Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In the Kitchen

It was still sunny out when I awoke this morning. I finished The Great Santa Search, then had breakfast while watching Christmas Eve On Sesame Street. Sesame Street's first holiday special came out in 1978, and while a lot of the cast has changed over the years, this one remains charming. Big Bird is worried that Santa won't be able to deliver presents when Oscar reminds him how skinny many chimneys tend to be in New York. Bert and Ernie sell the things that mean most of them to buy presents for each other...but Mr. Hooper has surprises for them, too. Cookie Monster just wants to somehow get his list to Santa, without eating the writing utensils first.

The crew at the Hundred Acre Woods is also enjoying an eventful holiday season in A Very Merry Pooh Year. The first half of this two-part compilation movie is the special Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too in its entirety. Pooh and Piglet try to get their friends the gifts they want when they can't get their wish list to Santa. After their well-meaning attempts to play Santa themselves backfires, Pooh is determined to get the list to Santa himself! The second half has Rabbit upset because the others barged in on his house without asking. To keep him from moving away, they become determined to make New Year's resolutions and change...but it only makes things worse. In the end, Rabbit realizes that he really does like his friends the way they are, no matter how much they can drive him crazy at times.

Started the first batch of cookies during Merry Pooh Year. I always make five kinds of cookies during the Christmas season to give as gifts and for the Acme's employee luncheon. I started with the same Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies I gave to Linda and James and Lauren. They're delicious and very easy to make.

I ran The Little Drummer Boy Book II as I cleaned up from the cookies and put them in gift boxes. Rankin Bass did the second tale of Aaron the drummer boy and his menagerie in the late 70s, and it's definitely one of their better specials from that era.  Aaron and his animals help one of the Wise Men and an elderly man save silver bells that are to be used to herald the birth of Jesus from Roman guards. The drummer boy does manage to distract the head of the guards (Zero Mostel) from melting the bells into bricks, but at the cost of his most precious possession.

I took a quick walk and errand run around 12:30. Volunteered at the Oaklyn Library first. Despite the increasing clouds, they were empty except for two men and the librarian. I organized the DVDs (a TV show had gotten mixed in with the regular adult titles) and some of the children's books, then moved on. Got a "Gobbler" turkey hoagie, skim milk, and eggnog at WaWa.

The clouds were getting heavier and heavier as I walked home. They thankfully waited until about a half-hour or so after I'd gotten in to burst. It's rained on and off for the rest of the day, though never as heavily as last Tuesday.

I'd planned on spending the rest of the day inside anyway, regardless of the weather. Did one of the holiday episodes of Perfect Strangers as I ate my Gobbler. Larry's hoping to take Balki to his family's home in Madison for Christmas. He's devastated when a blizzard strands them in Chicago. Balki does his best to remind his cousin that the real Christmas spirit has less to do with presents than with being with the ones we love.

I put on the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol while I made the peanut butter cookies. British character actor Alistair Sim is a wonderfully despicable Scrooge. This is an interesting production that adds more to Scrooge's past, including how he met Jacob Marley and left Fezziwig, and a larger role to the charwoman seen in the future segment.

I found the recipe for what's now known as Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies two years ago, when I was short on funds and trying to figure out ways to cut a few corners. I decided to try using a mix for one type of cookie and save flour for some of the more complicated ones. The resulting cookies were so delicious, this has been my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe ever since.

Switched to The Grand Budapest Hotel as I made the biscotti. Director Wes Anderson is known for his quirky and unusual comedies, and despite its historical setting, this one is no exception. In the 60s, a young writer (Jude Law) is told the story of the title hotel by its elderly owner (F. Murray Abraham). The owner was once a humble lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) who was taken in as a protege by the Grand Budapest's beloved and persnickety head concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) at the hotel in a small fictional European country in the 1930s. Gustave enjoys romancing the Grand Budapest's wealthy and aging clientele. When one of them (Tilda Swinton) dies, she leaves him a very important panting...one that her dastardly son (Adrian Brody) doesn't want anyone to get. M. Gustave and the loyal Zero find themselves running for their lives after Gustave is accused of her murder.

I've rented other Wes Anderson films, but haven't gotten to watch them for one reason or another. I really need to stop putting them off. I really enjoyed this multi-layered tale of mystery, romance, and dapper gentlemen in days gone by. It is rated R for a reason, though. There's a lot of swearing, especially from Gustave (for a guy who prides himself on elegance, he sure does love his curse words), some violence, and a little bit of sexuality in the beginning. A fun ride for adults who can handle the swearing and enjoy Anderson's brand of oddball comedy-drama.

I'm glad I got to the biscotti tonight. It's one of two recipes I make that take a little while. I don't make this like the hard rusks many of you dunk in your coffee. This simple recipe is pretty much butter, flour, baking powder, and sugar that I roll into Christmas shapes and cover with colored sugar or cinnamon candies. The rolling takes a lot of time, though, and the butter makes it very rich, which is why I don't make this more often.

Took a short bath after the movie ended. Ahhh, that felt really good. I'd been standing in front of a stove for the better part of a day. I read Christmas stories and listened to holiday jazz music. It felt nice and cozy, with the light rain sometimes going on in the background.

Finished the night with soup and Get Smart. The first season episode "Our Man In Toyland" lands Max and 99 in a department store, trying to figure out how CONTROL is smuggling weapons information out of the country. Even after they find out how it's being done, they may not live to tell the Chief what's going on when they're caught by the head of the department store!

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