its eye on Christmas cards and I think Thursday won't let me leave without doing something about that Santa Claus-esque gray streak I've got going on.

Well, let me just tell you Week of December 14th. I've seen bigger and badder seven day stretches than you, and I will not be defeated until the last snicker is doodled and nuesse is pfeffered. Got it? Good.

Because these are the reasons I kill myself every year.

Because Stevie still asks for "surprises" for Christmas.

Because Matty just will call out from out of the blue, "I love this time of year."

Because Amy sings Christmas carols with her arms thrown up above her head.

And because Jesso has no idea what's going to happen in less than two weeks.
Now go back to playing Christmas specials and last-gift sales. I've got work to do.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Rudolph the spin-off

We're watching the classic Christmas specials tonight on ABC Family. I love this crazy night of 1960's claymation/stuffed carnival animal yule fun--who doesn't sing "I'm Mr. Heat Miser" as their lullaby all of December?

But there is one program that just doesn't put the jingle in my jangle--"Rudolph's Shiny New Year."

If you haven't seen it, basically it's a special that some crack addict hopped up on snickerdoodles and cheap Asti Spumante came up with to fill the dead programming slots for the week of December 26-31. Rudolph is asked to save the Baby New Year from a vulture who will turn into a glacier if Time--played by Red Skelton--is allowed to continue. Rudolph gets help along the way by those traditional New Year's characters we all know and love: Big Ben the whale, a caveman, a knight with a Rip Van Winkle beard, the Three Bears and Ben Franklin. Pure Auld Land Syne gold here. I don't know whether I want Rudolph to win and save time or hope that the ice vulture triumphs so I can have that hour of my life back.

Go, Eon, go.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Dude, I can't win

In the I-can’t-win-no-matter-how-hard-I-try-yet-I-still-do-every-damn-day-anyway (a.k.a “Figures”) category, it seems there’s a consumer group--a really late and completely calendar-oblivious consumer group--that has determined that Zhu Zhu Pets--the hottest toy of 2009--may be unsafe, as my friend, Sharon reports.

The government is investigating the claim, but it seems these guys think the Zhu emits too much antimony, which among its many cited dangers includes the perilous description: "Antimony is toxic and immediately dangerous to life or health at 50 mg m-3 or above. (6) Exposure to 9 milligrams per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) of antimony as stibnite for a long time can irritate your eyes, skin, and lungs. Breathing 2 mg/m3 of antimony for a long time can cause problems with the lungs (pneumoconiosis) heart problems (altered electrocardiograms), stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach ulcers. People who drank over 19 ppm of antimony once, vomited."

I think one of those footnotes refers to other pleasant side effects like optic warts and small pox.

Or it could note that Mattel was the sponsor of the study.

I wonder if the New York Times will be calling for my reaction on spending a king’s ransom on arsenic-laden fake hamsters.

At least I’m on record as saying we got the yellow one.

Random Updates

Collectiong my thoughts around the Interweb this morning...

My Hallmark giveaway is up at Whoa Momma.

My letter to Santa on Suburban

And a great local event to attend on Saturday--Snowfest!

Whew. It's been a busy morning....

Sunday, December 06, 2009

O Christmas Tree?

Usually when we pick out our Christmas tree, it pretty much follows the same pattern. Sean picks out one way too big, I pick out one way too small, and we repeat this game of extremes through six tree lot tents until the kids feel like impaling themselves on a pine bough just to go home.

Not this year.

Today, as I was looking at the juniper bush size trees checking needle pressure and trunk straightness, Sean and the kids all went for the single largest tree in the tent. It was a mammoth tree--so ridiculously large that Rockefeller Center probably rejected it because it was just too big. Stevie stood next to it and could only reach the bottom tier of branches. I thought I can hear the Swiss Family Robinson yodeling somewhere near the top.

It was pricey too, this here tree. Double what I thought was expensive. But instead of traveling 4.6 miles to the next identical tent with the identical over-priced over-sized trees, we just did it. Bought the biggest, baddest, most crooked, expensive tree in the county and put it in our living room. And bedroom and kitchen, but sometimes you just need a little a whole heaping lot of Christmas right this very minute.

Even though we don't have even a fraction of ornaments or lights to decorate this Yule Log hopped up on Miracle Gro, the house whole--as well as the whole block--smells of pine and the unexpected.

And Santa can not only leave a whole lot of presents, he can park his sleigh underneath, string up a hammock from the lowest boughs and take a siesta on Christmas night.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Did you watch Top Chef last night?

One of the three shows that I try to make a point of watching every week is Top Chef. I can't help it--I think it's absolute genius to watch a show that the contestants are judged by how things taste, and yet the audience never actually tastes it. But yet week after week, I believe Tom Colicchio when he says the foie gras is too salty. Pure damn genius.

So as a crazy lunatic Top Chef fan, I'm not sure if this absolutely hysterical recap of last night's episode will be as meaningful if you don't actually watch it, but if you don't at least emit a chuckle over the summary of the commercial break, then you have no soul.

A commercial break: Erica, the grand pooba of pasta (Handy!), chancellor of cheese (Fresh!), connoisseur of cold (Chilly!) stuck in eternal repetition of infernal domesticity, the unwanted and illegitimate daughter of Julia Child and Sisyphus since September 2007. The choreography of her misery augmented by the words and sounds that float and freeze across her sound and vision. One voice, a man's; the chorus belonging to women who one imagines wear black velvet dresses; the guitar a twobit Shaft riff from a complacent studio musician named Walter. "Am I insane?" she thinks, panicked behind a Westport smile. "No," she relaxes. "For at least the words the women are saying are the same words that appear on the screen. At least I can hold on to that." Her capillaries relax. But as she holds up her hot dog made from the undifferentiated corpses of a small shtetl of holsteins, (Viceroy of Value!), she sees the word "Tasty" next to her Piggly Wiggly face but hears the word "Yummy!"

The eggshell cracks but perhaps it was just a momentary blip in the world largely seamlessly. She seals her wiener in a Glad bag, still clinging like a rat to rubbish to her happiness. "Thrifty!" the steel gray of the word threatens to bang into her temple. "Alright," she says, "if I hear Wilson Phillips say 'Thrifty' I'm sane and it's all okay. I'm not a sad clown. I'm a woman, a mother. My husband isn't cheating on me. He'll find a job soon." But then the voices come. "Economical!" it says with malign glee. Erica, the grand pooba of pasta, chancellor of cheese, connoisseur of cold, collapses like a soufflé onto her linoleum floor. Her apron bunches, her legs splayed. She's crying and her tears pool on the clear plastic coffins of food unwanted. Happily, her hot dog stays dry. A moment's reprieve is all Erica's misery earns her and then the music starts again. She rises up, compelled by a tourbillon of the wretched, and reties her apron. "Erica!" the voices say and Glad is misery.

Read the whole article here on