Friday, December 28, 2007

Santa Baby.

Christmas 2007 was *great*.

Greg was great to me.

I was great to Greg.

Family and friends were great to us.

Throw in three types of tamales, massive amounts of cookies. Candy. Some light egg nog. Spiced apple cider. Snuggles with Portia. Time off.

It was great all around.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Merry!

Well the day is finally here, MERRY CHRISTMAS from Greg & Mara to anyone reading my little corner of the blogosphere. We are about to get down and dirty opening gifts, I of course took a picture of our overflowing tree, it's always so sad when it's bare and cold and naked after the fact. I don't mind delaying for a while just to live vicariously through wrapped present glory. Hope everyone is enjoying their wonderful day with friends and family!!

In celebration of Christmas Eve, yesterday I pulled out the rest of the rugelach dough from the other day and made more pinwheels. This time with dried cranberries, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon and walnuts with apricot and these were rockin! Though honestly the first batch was great too, but these were just a little less sweet and more tart but still sweet. Hmm that made no sense. Anyway, rave reviews from hubby, who said 'those pinwheel things are good, i ate a few'...haha. I def think these and the PB cookies are my fave this year. I'm hoarding the PB cookies and trying to eat them sparingly, because how often do I bake with hydrogenated oil Skippy? Once a year.

This 2nd batch of rugelach came out way more visually lovely than the first tries I made. Those were still good looking but nowhere near SmittenKitchen or Janna beauty, now I finally feel like I got more of the hang of it.

rugelach beauties.

ready for it's closeup.

Time for presents!! Have a wonderful day everyone. Hugs and kisses from Greg, Mara and the snow princess, Portia.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Tradition...Tamales!

Every year my family makes Tamales for Xmas...well year after year it's been mostly Mom and Grandma making the elements for them and then the grandkids assemble them. I have never really felt all that confident in my kitchen skills so I was never sure I could pull off the tamale makin' on my own. However last year only Mom made Tamales...for whatever reason I don't really love hers, and Grandma hurt her shoulder this year, so I thought well if there was ever a time to step up the plate it is this year.

I had Grandma help me by making her famous sauce (which has 3 types of chilis, garlic, peanut butter, chocolate, pumpkin and sesame seed in it!!) and I did the rest. I went a little crazy because I figure when in Rome so we made beef/pork combo tamales ala family tradition, chicken chile verde tamales ala Mara experimental tradition, and sweet tamales which are kind of rare and unique around here so I was really excited about these. They are basically like dessert tamales.

Like any obsessed blogger, I catalogued the process the whole time with my camera. I started cooking the meats on Friday, and we assembled on Saturday. Greg helped. Started steaming on Sunday and into Monday, each batch takes between 2-4 hours to steam.

Here are the highlights. I am happy to report that every version was received with cheers by the family members and the most important taster, my cute guinea pig husband, who wants to eat tamales and cookies solely for meals the rest of this week. I like the way he thinks!!

crockpot beef with garlic, onion, water, simmered and cooked for 5+ hours.


mixed with Grandma's famous chili sauce....mmm.

prepared masa from a local Guadalajara market (which also has fab greasy burritos). yep this stuff has LARD in it!! yum.

added EVOO, baking powder, sauce for color and whipped into shape!

assembly station.

assembled and ready to be steamed for a few hours.

beautiful steamy goodness.

ta-da! finished product. i think these are actually the sweet ones as the beef and chicken ones are slightly larger.

speaking of sweet, here is the filling for the sweet tamales. hot rum soaked raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar.

done, cooled and cut-up. they ARE as tasty as they look.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Baking Overload.

So last nite I spent 4 hours baking goodies for my team cookie exchange, which was actually a ton of fun. We put the Christmas music on and I started making a whirlwind of a mess in the kitchen!!! I only needed to make one type of cookies for the exchange but I've been researching them all week, so I got inspired and made three different types. Baking superwomanslashfriend Janna has been waxing on and on about SmittenKitchen.Com so I started checking out that blog and other baking blogs this week. So I had a little pile of 'I wanna try this!' placed in front of me. Oodles of european unsalted butter and light brown sugar later...I had my results and boy were they tasted. I took pictures the whole time, which Greg just finds hilarious and a little crazee, but after seeing those baking blog pictures, you'd be inspired to take photos of your handiwork too. I'm but a novice.

thumbprint dough.

beautiful organic sugar.

peanut butter dough.

finished peanut butter product.

apricot rugelach dry filling.

rugelach dough rolled & filled.

yum yum. solo baked rugelach.

rolls and rolls of rugelach.

cooled & packaged...tasty pretty.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gourmet Dinner.

Our fabulous neighbors have family visiting from out of town (way out of town!!!) and her father is a we jumped at the chance to go over on Sunday evening, and partake of his fabulous cooking and baking. The presentation of the food was so awesome that I had to capture it on camera and it tasted just as yummy as it looked. Greg is a big fan of this Slovakian fruit liquor ... it comes in flavors like plum and apple etc...and Slavka's parents brought a bottle of apple which the boys freely imbibed. The next morning Greg was feeling the pain, but he's still a Slivovitza lover..we went over last nite to take some cookies (and got some fabulous homemade cake in exchange) and he managed to down 2 shots within the 10 minutes he was there. What a pro!

amazing starters, check out the intricacy of the deviled eggs. mine will always seem so cheap & tawdry looking in comparion forevermore.

after a little wine...

the infamous slavovica (or slivovitza to us americanos)

pretty latte.

big fresh fruit platter completed the lavish dinner (which was multi-coursed, i just didn't get great photos of it all...)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fresh Baked Goods.

So this weekend I got out the baking goodies and got to work. I absolutely love making cookies but since I don't really eat them that often (rephrase...I would love to eat them all the time but I *cant* eat them that often and still fit into my jeans)...I hardly ever make them. So when the holidays roll around, I am more than happy to bake incessantly and give away 99% of the fruit of my labors so that they expand someone else's waistlines instead of mine. ;) Though really Greg can eat 20 cookies and never gain anything so he's a great guinea pig.

I made some double chocolate peppermint dream cookies and snickerdoodles. When I don't want chocolate, the snickerdoodles are seriously my fave cookie ever. The chocolate ones came out so incredibly rich and I halved the butter in the recipe, so it was amazing to think that the original recipe called for double the butter. I really have no idea where it'd go, they were really rich anyway. And I did the same in the snickerdoodle recipe and they came out wonderful, to rave reviews from my better half (though maybe it was his spiked eggnog talking?).

Fruits of Labor.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Dream:


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Card's In the Mail!

So I am currently loving Shutterfly right now. Not because of it's super user friendly interface or amazingly bug-free experience (neither of which are actually true...the thing was a PITA to use)...but because you can create cutey little collage photo cards for holiday mailings. Oh...what you say...lots of other online sites do that? How right you are.

HOWEVER, where Shutterfly trumps the others is the ability to select 'let us mail cards for you'...which I swear is like hearing the heavens open up and angels begin to sing. mailing of xmas cards this year? No trauma of looking at them sitting on the cold granite island waiting to be addressed? No buying stamps? Be still my little heart.

I signed right up, spent way too many hours uploading images and playing with our card...and finally hit the button last nite. So who knows when these little gifts from God will arrive to our lucky recipients, but at least *I* don't have to be licking envelopes. And that was worth the exhorbitant price I had to pay for each card. And now...I can concentrate on wrapping presents. Yanno, the fun stuff.

Soooo...if you are wondering why our Xmas cards haven't come this year, wonder no longer. Card's in the mail!! I swear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ho Ho Holiday Party.

Sym had their holiday party on Friday...we went, we whooped, and we came home. It was quite fab actually...they rented out the 'Silicon Valley Computer Museum' which for those of us who have been around the SV longer than a few years remember as the original first SGI building. The original 'Yahoo' of the SV...they had oodles of buildings up and down Shoreline Blvd and everyone would whisper about visiting their awesome colorful, fun, trendy, uber-cool building. Now it's just the SV Computer Museum as SGI is sadly no more. I love the building's history.

Two bands, lots of food, free flowing alcohol and a whole room of desserts. My kind of party. We danced a long while and snapped some incriminating pictures. Not so much on the incriminating part but lots of pictures.

Some highlights.

We clean up nice.

A few of my fabulous teammates and some strange little mushroom shaped ice cream numbers on a stick which we consumed in the multiples.

Me and Vivi...It's so fun to have her working with me again.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Go Elf Yourself!

My coworkers and I had way too much fun this morning with this little tool that Office Depot puts out.

Our funtastic results..seriously I about die laughing every time we play it. And before you ask, Portia is blue because that was the only photo I had of her here with me...her in the snow in Tahoe haha.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Festive Fun...with Alcohol.

Holiday fun with the gang...Mike and Jen hosted this year. We had way too much food, amazingly tasty spiked cider and wine, and much merriment. Of course, we have photos.

Highlights...the rest are being uploaded to Ofoto..I'll post the link in a few.

Host and Hostess.

Mara n Jen.

Saucy!!!...Mara, Nic & Shari workin' the hip!

Pretty flowers.

Yummy cider. Halfway gone *hic*

Holiday cuteness.

And again, what party is complete without Kenny hamming it up.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Holiday Overdose.

Yep, I admit it, I'm a decor whore. Christmas decor whore to be exact. It's pretty bad many other times of the year but at Christmas it just all comes out. My pallet of Xmas stuff that is. Greg pulls it out from under the house and typically grouses about how much I have...but this year he has been quite good natured about the whole thing, quite in the spirit to my surprise. He even put up my snowflakes and the outside lights without me having to ask (typically I do it). So because he was helping out in other ways this year, I had way more time on my hands to uhhh...add more decor to the house. It's a little crazy I admit. Tonite he asked me 'so who's going to be seeing this new masterpiece...' because we aren't planning on hosting any parties this year (that will change)...I said 'US!!!'. Well and now, you too.

So yeah, this last weekend we spent a good amount of time putting the rest of the house 'together'. And it looks quite good I am proud to say! Yay for sparkly holidays, the best kinds.

Here's what I started with. One 6.5' noble fir, naked and cold.

Add countless red, gold, and silver ornaments (who knew I was such a ball collector??)...

Equals super sparkly results, along with a bored looking rat.

The rest of the cheery abode...

Downstairs tree. You can see the outside 'project in progress' with Greg happening.

I've got more pictures (no really...) but have to upload them so check back later for the rest of the pretty sparkly items.