I am no longer the little girl that ran screaming through the hallway to find out what Santa Claus gave her for Christmas. I slept in, and woke to the sound of the coffee beans hitting the coffee grinder. On the weekends John usually makes a pot of coffee, and even though I don't drink caffeinated coffee much anymore the sound still seems to indicate the beginning of the morning for me. I got up, put myself together, and went out to the living room to find that John had arranged everything under the poinsettia. The pile of gifts was fairly impressive, but not too crazy.
For the last week packages had been arriving on our porches and within the mailbox, and the resultant accumulation was now before us. I think half of the fun is watching other people unwrap their presents, so John and I took turns. It's even more fun with everyone from either family, just to see the surprise and delight some presents can bring. I was very impressed, this year, with a personal nature of most of the gifts people gave me. Beth, who knew I really liked real maple syrup, sent a four bottle sampler of the four grades of maple syrup from New England. Trip managed to send me a collection of Blue Plate Special recipes in a book about American diners. Genevieve sent me a collection of recipes from The Two Fat Ladies, whom I really love. Gretchen and Brad sent John and I a three-month subscription to Donnelly's Chocolates, and I cheerfully dove into the box even before breakfast. Gryn sent me another haunting CD. Geoff went all out and bought me two Sandman figures and a Razor scooter with orange wheels and one really solid and gorgeous kaleidoscope with chambers that you could fill with your own items.
There was little package for me that was labeled "From: Santa Claus". It was fairly large, bigger than a basketball, and soft. I poked at it for a little bit, and finally ripped it open. It was the dragon from Pickles and Feathers. John giggled a lot on remembering just how much I wanted to go see it just last Saturday. He had been frantically trying to think of a way to get me to not see it, and was relieved when it seemed like I had forgotten about it. The dragon was immensely huggable, and I snugged it close for most of the morning.
The family gifts were really nice as well. Dad gave me a blue Handspring Visor Deluxe. Yay! Kathy, amusingly enough, gave me a book on how to use it. John, in the meantime, had opened his Kathy present and it turned out to be the silver version of Pokemon! It made us giggle a lot as we guessed, correctly, what Kathy also got me. Sure enough, she'd also given me the new pikachu! I was nearly at a million steps with this one and it was good to know that I'd have more steps I could take afterwards. The new one has a color display, more things that the little electric mouse does, and a completely different game for winning more watts to feed the guy. It also has a little IR port that can communicate with a normal Game Boy, and you can actually transfer things from the Pikachu to the Game Boy. It should be interesting to see what we can do. Mom, who completely understands the joy of a good gift certificate, gave me a nice, fat gift certificate for Origins. Brother David was very keen and sent me a heavy duty steel Angel food cake pan. I hadn't been able to find a steel pan anywhere in the area. He also threw in a garlic peeler, one of those rubber tubes that you're supposed to roll the clove in and the tube will peel the skin off for you. I had always been intrigued by the things, and really wondered how well they worked. I loved the marble block he gave me for my birthday, which I used to smash cloves frequently in the last few months, and is complemented that well.
John was really cool and got me a whole set of grapefruit spoons, which I suspect we'll be using every day for a while. They're the ones with the serrated point on the front and were very solid. I remember that my Mom and Dad had a set, but we never really liked how messy they could get compared to using a knife on every section. I think, however, that this might just be convenient enough with the fact that we're eating grapefruit every morning. He also gave me The Big Mom Book which is just filled with every fairy tail, nursery rhyme and baby song I've ever heard of and never knew all the words to. It's also got recipes for snacks, snippets from the writings of various mothers, and is just very cool. Very nice presents that I appreciated a very great deal.
After presents we ate breakfast. The sky outside was white, partially was snow and partially with clouds. There were possibly two inches of snow on the ground and more fell slowly all day. It was a fairly lazy day all day, and today I actually got the courage to play some Final Fantasy 7. John played Ape Escape as well, and looked at the games that Dad sent him, which were based on Toy Story and on 102 Dalmatians. They looked like they could be fun as well.
Around mid-afternoon I started preparations for Alton Brown's Mighty Duck recipe. I really wanted to try it to see how well it will work. We also found Christmas chard at the grocery store, and it was gorgeous with deep red veins amid dark green foliage. I was curious as to how it would taste. The brining went well, and cutting the duck into parts went more easily than I had imagined. It filled the air with the scent of cooking duck when it was in the steamer. The session in the ultra-hot oven was pretty much as he had filmed it on the show, but the breast pieces didn't come out quite as mahogany brown as the leg and thigh pieces. The chard didn't quite completely cook with the residual heat, so I put it on the fire for a bit. I also made saffron rice with almonds and currants, and to colorful side dishes went well with the skin-crisp duck. The leg and thigh portions turned out really well. The skins were crisp and flavorful and the meat tender and succulent. The breast meat turned out stringy and, since it had less time in the oven, the skin was soggy, too. Given that I dirtied a steamer, my cast-iron skillet, the resting plate, and all the brining material I actually think that roasting the duck on the rotisserie out in our barbecue is a better way to go. Roasting the duck uses less equipment and gives better all-around results.
The chard was very interesting. It tasted mildly of beets, but also tasted of green vegetable. It was actually quite good cooked quickly and with a little bit of basalmic vinegar. The texture, luckily, was nothing like beets and the green flavor of it balanced things to the positive. I normally hate beets, but these were good and colorful.
The evening was mostly spent watching Monday Night Football. I went to sleep hugging the dragon. For all that John is good to hug, I realized that I really missed hugging Fezzik. Somehow, the dragon seemed to substitute pretty well, and I actually slept better than I have for days simply by going to sleep while hugging the stuffed critter.
Mostly brought to you by Dragon System's NaturallySpeaking version 5.0