plonq: (Christmas Mood)
We kept a very low-key Christmas this year, though unlike last year, we decided to exchange gifts. I gave [livejournal.com profile] atara some new slippers and headphones for work (the latter are for work), and she gave me a wooden bow tie, and one of these:
20161227POTD

We have toyed with the idea of buying one of these for a few years, so she solicited suggestions from those who already own such devices and ended up ordering this one.

We picked up a couple of steaks yesterday and tested it out for dinner. It worked well, but I definitely took away a few lessons for the next time we use it (possibly this coming long weekend).

In terms of lessons, the first change I will make is to get steaks that are smaller, but thicker. I might lower the cooking temperature a couple of degrees as well, but I think 58C would have worked fine if they had been a thicker cut. I seared them in a cast iron pan after they came out of the water bath, and it pushed them past medium-rare into medium/medium-well territory.

We've already decided that we are going to try chicken next. I've head wonderful things about chicken breasts cooked by this method.
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
Several of my co-workers got deployed to work as engineers, conductors or car mechanics over Christmas. Fortunately I am not qualified yet, so I get to spend Christmas at home.

There has been fairly wide-spread discontent in the ranks for awhile over this program, but this stunt over Christmas is pushing a lot of the staff close to rebellion. At the very least we've had a few people up and quit recent - though I guess that falls into the "reduce through attrition" thing they've been promising the shareholders.

We are having a quiet Christmas at home this weekend, and as modest as our Christmas dinner is going to be, we've been arguing over discussing the menu. I thought I might just put it up here for a crowd-sourced vote and let the internet decide.

[Poll #2060137]

20161220POTD
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
I found a cute little quiz buried in the middle of an article that my brother shared on Facebook last night.

As we slide into the last week of the long Christmas celebration, two pressing questions come to mind. The first one is, who thinks that it is a good idea to give frankincense and myrrh as baby gifts? I'll bet Mary would have been way happier to receive things like diapers, baby clothes, and maybe a proper crib.

The other question is, how well do you know your Jesus? Since this coming date has been arbitrarily chosen to celebrate his birthday, I think it behooves us to know a bit about him while we're engaging in the excesses of the holiday season.

Here is a quiz about his life and death. Don't be disappointed if you get some wrong, I missed a few as well.

20161215POTD
Nothing says "Happy Birthday Jesus" like a fake tree covered in pagan decorations.
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
I braved cold and traffic to try and do some Christmas shopping this evening. We're not doing a very ambitious Christmas, so I only had a few things on my list for [livejournal.com profile] atara.

After my first couple of stops though, I began to suspect that I may have left my shopping until too late in the season. Each store was like that cheese shop in the famous Monty Python sketch.

"Sorry, we're fresh out of those. Oh my, it looks like we had a run on those too."

Even so, I managed to come away from the ordeal with a couple of items to put under the tree. Right now all we have under the tree at any given time is cats.

20161214POTD

There is an ugly rumour circulating at work just now about how they plan to handle training in the new year. There is talk about them shipping anyone who is in progress out to Calgary and hold them there until they are qualified engineers or conductors, whether that takes seven weeks or twenty. I guess we'll find out in January.
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
When I was growing up, I always thought that I had a pretty normal family, but the older I get, the more I have come to accept that my family is a little ... odd.

Mom sent out an email this evening (with names redacted by me).

Subject: Christmas

Hi Gang, [eldest sister] phoned earlier today, [cousin] had been in touch with her to say that your Aunt [deceased] had passed away yesterday evening. I'm glad that [eldest sister] and I were able to go visit her last summer.

Another thing on my agenda: no gift exchange here, just dinner and games. If you want to give each other something, please get it over with before coming here.

Thanks.

Love,
mom


You wonder where the oft morbid humour in my stories comes from. "Merry Christmas family. Oh, and by the way, your late father's sister died."

I was always fond of that particular aunt, having spent more time with her than any of my parents' other siblings. I spent a whole summer with them in Penticton when I was in my early teens - the longest stretch I ever spent away from my nuclear family before I was an adult. I feel like she deserves a bit better than an aside in a note about what gifts not to bring for Christmas, but on the other hand, I wouldn't expect much more that; this is just how my family communicates.

For example, I learned that my eldest brother was getting married when a mutual friend asked me if I had picked out a suit because he'd heard I was going to be an usher. I was helping him with his master's degree at the time (writing some software he was going to use in teaching music theory). The conversation went something like this.

Him: I hear you're going to be an usher at your brother's wedding. Do you have a suit picked out?
Me: My brother's getting married? (pause) Which brother?
Him: Are you serious? Your brother D is getting married. You mean he hasn't told you yet?
Me: No. (another pause) Marrying who?
Him: I don't believe this! I've never met a family that communicates as badly as yours!

Anyway, so apparently my aunt died yesterday. Merry Christmas.
plonq: (Little Stinker)
I called mum this evening to see if she had my brother's new address and phone number. She did not have his address, but she rattled off a phone number for him. As soon as she started with the area code, I stopped her and said, "Uh, no, that's his old number from here." It turns out he kept his old number after he moved out west because it seems that Manitoba has about the cheapest cell phone rates available up here, and nothing in his new province can touch it. On the plus side, that means it was a local phone call for me. On the downside, that means I should probably call him to chat more often.

Communication is no my family's strongest suit.

The other reason I called was to bitch at her for not giving me more notice about the fact that she was having the whole family out for Christmas at her place this year. If she had mentioned it prior to her blanket email finalizing the plan, we could have arranged some vacation time. She says that if it works out this year, she may do it again next year. Sadly, I doubt she would get the same perfect storm next year. It worked out that everyone in my family can manage to make it out this year ... except for me. If I had got more notice, it could have been the first Christmas in over 20 years where we had the whole family together - well, with the notable exception of dad, who would obviously only be attending in memory this year.

I've lived away from them for so many years that sometimes it's easy to forget how much I miss my family. I've spent Christmas with [livejournal.com profile] atara's family, but she has never had the opportunity to spend it with mine. We may be a surly bunch of dysfunctional misfits, but I love them dearly, and I'm really sad about missing this opportunity. I daresay I may spend the next few couple of days wallowing in self-pity and feeling lonely and remote.

Fortunately MFF is coming up very shortly, and that will probably take my mind off things. I will be very busy taking down lists of petty grievances to air at the closing ceremonies. I have been to enough cons to know that the volunteers who run it love nothing more than to hear how anybody else could have run it better. No ball pit? That's worth at least five minutes of my rant time. No oldies at the fursuit rave? Blasphemy! Gravy at the sponsor buffet is only 119F? Rest assured there will be a sternly-worded letter to the hotel, copying the convention staff! Refuse to dispatch a gopher to retrieve the room card that I accidentally dropped in the toilet? There will be some terse words about that at the closing ceremonies!

On the logistics side, we have booked our vacation time, bought our memberships, reserved our hotel room, confirmed our flights, and arranged for a cat-sitter. He says that the cats do not always stay sitting, but sometimes it seems like the cats have wills of their own. All that is left to do is charge up our camera batteries, pack our suitcases and hit the road.

I have to admit that MFF crept up on me this year. I have been so utterly slammed by my job lately on so many levels that I haven't had the time to give it enough thought to be excited about its approach. It feels unreal to me that we will actually be flying out of here in a couple of days. Two more sleeps. I guess a small part of me is still waiting for one of the executive directors to pull me into a meeting room and tell me that they are cancelling my vacation because it might cause delays in this dreadful project I've been on.
plonq: (Georgian Mood)
Even as Halloween is still lurking ahead in the wings, Mandarin oranges, eggnog, and candy canes are showing up on the shelves.

Mandarin Orange

It seems like we just took our tree down.

Christmas creep is real.

If they can't wait for Halloween's warm body to cool a bit before hanging the holly, the least they could do is wait until after the switch back to Standard Time.
plonq: (Creative mood)

The brown mass in the pot bubbled merrily while the little snow leopard stirred. He glanced at the tablet on the counter to see if he had overlooked the instructions on how long he was supposed to keep agitating the mixture, but the last line on the page said, "Gently heat the mixture to a light boil and continue stirring until it is done."

"How the heck am I supposed to know when it’s done?" groused the feline. He continued sweeping the spoon through the boiling mixture for another minute before it occurred to him that the recipe might actually span more than one page. Keeping the spoon moving with his right hand, he reached across with his left and swiped the tip of his finger across the tablet.  The recipe page swept aside to reveal that there was another page. The lone instructions on the page were:

Don’t read; stir.

Plonq sighed and obeyed. He was used to recipes written by snobbish cooks who seemed to adhere to the philosophy that something as simple as "doneness" should be self-obvious. The snow leopard assumed that the boiling mass would let him know when it was ready to be panned, perhaps by changing colour, or bursting into flame and singeing his remaining whiskers.

Plonq babysat the mixture for several more minutes, and just as he was beginning to suspect the recipe was toying with him, the mixture suddenly thickened. The change was so abrupt that he let go of the spoon and stepped back defensively, but the gooey brown mass in the pot appeared to be more concerned with holding the spoon upright than attacking any nearby snow leopards.  He quickly shut off the gas and moved the pot to a cool burner to avoid burning the bottom. Plonq watched the spoon slowly settle toward one side of the pot while he edged carefully around the stove to the tablet on the counter. He had seen The Blob when he was a cub, and even though he was dubious over the thought that he might have created predatory alien life in his kitchen, he chose to err on the side of safety. He flipped to the next page to see if there were more instructions.

"Remove the mixture from the heat," The snow leopard did not feel particularly smug about having gotten that part right in spite of not reading the recipe, since it had been largely an act of self-preservation. "Place the mixture in a grease-lined, corrosion-resistant baking pan. The mixture may be reluctant to relinquish its hold on the spoon at this point, but you must not display any sign of weakness in front of it. Show no mercy with a spatula. Place the panned mixture into an oven preheated to three hundred and fifty degrees and bake it until it is done. May God have mercy on your soul."

Plonq hesitated for a moment before he decided not to bother flipping to the next page for more instructions, since he had a hunch it would just be a veiled insult on the next page. There was little doubt that it would let him know when it was done. With a sigh, he grabbed the spoon and lifted it experimentally. As he had expected, the pot and all of its contents came with it. He gave it a couple of shakes until the pot fell free, clanging noisily on the stove. He held the mass over the greased baking sheet and grabbed a spatula to begin the process of un-glomming it from the spoon.

Was it his imagination, or did it tighten its grip on the spoon as he moved the spatula closer?

A few minutes, and many more epithets later the sticky mess was spread in a baking pan and ready for the oven. Although Plonq managed to avoid any major injuries during the transfer, a disturbing quantity of his fur had been claimed by the mass in the pan. He shoved the pan into the oven, quickly slammed the door and set the timer for thirty-five minutes.

The little feline grabbed the dry-erase marker hanging from the refrigerator door and put a tick next to "Christmas baking [ ]" on his magnetic white board. He purred softly to himself when he saw that he was nearly through his entire list of Christmas obligations. He pondered on the last few items and debated on which one to tackle next.  Prank call Santa Claws sounded like a nice quick hit on the list. The fat old bastard would be pretty busy with his final preparations, so he could probably catch him off-guard. Plonq suppressed another purr as he remembered the previous year’s prank call.

"Ho ho ho! Who is this and how did you get my direct number? Somebody is going to get on my permanent naughty list if I ever find out who you are!"

The snow leopard decided to tackle "Drink a lot [ ]" on the list first, since drunken prank calls were always more fun. He found that he was much less nervous and more creative after a few drinks. He toddled out to the hall and fetched his favourite scotch glass. After a quick browse of his selection, he poured himself two claws worth of Dal Whinny and wandered out to the living room, taking the bottle with him. Plonq had just splashed the first taste of scotch over his tongue, and was enjoying the pleasant burn when there was a polite, but firm rap on the door.

"Now who could that be?" he mewled, putting the bottle of scotch on the end table and grunting himself out of the chair. Plonq slipped his feet into his tattered slippers and shuffled out to the front hall, scratching himself absently through his baggy sweatpants in thought. He was not expecting company, so he had not dressed for company. As he approached the door, the visitor knocked a second time.

"Who is it?" he called in a tone that he hoped conveyed the right degree of polite annoyance at being interrupted.

"It's just Death."

"Plonq's not here!" yowled the cat immediately.

"Plonq, we have a matter of urgent importance to resolve. Please be a good lad and let me in," said the voice on the other side of the door. There was something in the tone that touched Plonq at a visceral level, and he felt his fur stand up from the nape of his neck to the tip of his tail.

"I am afraid you have the wrong apartment," he called back, hoping that his voice did not carry the quaver that it felt. "I have no urgent issues to resolve this evening but to search out the bottom in this bottle of scotch."

"Nay, I fear we have an appointment," said the voice again. "I’m being polite you know. I don’t really need you to open the door for me, now stop being such a child and let me in." It was spoken with no great volume, yet the words carried such command in them that Plonq caught himself only as his hand was on the door knob in mid-turn. He whimpered and willed it to stop. To his relief, he still remained master of his own hand.

"Are you sure you’ve got the right place?" he said plaintively. "I mean, I’m feeling pretty good at the moment. Spritely even. I was thinking of going for a walk to donate some spare meat to the orphanage down the road." There was a rattling sigh from the other side of the door.

"There is no orphanage down the street," Death replied. "Look, you can make this easy or you can make this hard. This is a very busy night for me, and I’d rather not spend it all arguing with plump little snow leopard who is afraid to live up to his obligations. If you hadn’t wanted to see me then you would have used fresh tuna in your chocolate and tuna loaf."

Now Plonq did open the door. He pulled it open until the chain stopped it and peered out at his unexpected visitor. The snow leopard was surprised to discover that Death was, well, a snow leopard. It was every bit the stereotype that one associates with death; tall, skeletal, long hooded black robes and a tall scythe. Plonq could not decide whether to think of Death as "he" or "she", since neither the hollow voice nor the skeletal build lent themselves to a particular gender.

Steeling himself, Plonq yowled angrily, "The chocolate and tuna loaf is still in the oven. Here you got me all shook up over nothing. Good evening, madam… or sir, or however you prefer to be addressed!" He slammed the door and locked it again for good measure. There was a very long pause on the other side of the door, though when he pressed his ear to it the snow leopard could hear the rustling of robes, and a bony finger flipping through pages. There was another moment of silence before the voice across the threshold exploded in Death’s best approximation of a thunderous roar.

"Are you shitting me? You were supposed to have baked that thing three hours ago! What the hell is your problem, boy?"

"I didn’t have any molasses," replied Plonq, his tail trashing angrily. "Have you seen the crowds at the mall today? I’m lucky that I even made it home today, let alone three hours later than I’d planned." He suddenly noticed that he was still clutching his glass of scotch. He punctuated his last statement with a solid swig of the amber gold.

"Good grief! The molasses is in the cupboard by the sink, behind the kosher salt!" said Death in exasperation. "Seriously dude, you need a girlfriend or something to help organize your kitchen. You don’t even want to know what is growing in the back of your refrigerator!"

"Mental note: clean out the fridge," thought Plonq. Out loud he said, "Whatever! How could you know where I keep the molasses, but not know that I hadn’t even eaten the loaf yet?"

"Well, fine," said the sepulchral voice with a touch of bony petulance in its tone.  "I’ll reschedule you for now and come back in about three hours. But let’s have none of these childish antics when I return."

"Buh!" said Plonq, taking another swig of scotch. "In your dreams. You’re nuts if you think I’m going to eat that loaf now."

"You’re not even going to taste it?" demanded Death incredulously. "After all that work, I can’t imagine you would just throw it out without at least trying a nibble."

The thought had crossed Plonq’s mind, but he dismissed it with a thrash of his tail and a firm flick of his whiskers. "Not a chance," he said. "As soon as you’re out of here, it’s going straight down the garbage chute. That includes the pan it’s cooking in and the bowl and utensils I used to mix up the ingredients."

He had been expecting another retort from Death, but the entity on the other side of the door was quiet for a very long time. Plonq wondered if Death had left, but when Death finally spoke again there was a rasp of resignation in the voice.

"Can I at least come in and use your bathroom? I knew this would be an all-nighter and I hit the coffee pretty hard today. I was going to use it after I, you know, harvested your soul and stuff but it looks like you’re off the hook this time and my undead bladder is still full." Plonq cracked the door again and peered dubiously out at the tall, dark figure.

"Doesn’t it empower you or something if I invite you into my abode?" he demanded dubiously. It was hard to tell from the skeletal expression, but he was pretty sure the figure would have been grimacing if it was able.

"That’s a vampire," it said flatly. Plonq stared for several heartbeats before his sense of empathy got the better of him and he unhooked the chain.

"Fine, come in and use the toilet, but no harvesting of souls." He stepped aside to allow Death to enter his apartment. "And please put the lid down when you’re done again so that my cats don’t drink the blue water. I don’t need you harvesting them tonight either."  As Death swept by him, tattered black robes fluttering in the air, Plonq caught a faint wisp of incense, cedar and cinnamon. He had been expecting Death to smell of fetidness and rot, but Death smelled surprisingly nice.

Then he remembered a bit about ancient Egyptian mummification and he suddenly found the smell a bit less pleasant.

As soon as his guest disappeared into the bathroom, Plonq closed the front door and retired to the living room again to refill his glass. He held up the Dal Whinny and gauged how much drunk he could get from the remaining third of the bottle. It was starting to look like he might have to break out the Glennfish as well before the night was through. The little feline was just taking another sip of scotch when there arose a fearful clatter and sharp vulgarity from the bathroom. There was some more frantic cursing and shuffling before he heard the sound of the toilet flush, and a skeletal hand fumbling with the door. Death emerged looking as sheepish as Death can look.

"I’m so sorry," said Death without preamble. "I leaned my scythe up against the sink while I was doing my, uh, deathly business and when I stood up to grab it, it caught on the hem of my robe and went right over into your shower curtain." The tall figure began to fret. "Oh, this is so embarrassing. I usually take so much care in avoiding property damage when I do my thing, and here I’ve made a mess of your bathroom." In spite of the situation, Plonq felt a twinge of sympathy.

"There now," he said. He placed a reassuring hand on the tall figure’s bony shoulder and guided Death into a chair. "It’s okay, the curtain already had a few claw holes through it, and I have been meaning to replace it for some time." He pressed his half-empty scotch glass into Death’s bony hand. "You’re having a rough night. Why don’t you just sit down for minute, take a sip of Dal Whinny to soothe your nerves while you recompose yourself?"

Death turned its empty gaze to the glass as if noticing it for the first time. It looked at Plonq, then back at the glass. "I came here to harvest your soul this very night," said Death with a growing air of incredulity in its voice. "And not only do you invite me into your home, but you seat me in the very heart of your abode and present me with your finest liquor."

"Oh, that’s not my finest liquor," said Plonq with a self-effacing giggle. "Second best maybe." He paused a beat, "Third." Death stared long and hard at the glass in its bony grip.

"I shouldn’t," it said with a hollow wistfulness in its voice. "Not while I’m on duty." It chuckled, which raised the hair on Plonq’s back again. "Not that I’m ever not on duty, but I mean not on one of the busiest nights of the year for me. Do you know how many suicides there are on this night?"

"No," said Plonq.

"Well I do," said Death with a forlorn rattle. It raised the glass and drained it down its muzzle in one quick draught. The snow leopard had been half expecting to see the liquid come spilling right back out through the bones, but the scotch vanished into the robes. "I do."

The snow leopard, who had seated himself in the other chair by this point leaned across and patted Death gently on the knee. "It must be hard," he said gently. "I mean, being feared and hated everywhere you go. I just can’t imagine going through life, er, unlife like that. Well, not entirely anyway." He refilled the other’s glass.

"Oh, not everybody fears and hates me," said Death thoughtfully taking another sip of the scotch. "This is very good, and you’re right, I think I needed this. Anyway, there are those who welcome me as a friend." Another swallow of scotch disappeared down the gaunt figure’s throat. "But it can be really hard too, especially when it comes to the children, and especially tonight."

Plonq shuddered. "I can’t even imagine," he said. He glanced around for a nearby glass, then shrugged and took a slug directly from the bottle. "I hate my job too sometimes," he said, hoping that it didn’t come across sounding too lame.

Minutes turned to hours, and by midway through the bottle of Glenfish, the apartment was alive with roars of drunken laughter.

"You’re serious?" demanded Plonq. "You’re saying he talked for real jusht like in Team Americat?"

By this point Death’s cowl was thrown back carelessly, its boots were long discarded and it was sitting back splay-legged in the chair opposite the snow leopard.

"Bwa ha!" whooped Death in a drunken bray of laughter. "No, he was in a coma when I showed up to harvesht his soul and I didn’t really feel like waking him to talk to him. I really had no use for him, or his father for that matter."

Another half a bottle disappeared.

"Death roulette," slurred the snow leopard, slamming the thick phone book down on the table. "Flip to a random page, pick a random name and we show up at their door and ashk if they have any Grey Poupon or something shilly like that."

"You’re evil," said Death approvingly. "This is a total abuse of offish and wrong on every level. I love it! You pick first!"

Like a dream slipping from lucidity, the night blurred into dawn and Plonq awoke with a start. Two things immediately occurred to the little feline at that moment; he was not dead, but kind of he wished that he was. The room was spinning unpleasantly and his head felt like Santa’s gnomes had set up a workshop in his frontal lobe. Plonq sat up, groaned, and fell back in bed again. Not only did his head hurt, the rest of him hurt too. He felt like he had spent the previous evening running a marathon through brambles. Also his bed smelled of incense.

"Mental note: drink less next Christmas."

Had he remember to prank call Santa last night? Plonq struggled to remember, but his brain kept conjuring silly non-sequiturs such as trying to talk like Kim Jong-il from the movie Team Americat, and… and why were there a half-dozen jars of Grey Poupon on his end table? And why were his back and arms all scratched up like he’d been sleeping with a rose bush?

After about thirty minutes of self-pity the little cat finally managed to drag himself out of bed and got unsteadily to his feet, suffering only a couple of dry heaves in the process. It troubled him that he had no memory of the previous night because he was not normally prone to drinking himself to oblivion. He wondered if he could stomach coffee, then decided that no coffee wasn’t even an option.

Plonq stumbled his way laboriously out to the kitchen and froze on the threshold. He vaguely remembered putting a loaf in the oven the previous evening, but had no memory of removing it.

To his puzzlement and relief, the empty loaf tin was standing in the dish rack, apparently empty and washed. Of the loaf there was no sign.

Then he spied the note on the table.

It was written in a curious, unfamiliar script. It read, "Sorry to sneak out without waking you but I have a lot of work to catch up on today, and your little cat snores were really cute so I didn’t want to wake you. Coffee is ready to go if you just hit the switch. Don’t be a stranger. Merry Christmas!"

The note was simply signed with a stylized, capital D with a little heart drawn out of bones over it.

Memory of the previous night still eluded the cat, but he knew he couldn’t avoid it forever.

He stood very still in the kitchen doorway, holding the doorjamb for support and staring at the note while memories tickled at the corners of his mind like a hairball in the gullet, stirring and churning its way to an explosive release.

Plonq stood there staring at the note for a very, very long time.

plonq: (Christmas Mood)
Who ever thought it would be a good idea to drag your drum set down to a manger and cut some riffs for a newborn? This song has always struck me as a bad idea on so many levels.

Anyway, I don't know how long this will last before Youtube decides that my 7-second clip violates their T.O.S., so enjoy it while you can.

plonq: (Christmas Mood)
Merry (and the rest of us) wishes you a Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas

Belladonna, as usual, is a little less clear on the concept.
Bella Christmas

And Jaws doth protest.
Jaws Disapproves
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
We consulted the sages, put out polls, and argued about it until we settled on a menu for Christmas. Here is the final menu.

Starter:
Mixed greens salad with tomato

Main Course:
Cradled prime rib roast with a garlic & spice rub.
Roasted potato medley of red and sweet potatoes.
Green bean casserole.
Broccoli with cheese sauce.
Pop overs.

Dessert:
Pumpkin pie.

Wine:
TBD - we're going to see what we have in the wine rack. Better yet, I'll put it to another poll.

[Poll #1502784]
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
[livejournal.com profile] atara and I have been in a back and forth debate in the weeks leading up to Christmas over what we should do for dinner that day. If we have anything that could be counted as a tradition here, it would be dinner at Winter Garden Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Eve, and leftovers on Christmas Day. Our plan is to dine in this year, but we are at odds over what we should cook.

I am leaning toward a goose, but that's hardly a modern tradition. Feel free to dip into your own culture and tradition in answering this one. What would you consider to be a traditional meal for a modern Christmas?

[Poll #1501340]

(Ignore my silly answer - I already know what I want. It's your input that interests me.)
plonq: (Cynical Mood)
I don't mind hearing traditional Christmas music redone by modern bands, in fact I quite enjoy hearing unique takes on songs (like, say, a death metal rendition of Away In A Manger).

I find generic pop Christmas tunes much less enjoyable. I'm talking about the songs that sound like somebody was contractually obligated to produce a Christmas song, so they just crank out a bunch of lame, feel-good lyrics (or sad lyrics about Christmas shoes) and then figure if they sing with enough sustain and vibrato, nobody will notice just how crappy the song really is.

I have about 30 seconds free today. That should be enough time to write a Christmas song that would make Christina Aguilera proud.

It's that time of year
oh ya
Can you feel it?
It's that special feeling in the air
when you show that you care
and it's all about family
and that shit, oh ya.
And I wish I could be in town
but this brain tumour has me down.
Oh can you hear the children singing?
Can you hear the bells ringing?
Oh ya, it's that special time of year
with Jesus and some shit like that,
oh ya!
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
We put up the Christmas tree today, and while we have documented the event in pictures in the past, this year [livejournal.com profile] atara suggested taking a series of pictures as we went to see if we could assemble an animation.

I set up my camera on the tripod, and popped over to snap the shutter every couple of minutes. The camera moved a bit, and the lighting changed a few times so it has all the hallmarks that one would expect of a low-budged home animation. I like it.

This is my first attempt at making a movie of any kind. It is supposed to have music, but at some point Youtube is probably going to notice that the clips I used are from copyrighted work and, fair use aside, they will probably mute it.



Now that the tree is up, it's time to start with the baking.
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
I can't believe I never got around to posting these.

The reindeer - or elk or whatever they were seemed quite friendly as long as you didn't look too deep into their flat, soulless eyes.
2008 Christmas Parade
More happy Christmas parade pictures behind a cut. )
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
I'm halfway tempted to post this link to the [livejournal.com profile] customers_suck community, but it's too close to Christmas (and I don't really want to get the gift of tar and feathers).

McDonald's Training Video Circa 1972

After watching this I am forced to conclude that this video was part of their screening process for prospective employees. Anyone who ran screaming from the room before it finished probably wasn't McDonald's material. For me the burning question is, why (and when) did they stop making them wear those nifty hats?

I really love the placement of the mistletoe on this icon.
plonq: (Bork Bork Bork)
Several years ago a (now late) friend gave me his secret recipe for Christmas cakes. I'd never got a chance to try the cakes, but I'd had good experiences with every other recipe I'd got from him, so I convinced him to part with their traditional family recipe. I made a batch of them a few years back, and they turned out really good -- and went over very well with everyone who tried them. At the coaxing of [livejournal.com profile] fetlock I decided to make them again this year, since they're really not that much work when compared against other Christmas baking projects.

I mixed up the various candied fruits and set them aside to soak in (about twice the called-for) amount of brandy last night, and then [livejournal.com profile] fetlock came over this morning to help with the rest of the project. We were a little concerned when we mixed the batter and fruits because we only had ten miniature cake tins, and it looked like enough batter for twelve. In the end it turned out to be just enough for eight (which, if I remember correctly, was the same as the last time I made these).

As with the last time, the extra brandy in the fruit upped the baking time a bit, but unlike the previous batch, these ones cooked through before the cakes burned around the edges. In fact they came out as near perfect as one could hope. I varied the recipe a little from the last time I made these, adding a couple of the optional ingredients I'd left out of the first batch. It's possible that those extra ingredients may have acted as sponges for the excess moisture during cooking this time around. In any event, I'm pleased.

Fresh out of the oven.
Here they are, fresh out of the oven. The whole house was awash with the smell of brandy and cinnamon. Since neither of us had eaten prior to making these cakes, it was a struggle to keep from eating one of them to test for quality. [livejournal.com profile] atara was home from work by this time, so the three of us wandered outside to do some autumn yard work (just in time, based on the latest weather reports) and then we wandered up to Olive Garden for dinner while they cooled. We returned home, sated from supper, and thus managed to finish the cake-making progress without risk of eating one in the process.

Soaking in brandy.
This was my own little innovation on the recipe. Although it called for them to be wrapped in plastic and foil, I first wrapped them in cheese cloth and rolled them in a bath of brandy before wrapping them. I figured that would help to keep them from drying out -- and more brandy in the cakes never hurts. We miscalculated though, and ran out of both cheese cloth and brandy after six cakes. At first we considered just following the recipe at that point, but it seemed a shame not to lace them with a bit more booze. After a bit of consideration we wrapped the last two in coffee filters, and soaked them in a bath of Sheep Dip. We marked those ones with a special notation. I'm curious to see how they turn out.

Ready for Storage.
Here they are wrapped up and ready for storage. I have a Tupperware container that is exactly large enough to hold eight cakes of this size (how convenient!). They are supposed to sit and cure for about two months before they're ready for eating, which is why I set aside this weekend to make them. They should be in prime condition just in time for Christmas.

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