Monthly Archives: December 2008

We Made It!

And even slept.

Our only delay was on the flight leaving SeaTac, which had to be de-iced. Denver and Washington were both a mild 50 degrees and we had no issues at all.  We both napped on the short legs, and got a solid 3 or so hours of sleep on the segment over the Atlantic. The Business/1st Class section was very empty, and we got a lot of personalized attention from our steward. He brought me wine from 1st class to drink “as a tasting”

CDG is a bizarre airport but not fiendishly difficult to navigate, just ignore the jetlag and double check your directions. Be warned: the pedestrian walkways (moving belts) UNDULATE. So don’t let go of your suitcase because it will slide down the hill and hit the people in back of you. (This did not happen to us, but I worried about it.) Customs was a check of the passport and waved through. (No paperwork????)

Finally, after moving up a walkway that spewed us out (eeriely reminiscent of the egg laying scene in Aliens, but without the goo.  Or the alien.) we emerged into the baggage claim area. There we waited until about 7:15am and picked up our bag (basically our bag was the first off the plane — this much good luck does not bode well for the return trip. *sigh*).

Following the signs, we made our way to the RER, line B, bought tickets, and got on the train. Then we had a scary moment as our train, which had about 20 stops before the one we wanted, just went through station after station without stopping. We got off briefly at Gare du Nord and then realized that our train was NOW going to stop at the rest of the stations. So we got back on. And — voila! — exited at Luxembourg. Total cost = 16.80e (approx. $20).

Then it was up and out (with a little delay as our tickets initially weren’t accepted — and you can NOT get out without them) and amoment of whcih direction is North? You see, I’d mapped out our walking directions (just a few blocks) but they were based on knowing which direction is North. And the sky was overcast (it was even dawn yet — but that can’t be right, can it?). So we attempted logic and started walking. Happiness is finding a local map and seeing that you hadn’t just walked three blocks out of your way. Up, and over, and here we are at the Grand Hotel St. Michel. Thsi place looks like an old-timey hotel, but the rooms are sleekly euro/modern complete with flat screen TV on the wall, WiF, a mini fridge, a HUGE tub, and real windows that overlook a sweet courtyard.

It was about 2 hours from landing to our arrival at the hotel.

We unpacked our clothes a bit (basically hung up what we’re wearing tonight) and fell into bed. It was incredibly hard for me to fall asleep. But about 9am  I put earplugs in and fell off the face of the earth until about noon. J’s having a shower and we’re getting ready to go for a walk around the neighborhood before returning to dress for dinner.


Dear Whomever Thought It Was A Good Idea To Call and Wish Us a Merry Christmas at 6:30am:

It wasn’t.

I’m not sure if you’re family. I would apologize for telling you that you called a wrong number and hanging up on you IF you had done something other than giggle and wish me a merry christmas after I said Hello. As I said, I would apologize, even if I didn’t mean it.

The fact that you called back within a minute means that it wasn’t a wrong number, and the thing that saved you from a very unpleasant conversation with me is that J got to the phone first.

Have you no sense?

How would you feel if I called just before I decided to go to sleep on New Year’s Eve (approximately 2:30am EST), just to wish you a Happy New Year?

*snarl* Where’s the coffee?

Pictures of London

When we first returned from our trip to London (April, 2007) we organized our pictures by environment and loaded them onto a website for all to share.

That website went away (bought out by Yahoo, I believe) and since the original process was more thna a little frustrting, we haven’t bother to redo the uploading into a new format.

Our family website ( has a photo gallery and I spent an hour or so today uploading the 100s of photos we took. Here’s a link:,com_morfeoshow/Itemid,59/


Recipes: Two Pies and ‘Bar Food’

For Turkey Day this year I provided three dishes: my traditional apple and pumpkin pies and the newcomer, pickled beets and eggs.

For the pumpkin pie, I usually just make the one found on the back of the can that relies on evaporated milk for its custard. It’s easy and delicious. But J. mentioned that he really doesn’t like pumpkin pie and that was a challenge for me to make the pumpkin pies of my youth: Irma’s (Joy of Cooking) double-boiler cooked pie. Alas, I couldn’t find my copy! Grumbling, I went to do my research and round what looked like an acceptable substitute. And since I didn’t want to make a two-crust apple pie, I chose to make a Dutch Apple Pie — which has a streusel topping instead of another crust.

Well, they did not turn out the way I wanted. The crusts were incredibly inconsistent in texture (even though I used the same exact recipe) and were barely sufficient to cover the pie pan and overlap. The filings required about 50% more effort than I expected/planned, and both recipes took about 50% longer to complete than I planned.

Everyone said they tasted good, and I mostly concurred. But not good enough to justify the effort or time.

On a brighter note, however, the Pickled Beets and Eggs turned out fantastic. Deep purply-pink and just the right balance of tart and sweet. I’ve always known this as ‘bar food’ from my Irish/working class ancestors. J’s family served it at the table on Tday and I can see why. Its a color not normally seen on the groaning board, and the flavor was deliciously different from the sweet, bread, or salty flavors usually found on the table.

Pickled Beets and Eggs

4-6 fresh beets, stems and leaves removed

6 eggs

Cider vinegar (or white)

Wash beets, using a brush to really scrub the dirt off. Place in a large heavy pan and cover with water. Bring just to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until fork tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and drain, reserving the beet water. Once cooled so you can handle them, use a paper towel to slide the skin off (the towel gives you a little extra friction and keeps your fingers from turning pink). Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs. Place eggs in a single layer in a pan with enough cold water to cover them completely. Bring the water to a boil for 3 minutes, remove from heat, cover tightly with a lid, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Hold eggs under cold running water to cool quickly; peel.

Place beets and eggs into a non-metallic/non-plastic container (a large glass canning jar works great). To the reserved beet juice, add 1 c vinegar, 1 Tbl sugar, 1 clove garlic, 3 whole peppercorns, 3 whole allspice berries (you may substitute 3 whole clove buds) and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour to cover beets and eggs (make sure the solids end up with them). Refrigerate.

Shake jar gently twice a day to make sure the eggs dye evenly. Serve after at least 24 hours, 48 is better.


The big gift this year (yes, we celbrated Yule and opened presents today) was a trip to Paris. J and I are leaving at stupid early on Dec 30th (Tues), arriving in Paris stupid early on the 31st and returning home stupid late on the 5th.

After checking into our hotel (Grand Hotel St. Michel, right next to the Sorbonne) and likely having a bit of a nap, maybe wandering around the Latin Quarter (our neighborhood) and seeing the Jardin du Luxenbourg (the weather will help decide), we’re going out for dinner. Our reservations are at the lovely and intimate Le Tastevin for New Year’s Eve.

Jan 1st is a day when many places are closed, so we’ll spend the day wandering around the city looking at things. Notably, Notre Dame, Ile de la Cite, Ile St.Louis (the two islands in the middle of the Seine, birthplace of Paris — 2300 years ago[!])

Friday, Jan 2 we’re walking to the Louvre and spending the morning there, then its off to the historic Taillevent for lunch (12:30pm). We’re planning on walking back along the Champs Elysses (after seeing the Arc d’ Triomphe) and ending up at either the Louvre (round 2) or L’Orangerie — home of some of Monet’s most famous works.

Saturday we are having lunch (check in at 12:15) on the Bateux Parisiens — a 2+ hour cruise up the Seine leaving from the Eiffel Tower. To get there we’ll walk through the champs du Mars. Returning from the tour, we’ll visit the Esplanade des Invalides and visit the Rodin Museum. We’re hoping to arrange for dinner at a (famous) Bistro, but haven’t decided where yet.

On Sunday we are going to try and get to St, Sulplice which has a organ recital following the 10:30 mass. This will be followed by 1pm lunch at Le Cinq, another grand (and delicious) establishment. With a final visit to the Musee d’Orsay, we’ll have seen a small, but rich, slice of Paris.

It’s like a long weekend in the city of lights and I’m thanking the Powers that Be that we had enough airlines miles saved up to be able to fly for free. The meals are going to be outrageous, but worth it (given the outstanding appelations from previous visitors).

Where Am I?

(This was the serious of clues I provided to J about the biggest gift of our year. I wonder if you’ll guess before he did?)

Where Am I?

Imagine how delightful it would be if you actually lived in the busy urban street scene you are in, with its iconic tower looming tall. Whaa? Sure, it would be a fractured lifestyle as you would prefer to be across the body of water that separates you from your deepest (home-related) fantasy, but you’d still be delighted to be here.

The weather at this time of year is cold compared to where you grew up (pick a location, any location, it’s still colder here) but snow isn’t guaranteed. Wet, gray, absolutely, but not a lot of the white stuff. Good thing we don’t ski, and even better that we know how to layer our clothes so we’re warm, but not restricted from walking easily.

These vibrant streets are begging to be trod, the food is pleading to be devoured. Roast chicken prepared by the people who made it a thing of sublime perfection, perfect French fries (of course), deceptively simple looking pastries. We’ll need to walk – a lot – just to balance out all of the delicious food we’ll consume.

One of my favorite TV shows was filmed here (and Vancouver BC, providing a decidedly English flavor while masquerading as an American city), and I’m hoping to find the floating river barge that was the main character’s home while in this location.


Hint #1

The largest institution in the country, focusing on the Humanities is right next door (essentially, across the street) from where we are staying.  If it weren’t winter break, I’d be afraid the 23,000 students would keep us awake with their centuries-old habits of high-spirited discourse (they helped the revolution succeed, after all). But the walls of this medieval building will be silent, although the streets will be thronged with happy celebrating people on the eve of the New Year.


Hint #2

New Year’s is one of this cities biggest festivals, lasting two weeks, starting with the kisses at midnight, fireworks (even in the chocolates!), and continuing through the weeks of greeting cards and well wishes for the new year. The city’s biggest (and most photographed) architectural structure explodes in a sparkling dance of light at midnight. (We will probably miss it, being too tired from our travels, not to mention our incredibly wonderful prix fixe holiday meal.)


Hint #3

Go find your present on the bookshelf.

(The present was a wrapped book — a tour guide of Paris. At which point J exclaimed “You’re not serious!” It’s *still* not real. I am as pleased as punch, and I will never make myself go through the months of misdirection and secret keeping again. {happy sigh})

Homemade Gifts: Pumpkin Butter

I enjoy making and giving (the giving more than the making, truth be told) homemade gifts every year. For one thing, it allows me to sidestep the consumeristic merry go round of the holiday season, for another, it allows me to give soemthing special to people I might normally be unable to express my appreciation for (like, my boss).

In past years its been lemon-scented blueberry sauce (which has often been thick enough to call jam) and stone fruit chutney. (The links are to the recipes in case you wantt o chekc them out.)

This year it is Pumpkin Butter. My recipe transforms ordinary (albeit yummy) pumpkin into a thick spread that is quite reminiscent of pumpkin pie. As the accompanying card says:

This pumpkin butter is sweet, and spicy,

but contains no fat. Enjoy!

I made enough to share with my gaming group, my delightful masseuse, some for the house (I keep the not-so-perfect ones and this year a couple of jars didn’t seal perfectly — into the fridge they go!), my family and a few (lucky) people at the office.

Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Butter

9 cups pumpkin, cooked, cooled, and mashed until smooth*

2 Tbl cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp allspice

4 cups sugar

Place all ingredients into crockpot, stir to combine well.

Cover crockpot loosely and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours (depending on how thick you like the butter to be). I left mine to cook overnight. Note: the lid must be ajar to allow moisture to escape, this means that you may get a lot of splatter all around the crockpot. I covered the nearby area with a towel and cleanup was minimal.

Wash jars in the dishwasher, or by hand, and then place in boiling water for at least five minutes before filling. Place lids in boiling water for five minutes before using as well. (There is a device, a ‘lid lifter wand’ that is useful here — its a pencil-length piece of heat-resistant plastic with a strong magnet on the end.)

Place jars on a towel on a heavy cookie sheet. Take to crockpot and fill to within 1/4 of the top. Seat the lid and tighten the ring. Listen to the ‘pop-ding’ sound of the jar sealing itself. When completely cool, freeze (for long-term storage) or refrigerate. Shelf life is 6 months.

Since I was mailing these, I decided to also water process them for increased safety.

* Using ‘sugar’ or ‘pie’ pumkins is best.