a99kitten’s Musings

I blog about a WHOLE LOT of stuff :)

Brown Butter Blondies with Cherries, Chocolate, Cashews & Pecans

Found this recipe on Williams Sonoma. First time trying it so who knows but let’s face it…how can it possibly taste bad??

Ingredients:

16 Tbs. (8 oz.) unsalted butter
3 cups (21 oz.) firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. bourbon
2 tsp. salt
2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup (4 oz.) coarsely chopped cashews
1 cup (4 oz.) coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup (2 oz.) dried tart cherries
2 cups (12 oz.) chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil and grease well. I melted a bit of butter and spread it in there.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the butter, stirring constantly, until it turn golden and the butter has a nutty fragrance. Be careful not to let the butter burn. Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar. Set aside and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, bourbon and salt. Whisk in the cooled butter mixture, then fold in the flour and baking powder.

Making sure that the mixture is almost at room temperature (to prevent the chocolate from melting), stir in the nuts, cherries and chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the top is shiny, set and slightly cracked around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.

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We just “tested” these. WOW!!!! SO GOOD!!!!!

Mmmmmmm

Merry Christmas!!

I love Christmas. I love winter generally but I think the Christmas season is the best.

I don’t love idiots who try and get on some soap box about religious tolerance or PC-ness. There is not single damn thing wrong with saying Merry Christmas, sending out Christmas cards, having a Christmas tree.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas because you are Jewish, Muslim, Kwanzian (just made that up) or a Pagan. Good for you. I don’t care. And when you say Happy Hanukkah or Happy Ramadan or whatever – I don’t get offended. Hey – celebrate. Be happy. But don’t try and rain on my parade by insisting we don’t say Christmas because it’s some kind of -ist.

This country was founded on Christian religious beliefs. I am not Christian or Catholic or any offshoot. To me Christmas is not really so much about the birth of Jesus or a time to spend time in church. It’s totally fine if it is for you though. To me, Christmas is about friends and family and feeling happy and putting up my Christmas trees and singing Christmas music every day from the Friday after Christmas until January 2nd. I get the religious aspects of it and respect them and people’s right to believe them. That’s another reason our country was founded and is so great. So if someone wants to put a manger scene up, THAT’S OK. That’s what Christmas it about to them.

For me it’s about bundling up in a big coat with sweaters and scarves and boots because it’s cold out, hopefully with some snow. About walking around the Stanford Shopping Center with all of the stores decorated and lights twinkling everywhere. And almost everyone in a better mood. Unless you are there at like 4pm on Christmas Eve – those people are a bit harried.

It’s about planning and eating some yummy meals that you don’t let yourself have year round. About smiling at total strangers as you walk down the street and wishing them a Merry Christmas. It’s about going to a party or 2 and having fun with friends, family and co-workers. It’s about getting a red cup at Starbucks and hearing the Christmas music playing in there while you warm up from the cold.

It’s about buying a present for someone that you know they will love and wrapping it and putting it under the tree and having the lights sparkle off the wrapping paper. It’s about coming home from work and turning the Christmas tree lights on and just sitting around the tree enjoying it.

It’s about watching It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Rudolph and The Grinch for the umpteenth time and still enjoying every minute of them. And of course new classics like Elf and Love Actually :)

If kids are around, it’s most definitely about Santa Claus and his reindeer and Frosty. And making Christmas cookies.

I could go on listing more things that Christmas means to me. But the point is that if you are such a jerk that you can’t understand and allow people to enjoy these things without making a frackin’ ruckus about the Christ part in Christmas, you are the one with the problem. I don’t care if you celebrate Hanukkah. Or Ramadan. Or Kwanzaa. Or Winter Solstice. Or don’t celebrate anything at all. Do it – have fun with it. But don’t wreck my fun.

So when I say Merry Christmas to you, smile and be happy. As will I if you send good wishes to me. But if you find yourself offended by someone wishing you a Merry Christmas, I think your heart and soul are basically empty voids. And stay the hell away from me.

Today is the last day of my Christmas vacation. I’m bummed :( Not at the prospect at going back to work. I don’t mind work. More at the prospect of leaving my winter wonderland. I love my house here. I love my time here. The huskies love their snow time here. Being here makes me happy.

It’s been a fun vacation. Didn’t do everything I wanted to but did a lot. Ice skating was high on my list but it’s so crowded here for the holidays with tourists, it makes more sense to wait a week or 2.

Leading up to my time off, I was so busy and stressed out to get stuff done that I didn’t have time to look forward to my time off! But once I got here, instant decompression. It was a white Christmas which was key for me. Christmas Eve and Day were nice even though husband was sick. Made a yummy ham that we are still eating the leftovers from :) Made some yummy food this vacation – but tooooo terribly unhealthy! The penne with Italian sausage was my favorite I think – numnumnum!

I got some movie watching done which was high on my list too! Watched:

Love Actually (Christmas tradition)
Christmas Story (another tradition)
Die Hard on Christmas morning :)
The Taking of Pelham 123 (Travolta plays such a great bad guy)
Paranormal Activity (boring)
District 9 (good!)
Inglorious Basterds (good!)

I also finished 2 fun books and started another. And even got through one of my past Vanity Fair magazines! I am so behind in my VF reading. Ever since Dominick Dunne stopped writing his column, I don’t rush to open them as quickly as I used to. But still some good articles and nice pictures :)

Friends came up for New Year’s and we had a fun blue moon shoe hike, 2 fun dinners (1 in and 1 out) and a nice New Year’s Eve at 2 mellow neighbor parties and still safely and warmly in bed by 1am :)

Blue Moon hike :)

Regular season football is coming to end today. This saddens me too. Even though I got knocked out of fantasy – boo!! I won Survivor and 4 weekly pools so far so can’t really complain – fun AND profitable season :) Watched some exciting football games this past 2 weeks for sure (MNF – MIN at CHI was GREAT!) Plus watched the Gators and Tim Tebow dominate in the Sugar Bowl. That was nice :) I would LOVE to see Alabama lose miserably to Texas this week to make that even more fun :)

The most important thing is that I got a LOT of snow play (and exercise!) in with the huskies. That was my main goal :) Every single day we went out for multiple snow walks and hikes. And the weather definitely cooperated. Tons of snow and nice cold weather for the boys. I think this December is one of the best Decembers in recent history for snow. YAY! So hopefully January – March cooperates as well. We walked through our neighborhood pre-plowing so it was deep, we hiked up snow trails, went snowshoeing (well, the huskies don’t use shoes!), played in snow piles and dug snow caves. Pretty sure they had a good time! I know I did :)

Snowshoe hike

So a nice vacation for sure. And thankfully I get to come back next weekend if I want – hopefully to some fresh snow! :)

For My Liberal Friends:

“Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is not subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.”


For My Conservative Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! :)

Thanksgiving weekend is drawing to a close. Sad that I have to leave snowy Tahoe but happy it’s now Christmas season! Started on Friday when I put up my tree here. And this week I will buy a tree for home. Very excited!! My tree routine is go pick my tree, get tree home and up, order pizza, put Christmas music on and decorate with a glass of bubbly. I’ve had this routine for years – at home (no bubbly then tho!) and then on my own. When decorated, you sit and look at your pretty tree and smile :) Every night when I come home from work, I will turn the tree lights and Xmas music on. Having my tree makes me happy. Period.

I tried very hard to not play any Christmas music until Friday but then on Friday – Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and more got plenty of play :) Christmas music really makes me happy. Well, let me re-phrase…I like well done Christmas music. I’ve heard some really bad pop or rap renditions…not a fan…at all. But there is nothing better than the old classics. My dad would play the Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis records over and over all month long. They are in constant rotation at my house now too :)

Went to our homeowner’s association Tree Lighting last night. They had a pretty big set up at the lodge with s’mores stations, pictures with Santa and plenty of games for kids. We saw Santa’s sleigh land too. Not exactly sure how they did it, but they did make it seem like he landed from the sky – had him come out of the dark forest so it was a good illusion. The kids (ok, me too…) were pretty excited to see it :) I wore my jingle bell antlers headband so the little kids liked to stop and talk to me :) It was sooooo cold out but they had a lot of the outdoor heaters going. It was a very fun event.

Fun football weekend. My Gators won!! The Stanford/Notre Dame game was great and I am on track to win my FF week. Although it will come down to MNF as I have Drew Brees and my opponent has Reggie Bush. I am very, very excited for that game. I am rooting for NO to win!

It’s time to get some Christmas shopping done. I love going to Stanford Shopping Center at Christmas time. They have trees and decorations everywhere, music playing, everything is lit up, the whole place is beautiful. It’s nice and festive and wintery. I actually prefer to get my shopping done online for most things but love going there just for the holiday ambiance. Walk around, get a hot cocoa or hot apple cider and check out all the store displays.

It’s very busy for me at work this time of year. And then you throw in being busy for holiday stuff. It’s so easy to get so busy that you forget to stop and enjoy this time of year. Always take some time to stop and enjoy the season. Watch the snow fall if you can. Or decorate your Christmas tree, even if you can only afford a small one. Or sit down and listen to Bing sing White Christmas. Oh – and watch a cute Christmas movie! Old classics, new classics – whatever tickles you. Find the time for these things. *Especially* if you have kids – they will always remember it. Presents are awesome – everyone loves them, loves to play with them, have them, etc, etc. But they will remember the things they did, trees decorated, visits to Santa, snowballs thrown, family traditions to repeat for years, the times you laughed together at Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder or rooted for Rudolph. It’s important. These are the things I remember from my family Christmas’ and always will.

Me and the buds Xmas 2005

Me and the buds Xmas 2005

Thanksgiving is the start of the big holiday season for me. I don’t go by the retail stores who apparently think late August is a good time to start thinking about trimming your tree. Nope. For me, it’s the Thanksgiving week. So, really not Thursday but all Thanksgiving week I am gearing up for it. And my Christmas tree doesn’t go up a day earlier than the Friday after Thanksgiving. Sometimes, not until the following weekend but that is only due to time constraints or finding someone to help me get the tree (husband does not help much in that area – his loss.)

I really hate when people use the excuse of the holidays to get all blue or sad. Oh poor me. Bad relationship/memories with dad, Mom, husband, wife, kids, whatever. Boo-hoo. You know what? That sadness is caused by you. If this horrible thing didn’t just happen to you, then you have had time to pick yourself, get over it, move on. I’ve had my fair share of bad things happen around these holidays. But I think I love them more than anyone else I know.

Today, November 25th, is when my Mom died six years ago. I was at home packing for our trip to San Diego to visit husband’s family for Thanksgiving when my Dad called with the news. Now, my Mom had been sick for several years so it wasn’t really a surprise. But that really doesn’t make that call any easier. My Mom had early onset Alzheimer’s. She got sick in 1997. Then had to go to a nursing home a year later. She was still physically OK at this point but unable to manage at home any longer. She and my Dad had been divorced for years at this point so it was really above and beyond for him to take care of her for this amount of time (that’s a whole other posting for the future I guess.) She needed constant care and was starting to get more and more physically ill as well.

So my brother and I had quite a few years to deal with the loss of our Mom before her actual loss. When I visited her, she would sometimes remember me and sometimes not. This is not something you can ever get used to. One of the saddest moments in my life was receiving a phone call from her, long after she was all but mentally checked out and remembering no one but my Dad, and the nurse put her on the phone and she whispered “Don’t let me stay here anymore. Don’t hang on to me anymore.” I was fairly speechless. But I told her I wouldn’t. Watching her fade was sad. She was a very vibrant woman and she would have HATED to see herself in that condition.

As she got sicker, the nursing home asked us about DNRs. Since my parents were divorced, this decision fell to her eldest child. A good thing to know for the future – DNRs are not black and white. There are all sorts of caveats. And if you don’t understand them all – they still will resuscitate even if this leaves the person in a coma. So if it is your intention to have one in place for yourself, make sure you research this. It’s a good, if morbid, thing to plan so the decision doesn’t fall to others who cannot make it. My father argued with me about this for a while. What finally got him to realize I was right was me pointing out that this is no longer Mom. She was no longer there. And if Mom fell into a coma, or needed tubes to live on as a meat body, she would absolutely not want that. And as you learn more about what Alzheimer’s does to the mind and body, you realize what will happen eventually. It’s a horrific disease.

So when my Dad called and told me that she did die, I did cry. Of course I was sad. But part of me was relieved that she was released from that hell. I know this was harder on my little brother. He argued with her a lot when she was “forgetful” and felt like crap after finding out she was sick. I don’t think he is truly over this yet.

We still went down to San Diego as my Mom’s cremations, etc was going to take a few days due to nursing home/hospital/mortuary/etc delays. That Thanksgiving was hard. Husband’s family tried very hard to comfort me without smothering me. That was nice. They are a very nice family for sure.

During this trip, a very weird evening/event occurred with one of husband’s friends and his whacked-out crazy wife. This upset me mostly because I was already upset. I’m sure on a regular weekend, I would have just smacked someone :) In a nutshell: went to his surfing friend’s house for dinner (a surgeon) with his wife (also a doctor) and their 2 kids and wife’s 20-something sister visiting from Brazil. Dinner was nice. Very fun. Nice family. They suggest going to a club to listen to some live music (Los Lonely Boys were playing.) I didn’t want to – I am tired. Much prodding and fine – I agree to not be the stick in the mud because my Mom just died (??) Surgeon drives us all to club. Lesson learned: NEVER all go in 1 car when it’s not yours – anywhere, ever. Get to crowded bar/club. Band late. Surgeon wife – has a beer. 10 minutes later surgeon’s wife has completely transformed into a freak. I am 100% convinced she took E along with that beer. No way 1 beer does that. No way. She and her sister were flying high. She attempted to put a move on me. Uh – no. If I were in a better mood, I would have brushed it off like a “Heh, sorry you got the wrong impression.” But I was not in a better mood. I told her to get the F away from me and if she doesn’t I will punch her in the face. I felt this communicated what I wanted correctly.

I think I was most annoyed that my husband saw this happen but a) didn’t really care and b) still didn’t leave when I said I wanted to leave after it happened. If this was a man that had done this – he would have FREAKED out. So I told him I was leaving even if he wasn’t. Fine – we can go. Oh but what about the others (who were by now drunk and whatever else.) Umm…take the car keys away and tell them to cab it home. Done. No, we can’t do that. So we had to round them up, have them fall down in the street on the way to the car, lose purses, etc and drive them home. Unreal. The surgeon called husband the next day to apologize. Whatever dude. Anyway…it was a rather surreal evening to a crap weekend. Husband’s family yelled at him for even taking me there at all. Ha. Also found out the wife and sister are always like this and this marriage is kinda open-ish? Ewww.

My grandmother also died around this time, in mid-December. But this was a long time ago – I was little. I do remember how sad my father was. I had never, ever seen him sad before. That leaves an impression on a little kid. Maybe it’s why every Christmas after that he felt the need to drink himself silly. He wasn’t an angry drunk or anything – but it takes the fun out of things as you grow up and see people’s unhappiness and their inability to deal with it. I think this is a main reason I spoiled my little brother as much as I could and tried to shield him from that as a little kid.

My grandfather died a few years ago in early-January. He lived a long and happy life though. I think he just wanted to get to heaven to see my grandmother :) He used to drink way too much as well. But when my grandma died, he went cold turkey. I think he decided he needed to shape up if he was getting a spot with her. He was a WWII veteran. Played the violin beautifully. He played in the local orchestra for years. He and I wrote letters back and forth every week for years and years. He was a great guy and will always be missed. I found out he died when we were in Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. I got the call a couple hours before the ceremony. That was tough. But we were there. And I soldiered through and went. Being around friends can always help you through things.

My father had a stroke in 2007. 5 in 1 night actually. He has been a big drinker for quite some time. And his health and body gave up 1 day. They said he would die. I had to sign another DNR. But his genes are frackin’ tough. He did get physically better. Completely. But the strokes mushed up his short-term memory. Ask him anything about 15 years ago and beyond. Sharp as a tack. Ask him what he ate for breakfast. Not so much. So he is in a nursing home now.

My brother – he ODed in November a couple years ago. While taking care of my alcoholic father and not telling me the details (they all live in FL and I live in CA) so as not to upset or worry me, he stressed himself out to ridiculous proportions. Some people handle stress differently. Some people are tougher. But I’m sure seeing it almost every day was just too much for a 22 yr old (and starting when he younger.) He started taking Xanax at the suggestion of a “friend”. Got hooked. Anyone who thinks pharmaceuticals aren’t just as dangerous as street drugs is an idiot.

I got the call from my Aunt. Your brother is in a coma and they say he will die. What? I broke. I’ve been closest to my brother than any family member. I helped raise him. I just talked to him the day before – how could this happen? The doctor told me that I would need to decide on a DNR and organ donation. What? I flew out to Florida. On the plane, I said no – this will not happen. He is a good kid who made stupid decisions. When we got there, I had voice mails from my aunt. He came out of his coma! What? Doctor said crazy. Unheard of – he was blue when he arrived into the ER. Found out from his nurse later that they had literally already alerted the morgue that day. He has gone through a long rehab but is doing much better now.

I don’t write this to bum me or you out. I write this as a way to show that no matter what happens, you can still move past it. You can still suck it up and move on in life and deal with things. And you don’t blame the holiday blues. You had a sucky childhood so you don’t like Christmas now – wtf? I had an ex-boyfriend who didn’t like Christmas. He said it was because it was so stressful all his life, and so fake and so blah blah blah. He had a huge awesome family who celebrated the holidays with gusto. I spent 2 of them there. Not liking Christmas was in his own head and I would not let him take me down with him. I made him celebrate. We got a small tree for his apartment. Made him go to all of his family’s functions. And he said afterwards – that it was the best holiday he can ever remember. Well duh stupid – you took the time off from being depressed about it and found something to celebrate and be happy about.

Can I make myself sad by dwelling on the sad stuff. I’m sure. But I prefer to remember all the good memories I do have of these people and smile. I don’t have a big family (well, that I am close to) so I usually invite friends over to celebrate as well. I’ve always been a big believer in my friends are my family. I can choose them :)

Plus Christmas is when husband told me he was getting me a puppy. Puppy wouldn’t be ready until first week in January (we talked them into a 12/31 pickup.) This was the best Christmas gift I could ever receive. We went to get him early in the morning on 12/31/00. I was very sick (like don’t get out of bed sick – so forgive the pic!) but nothing was stopping me from getting my puppy. We played with the puppies for quite a while and Angelus chose me. And he has been my best friend ever since.

Me and Angelus 12.31.00

Me and Angelus 12.31.00

It’s easy to get caught up in not enough money, not enough time, no significant other, bad significant other, bad family, etc. etc. sadness/blues. But If you open your mind and eyes and look hard enough, you can always find something to be happy about too. To be thankful for. So look for it.