Christmas recap

Mike got this gorgeous shot of the bridge from the top of our hill.

After so many years of trying to squeeze in multiple family visits with minimal vacation time, it was really nice for Mike to have more than a week off work and nowhere to go for Christmas. But I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t have any big plans because it seemed like there were a million things to do last week. And since I didn’t have family around for this holiday, I tried to squeeze in some of my traditions — mostly involving indulgent foods — where I could.

We had quite an adventure getting a Christmas tree. I was just going to buy one at the Berkeley Bowl for around $20 like we did last year. But they were out of trees! So we went from lot to lot on our way home, gasping at the prices. We ended up paying $50+ for a noble fir, which seemed crazy to me (they didn’t even have hot apple cider!). But it is a beautiful tree.

Unfortunately, one day while we were out, the dogs decided to tear into our wrapped presents and ruin my surprise gift to Mike. The gift was a Sodastream (which is awesome and you should totally get one), so that night also involved trying to get colorful syrup smears out of our couch and carpet.

We made out pretty well in the gift department. Of course the baby got lots of adorable goodies, but we also got a new Cuisinart griddler (plus waffle plates, thanks babe!), and a grinder attachment for our KitchenAid mixer so Mike can make homemade sausage. I got Mike some fancypants Scotch and some curvy Belgian beer glasses.

I had a lot of orders to fill after Renegade, including some that needed to arrive before Christmas, so I was a busy bee knitting and boxing up orders. But I also made time for some baking every couple of days. I made Chex Mix and puppy chow, plus these yummy pecan balls from Real Simple. Then, from my classic cookie archive, I made peanut blossoms and sugar cookies.

And most importantly, Mike and I prepared a bundt pan of bubble bread on Christmas Eve so we could wake up to it Christmas morning. It was just as good as I remembered it.

For Christmas dinner we decided to try this recipe I found in the New York Times magazine for smothered pork chops with anise brine. I’d never brined anything before, but it was really easy to do the night before we cooked. (By the way, I halved the recipe). Though it takes some time to cook in a dutch oven, the recipe could not be simpler. And it was so, so good. Probably the best pork chops I’ve ever had, and the recipe makes a ton of gravy that goes well with mashed potatoes.

We watched A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and all the other classic movies we could find on TV. Then we planned our trip to see the northern coastal redwoods, which I will tell you about very soon.