Sunday, December 27, 2009


I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas or whatever holiday you were celebrating. I was rather busy on the domestic front. I had been invited for Christmas eve dinner at my good friend, Jean-Francois' home. Since we were going to be spending a lot of time eating and drinking, the decision was made that I would stay overnight so as to avoid a late-night drive back home. So I packed Beau and a Tart Tatin (J-F's request) and a bottle of red wine, plus my toothbrush and we were off. J-F and Jay and I grazed on shrimp, smoked salmon, crab, and cheese with crackers while we sipped an excellent Adelsheim Oregon chardonnay. J-F had bought lamb chops, which he informed me I would be preparing. When I got into the kitchen, I found racks of lamb in the fridge, not lamb chops. Okay, I still knew what to do. I made a paste of garlic, salt, lemon zest, finely chopped rosemary, pepper and olive oil, and rubbed it all over the racks and let them rest until they were near room temperature. I seared them in olive oil on top of the stove and finished them in the oven for 20 minutes before cutting them into chops. They were delicious the salad and sweet potato mash J-F made. More wine, the Tart Tatin and a slice of Buche de Noel, and Christmas Eve was declared a success.

At noon the next day, J-F dropped Beau and me at my friend John Baker's in SW Portland. I was there to be moral support for John, his housemate Darren, and John's 102 (soon to be 103) father, who lives in an apartment in the house. John was expecting 11 for dinner. He had ordered a turkey dinner with most of the fixings from Zupan's a rather luxe supermarket chain here in Portland. The table was set, the three trees (yes, John had three fully loaded Christmas trees in his house) were lit, but we still had a lot of work to do. John was making a large onion gratin and I was assigned to the fruit salad, which had grapes, bananas, papaya, pear, apple, tangerine sections, and kiwi. Guests were expected at 4:00, but with all that peeling, I was ready for my first glass of red at 2:30. We set up a service buffet so that it would be easier for people go get what they wanted rather than going through the tedious exercise of passing individual dishes. The turkey roaster was plugged in to warm the cooked turkey through before I did the carving. Mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, rolls, all needed warming before being set out. We whipped cream, set up for the coffee and dessert service, and felt we had conquered everything that needed to be done before the first guest arrived.

Dinner was lively and fun with old friends of John's, his sister, her daughter and her boyfriend, as well as the family of John's late childhood friends, who were visiting from Seattle. Beau and Darren's gorgeous chocolate Lab, Penny, were put in charge of charming guests while we saw to their drink needs. We were at the table for hours doing what millions of other families everywhere were doing. Pumpkin pie and mincemeat pies capped our Christmas feast. the triptifan (sp) was working I went in search of comfortable chair where with Beau in my lap, I fell asleep.

John and Darren drove Beau and me home but we decided to take a detour along Peacock Lane near my home. This is a fanciful two block street full of Tudor-style homes which has become famous for its lights on every house on both sides of the streets. This Christmas tradition has been luring visitors down its quiet street since 1928. If you buy a home on Peacock Lane, you must decorate the outside of the house every year. And so it was. Every house was brilliantly lit with holiday lights and other decorations. The best part was there weren't many cars out or pedestrians for that matter. So my first visit to Peacock Lane was really nice.

John and Darren dropped us off at my house. I took a weary Beau up to bed. I felt like that old song..."sing for your supper." A very nice Christmas indeed.

The only fly in the ointment was an increasingly intense head cold, so I decided to forgo my plans to see a movie on Saturday and just stayed at home. Not doing much of anything. I did watch UP, the latest Pixar film which I really loved.

Sunday I was up early. Busy day, ripping CDs for friends, and attacking the marmalade. Mark and Lucy brought me 15 huge pink grapefruits on Tuesday. I took a few to J-F's and still had 13. I ate one for breakfast and it was delicious--ripe, sweet, tart. I squeezed the juice of another to make my self a cold-fighting cocktail of vodka, grapefruit juice and soda. Well it was a good shot of Vitamin C. I found a recipe for pink grapefruit marmalade, which required only two grapefruits. It was adapted from a Nigella Lawson, which meant I had to convert 500 grams of sugar and 500 grams of brown sugar to ounces. I had never made marmalade or preserves of any kind. You boil up the two grapefruits, whole, as they bobble on the water for two hours. After they have cooled, you chop them fairly finely, add both sugars and grapefruit pulp to the pot along with the juice of two lemons. I had it nearly done before I realized I had to call my mother to find out about sterilizing the jars and lids. I had bought new jars at the Ace Hardware in my neighborhood. Boil the jars and the lids and tops in separate pots, my mother advised, and once you've got a clear, skimmed preserves ("you better add a pinch of salt," she suggested), spoon the marmalade in your glass jars. Wipe the lip of the jars clean. Cover and tightly seal. Then you have to boil the closed jars for an additional 15 minutes or so. The result was lots of pots and pans and six half-pint jars of marmalade, four of which are stored now in the basement. The other two will be given to my guests coming for dinner tomorrow night. I think there will be more preserves in my future.

Off to give Beau his late afternoon walk.

Only one more social event for the New Year. I cant' wait for it to begin!

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