After a cancelled flight the day before Christmas Eve, I was able to get on a later flight (thank you Southwest Airlines for still having a couple seats open!!). I took my first Uber to my sister's studio at 2:45am, Maine time on Christmas Eve. My original flight left three hours earlier than my actual flight. That only meant one thing: I had time to visit Bao Bao for half-priced dumplings before venturing to the airport. Two orders of dumplings and a Fatty Bampkins cider was just the thing to ease my "am I actually going to get home before Christmas?" jitters.
I was woken up by an angel, my nephew Gabriel, on Christmas Eve morning. We got up and made our grandmother's family-famous and butter-laden cinnamon rolls to eat on Christmas Day. The recipe won't leave my family for now but I will say that you use All. The. Butter. And some lard. Apparently, lard is making a comeback. After making the dough, I went to my mom's house with Gabriel to decorate cookies. Rich Roll Cookies from the Joy of Cooking are my favorite, even though I only get to eat them once a year. Here's the recipe if you would like to enjoy some too:
Cream 1 cup butter and 2/3 cup sugar together
Beat in 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract
Combine and add 2 and 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour and 1/2
Chill dough for 3 or so hours before rolling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Bake on a greased cookie sheet 8-10 minutes or until slightly
Hint: use as little flour when you roll out as possible and make them crispy cookies (the darker the
color, the more crispy!)
Christmas Eve dinner was pork tenderloin with mustard sauce, cooked in the oven to tender perfection, for the main course. Red potatoes, boiled, then squished down and mixed with cooked garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and finished in the broiler until their skin was crispy and green beans, steamed and topped with butter, toasted almonds and sauteed onions were our sides. Dessert was locally-made ice cream (Lick Ice Cream on Lamar Blvd).
Christmas Day greeted us with warm weather and my nephew calling to me from the next room. We lay in my bed for some much-needed Auntie time and then got ready to go to my sister's house. It's now a tradition to walk into my sister's house and smell my grandmother's house on Christmas Day. The cinnamon rolls are ooey and gooey and served upside down from how they were baked in the oven so all the buttery and cinnamon-y goodness is facing up. You get to see just how much delicious damage you're doing to your body BUT, since it's Christmas and Grandma visiting us through our senses, no one cares. Halfway through breakfast, my nephew is pulling on anyone he can to go open presents and so, once everyone is finished, we do!
Christmas Day dinner was incredible, mainly because of the sauteed and then broiled cauliflower and cheese sauce. I wanted to put the cheese sauce on everything. The main dish was a beef rib roast which couldn't be more simple and succulent. Salt and pepper all over and then in the oven at 350 degrees for hours. How can something so easy to make be so good? I put cheese sauce on it. A simple green salad and an assortment of European cookies were also served before and after the meal.
Sunday dinner brought ramen. My mom, sister and I went to Michi on Lamar Blvd (Lamar is a REALLY long street). I tasted two types of beer and ended up with a Japanese plum beer made by Hitachino Nest. Appetizers were "burnt ends" (BBQ-esque bite-sized pieces of tender pork, not actually burnt) and pork gyoza (homemade, pan-fried). I ordered their basic bowl with regular (versus light or stout broth), pork slices, woodear mushrooms, green onions, garlic oil, a soft-boiled egg and pickled ginger. The whole meal was very good (but I honestly can't wait to get back to Pai Men Miyaki). However, dessert is what I remember the most. Nine different flavors of mochi ice cream was what Michi offered. If you haven't tried it, mochi is rice pounded until it becomes glutenous and malleable, then stuffed with a dainty portion of ice cream. You can find it at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.
With Monday came nice, but not calm, weather for the visits' first bike ride. This was to be only my second ride using my new SPD clip-in shoes and pedals. The Bicycle Sports Shop on Lamar Blvd is THE place to go if you need bikes, help with your bikes or parts for your bikes. Their employees go above and beyond every time for me and my dad, Todd and Mike especially. I was expertly fitted on their black 58 Domane Trek before our windy 20 mile urban ride. The wind mph was in the mid-teens so a country ride would have blown us about.
Tuesday's ride was 70km long. 69km for my dad's 69th birthday and one to grow on! That came out to about 43 miles of both city and country scenes. Some of my favorite parts of the ride were:
1. Coming down an empty road with three vultures flying overhead. When they went to land on a nearby tree, we saw that there were at least 20 or 30 more vultures perched on the branches. I was overcome in jaw-dropping awe. When I caught back up to my dad, he said he was just waiting for me to fall over. : )
2. Seeing a Crested Caracara land on the ground, possibly to catch and eat some prey. I've only seen one other in the wild (on another Texas bike ride a year or so ago) and two in captivity so this was a epic event. The raptor came into view as we were discussing when to stop for a snack break. "Right now" was the answer.
3. Reaching the "Bon Jovi" point in the ride and singing "Livin' on a Prayer" loudly as we rode along. A new refrain is "Keep on pedalin' and we'll make it, I swear!"
To be continued...