Festive Food?

Puff the Magic Dragon Roll

I like trying new restaurants, even when they serve food I'm familiar with, and I really like it when, in doing so, I'm introduced to a new flavor combination, or a dramatic presentation. Last night on the way home from work, we stopped at a Japanese place in Las Colinas called The Blue Fish Sushi which called itself a sushi and sake bar. The bar section is ultra modern, and, alas, not smoke free, but the sushi bar IS, and that's where we went. Fuzzy had a “petit” portion of a steak dish that was still enough for two or three people, and I had something called a “super dragon roll” which was described as “an entire baked eel served atop California roll”.

As you can see in the very bad picture above (it was taken with my phone, as I'm not in the habit of bringing the good camera to work with me), it was dressed up to LOOK like a dragon, with eyes, and a snout, and different colored caviar to represent scales on each “section” (the tail section was tail-like as well) and fingerbones for wings sketched onto the plate with fiery red chilli sauce (which, I confess, I avoided). As I told the server, it was too cute to take apart, and I had to just look at it for a long while before I could eat it.

Of course, we also had miso (which was decent), and I had a “pink samurai” which is essentially a cosmo made with sake instead of vodka, and we shared a dessert of a mousse brownie, cinnamon ice cream, and fresh berries.

But the memory of of that dragon is still making me smile.

Super Dragon Roll

Progress Report

So, on day thirteen of my time at BigFinancialCompany, yesterday, I finally got access to the inter- and intranet and to the loan processing system. After watching people type for two weeks, as well as reading the underwriting manual cover to cover (twice) I thought I was ready, but this piece of software is so dated and clunky that it makes the first generation of Contour (which I thought, until now, was the ugliest piece of mortgage-related software ever) look sleek and impressive.

One of my teammates, the only one who is NOT on vacation this year, helped me when I got myself stuck a couple times, but the end result was one approval, one decline, and one file I suspended because I didn't have enough information to calculate income. (Hello? If you've been on a job for five months, and are paid semi-monthly, you should be able to provide two consecutive paystubs, not two that are a month apart. And if you've owned a rental property for nine years, I'm pretty sure you have some kind of documentation of rental income that goes beyond a handwritten rental agreement that (coincidentally) is also five months old. ) At least, when these things come up, I just have to tell the broker to do their job, not fight with the client. Yay wholesale.

What's really cool is that everyone is helpful and supportive of each other. Yes, on the night before Christmas Eve there was some complaining about workload, but everyone – even the division manager – pitched in to get things closed and finished, and today, even the managers were processing files. Yesterday, when underwriting handed me my first approved loan, I was congratulated for a successful first submission, not just by my own team, but also by the underwriter who'd done the file, who took the time to explain to me how his income came out $0.25 more/month than mine. I love being able to just walk twenty feet over to ask the underwriters a question. And I love that they're willing to answer, explain, and offer advice, just as my teammate gave me a different file-flow structure to make things go faster.

I can't explain more without going way into mortgagese, but, if I had to dive back into corporate America, I'm pretty confident I chose the right waters.

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Like the quality of my sleep last night (I kept waking up at 47-minute intervals, for no discernable reason), everything around me feels brittle right now. The holidays aren't over, technically, and yet the veneer of lights and garlands seems pushy and fake all of a sudden, as if the warm temperatures and dry, dry air have evaporated the good spirits with which they were hung.

The trees that usually stay green all year, or reddish green in the case of the red ears that encircle our back yard, seem to think this weather is a redux of autumn, for they are dropping leaves the way a frightened tarantula flings hair, with much abandon, and after, the fallen greenery withers to papery husks to skitter along the ground like senile wrinkled insects.

I've been moisturizing with a vengeance, but even my skin feels brittle, fragile, and my feet are horribly cracked, though the latter is mainly because of my tendency to wander barefoot around the house, and I've broken three nails in two days despite the using hand lotion with almost religious zeal. (Note to self: buy vaseline intensive care foot formula.)

The dogs, still unused to me being at work, trail me restlessly from room to room, and their quiet stages are too-easily interrupted. Where once, Cleo would sit on the back of the couch for hours, now, she leaps up if I even think about leaving the room, as if she's terrified I won't return. I keep assuring them that we will ALWAYS come home, but apparently the English-to-canine universal translator still needs work. I gave them each half a slice of roast beef last night though, in the hopes it would help. When in doubt, treat, treat, treat.

I feel like there isn't enough water in the world to quench my thirst, and I know that I'm reacting to the fires in the area, and the dry, warm Santa Ana-like winds (or rather, their Texas approximation.) I keep imagining us all crumbling to dust like a Whedonesque vampire, except that the cause wouldn't be a stake, but a brittle blade of dried grass.

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made me do it!

What's your inner deity? by Eurudite
Godly Name Ithylmaru
God/Goddess of: Nature -as in plants :)
Weapon of Choice: Throwing Axe
Area of Origin: Russia
Animal Familiar: Tiger
Weakness: Copper
Guilty Pleasure: chocolate
Little Personality Quirk: You love your forest friends
Eyes: Metallic Purple
Hair: Wood brown
Special Features: Skin like ivory.
Quiz created with MemeGen!


Tuesday morning finds me wide awake, though my head is still tight and fuzzy inside. I've checked the weather and am facing the only dilemma one really should face at this time of year, not, “should I re-gift this?” or “is it okay to have more mince pie?” but “what do I wear on a workday in December with a projected high of eighty?” I have an angora sweater I'd planned to wear before consulting the weather reports last night, but angora and air conditioning would act at cross purposes, I think, and so I shall probably err on the side of comfort and wear lighter-weight black pants, a colorful, but cotton, shirt, and a cardigan that will dress up the outfit and also act as a removable layer. I'm all about the layers.

Speaking of layers, my favorite part of receiving presents is often the wrapping. Oh, not in the way a small child or animal is totally entranced by an empty box, but in the sense of wonder that comes from the way a few layers of tissue and tape, ribbon and bows, can make an ordinary box seem magical and amazing, and make the giver seem so, as well. (My favorite part of presents in general, however, is actually giving them to others.)

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Still sick, I spent most of the day cuddled in bed with dogs and movies and stuff to read, sipping coffee every now and then, and at one point deciding that mince pie is medicinal. No, really, it is.
There's a part of me that is dreading work tomorrow, but the bigger part of my brain is glad of the distraction – I won't miss having family here if I keep busy, after all.

I had hoped to spend the weekend doing some writing, but am just so tired, and haven't been able to breathe – even at the movies yesterday I felt really blechy – I didn't even want Starbucks today, and was content with my home-brewed pot of that lovely deep brown elixir.

It was still 70 degrees outside at eight, and the leaves skittering across the patio in the balmy but blustery wind sound like rattlesnakes about to strike, and this leaves the dogs feeling unsettled. No surprise then, that after an entire afternoon of being curled up against me in the bed, they're content to spend the night in much the same way.

Some of the neighbors already have their Christmas lights down. It is the 26th, and the holiday season is waning, but their houses are shockingly bare, it seems, and cold despite the unseasonably warm, dry temperatures.

I like the word 'waning' – it reminds me of the ebb and flow (primarily the ebb) of tides, and seems such a vivid term for a concept not dissimilar to fading. The fading of the season, the gradual lengthening of days that has already started. Time waxes and wanes and we live within the ticking of clocks and the beeping of alarms, and never stop to notice things like the red berries on the bushes, until the lack of holiday lights makes them stand out.

Yes. This is the cold medicine talking.
And yet…it's also not.

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Christmas for Two

Earlier this month I wrote that I was feeling isolated and a little sad because we weren't spending Christmas with any family this year, but, since I'm still all scratchy-throated and stuffy-headed, it turned out to be a good thing. Playing hostess when you feel icky is less than fun.

Then, too, we had a cozy, quiet Christmas with just the two of us, on our own schedule. I managed to make it through Christmas Eve mass by drinking water and sucking on lemon-mint Ricola during most of the service (this is the nice thing about the choir being in the back. We ALL bring in water or coffee and hide it behind the piano), though I was so congested that I had NO low range, and switched to Soprano on Silent Night. It seems weird, I guess, to others, but when I'm all stuffy my high range improves. We enter, for this service, in procession behind the guy with the incense, and then we stop and light the candles of the congregation. Mind you, we're marching into a darkened church, in robes with bat-wing sleeves, carrying lit candles in one hand, and our music in the other (because who really knows all SIX verses of “O Come All Ye Faithful” by heart, with the descant and harmony parts?), so when I tell you it was perfect, what I mean is, no one caught fire, dropped anything, forgot the lyrics, or tripped. Seriously, it was a magical evening – something about it being nighttime, and everyone feeling festive.

We came home and read/puttered on computers for a couple hours, fell into bed around two, and were back at church for 10 AM mass yesterday, which was laid back and homey, as opposed to magical and serious. The choir is “off” for Christmas Day and New Year's day, which means that we only sit together if enough of us show, and if not, we sit in the pews, and all the hymns are from the hymnal, and the anthem is instrumental. Fuzzy and I happened to be in the back, so when we were tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to carry the offering, we said “sure.” It was a little thing, but a nice end-cap for the day. Well, that and that we got to sing my favorite plainsong piece (which I only recently learned, but the melody is sweet, and the piece falls RIGHT into my range) “Of the Father's love begotten.” (And since we were in the congregation, I got to sing melody on EVERYTHING. Yay!)

Yesterday afternoon we popped over to Cedar Hill to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I loved to bits. A couple of tiny things were eliminated, but overall I thought they managed to make it true to the spirit of the books, without being overwhelmingly sappy. And it was fun to pick out the adult voice actors when the animals were speaking. However, I'm sure I must be delirious, and not merely congested, because I was having lustful thoughts about Mr. Tumnus. (I have to say, one thing I really liked – and this is what makes this movie a fantasy that really is child-safe. They didn't cheat the battle scenes, but they also didn't show bloodspray or anything gory, and I liked that. Narnia shouldn't be soaked in blood.)

Somewhere in there we also did presents, just from each other, and we'd set a strict budget limit this year, too. So, Fuzzy got a new coat (a chocolate brown wool-blend car coat, much nicer than the jacket I keep trying to burn), and man-slippers (I was tired of the sweats and hiking boots look), a 7th Sea book he really wanted, and a very cool wolf t-shirt. And he gave me a red leather stationery box I've been eyeing, season 5 of The West Wing and STTNG: Insurrection on DVD (the special edition) (yes, the latter was the worst of the Next Gen movies, but one must have complete collections) as well as having my two Fossil watches repaired (just dead batteries, but no one other than the Fossil kiosk could get them open apparently), the older of the two stopped working three years ago, the other died on the plane to come out here to look at property in 2004, and I've been wearing this think with a pink faux-snakeskin band for almost a year, but it's really too casual for many of my outfits, so it's good to have options once more.

Today, I plan to remain curled up with tea and books, and since we opted to go to the movies rather than cook the roast I bought, we'll have our nice meal tonight. There's a mince pie calling my name, and my aunt sent us a box of homemade Christmas cookies, so it's a good time to want to just read and nibble.

Christmas for two is exactly what I needed this year.

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Definitive Christmas

Everyone has certain songs that âœmakeâ their Christmas. For my mother, itâ™s Nat âœKingâ Cole singing âœThe Christmas Song,â while my (ethnically Jewish) stepfather has a thing for âœJoy to the Worldâ – I think he likes the brassiness of it. This is my âœdefinitive Christmasâ playlist of the moment. Since I didnâ™t make cdâ™s for anyone this year (except our choir director, who is getting a copy of this entry), I thought Iâ™d share the list.

1) âœThe Giftâ performed by the Kingâ™s Singers. Iâ™d never heard it until a few nights ago, as I wrote in a previous blog entry, but Iâ™ve fallen in love with it. I should confess, however, that Iâ™ve loved the melody ever since we learned it in grade school, and my favorite version of the song itself is YoYo Maâ™s.

2) âœOh Little Town of Bethlehemâ performed by the Kingâ™s College Choir. One day, not long after Fuzzy and I had started singing with the choir at church, our choir director mentioned that one of the hymns we were doing was also an alternate melody for this song. So, of course, I had to FIND that version. Who better than the folks at Kingâ™s?

3) âœSilent Nightâ performed by John Denver. I grew up surrounded by jazz, 1970â™s rock, and folk music, and since we lived in Colorado for seven years, a LOT of John Denver music. I love that his settings are so simple and sing-able, and I also love the purity of his voice.

4) âœGod Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kingsâ performed by the Barenaked Ladies and Sara McLaughlin. At first, I thought this was the worst Christmas song ever, but then I found myself riffing on it in the shower. Taking traditional songs and resetting them in contemporary forms appeals to my inner rebel, I guess, or the part of me that really wants to be a 1940â™s cabaret singer. Anyway, yeah, this song is catchy.

5) âœSanta Babyâ performed by Eartha Kitt. Must I say more than âœMeowwwww?â

6) âœAll I Want for Christmas (Is You)â performed by Mariah Carey. Fun, flirty, and upbeat. Itâ™s fluff, but itâ™s happy fluff. And a little candy floss is a good thing now and then.

7) âœIt Mustâ™ve Been Old Santa Clausâ performed by Harry Connick, Jr. I live for jazz and swing (as much as I live for show tunes and folk), and Iâ™ve had a musical crush on Harry since EVER. This song is so kicky it never fails to make me smile.

8) âœMy Grown Up Christmas Listâ performed by Natalie Cole. I know Amy Grant originated the song, but I like Natalie Coleâ™s warmer, darker tones better. This is the ultimate Christmas song for people like me who grew up with activist parents.

9) âœWhite Christmasâ performed by Bing Crosby. A perennial favorite, and it reminds me of my grandmother. I think she had Bing on her freebie list.

10) âœIâ™ll Be Home for Christmasâ performed by Diana Krall. I donâ™t dislike Frank Sinatraâ™s version of this song, but Diana Krallâ™s is newer and suits my own sensibilities more. This song, I keep on my list in memory of my grandfather. It makes me cry.

11) âœThe Christmas Songâ performed by Nat King Cole. Iâ™m enough of a Christmas traditionalist to require this version over all others. I could listen to it forever. And probably will.

12) âœBelieveâ performed by Josh Groban. This is the end title tune from the movie of The Polar Express, which I loved because it was true to the style of the book (we all know I hate animation). I fell in love with this song over the summer.

13) âœChristmas Lullabyeâ by Jason Robert Brown. This song is from Songs for a New World, and I want to say that the singer on the cd is Jennifer Molaskey, but since I donâ™t have the ACTUAL cd, only the tracks (which I bought legally from Napster), I donâ™t have all the artist information. I would kill to sing this song somewhere other than my living room.

14) âœO Holy Nightâ performed by Charlotte Church. While Iâ™ve always loved this song, I can never find a version that really satisfies me. Charlotte Churchâ™s is as good as any, I guess, even though her voice is a little too sweet sometimes. (Then again, she was pretty young when she recorded this.)

15) âœAve Mariaâ performed by Andrea Bocelli. The Schubert version, though I like the Gounod/Bach version as well. You cannot grow up in an Italian family without this song being part of your cultural heritage. The only other Christmas song that screams âœNew Jersey Neapolitanâ more loudly is âœDominick the Donkey,â which Iâ™m not including.

16) âœYou Are the New Dayâ performed by the Kingâ™s Singers. Itâ™s their traditional closing song at most of their concerts, and while itâ™s not really a Christmas song, I like the melody and the message, and the notion of beginning and ending a list with a song by the same artist. I first heard it in a master class when I was fifteen, and Iâ™ve loved it ever since.

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The Christmas Eve Cookie Question

Because I'm a compulsive baker, and because my fellow choristers are all dear, sweet, people, I'm making gingerbread cookies to bring to them at our pre- Midnight Mass rehearsal tonight. I'm thinking that since chocolate covered ginger is a tasty treat, tossing some chocolate chips into the cookies might be a good idea. I know it's Christmas Eve, but if you're around, please help me decide.


It may be the day before Christmas eve, but it's a balmy 71 outside my bedroom window right now, warmer than it was this morning when we left for work, or even than it was on the ride home. Yay cloud cover.

Somehow, even though the weather is NOT seasonal, I don't mind it. It's giving me a mental lift (or maybe that's the Nyquil, Benadryl, Actifed, and Zircam I've taken over the last 36 hours? NO not all at once.) that I really need as I'm trying to shake this horrible cold/sore throat thing, by tomorrow night, so I can actually sing during midnight mass (which begins at 10:30 here).

The last batch of Christmas cards went out, my major plans for the daylight hours tomorrow involve last minute shopping and having my hair cut and colored, and maybe making gingerbread cookies. We have “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to watch, and I'm in the middle of a Christmas Snapefic just for kicks. So, it will be a cozy, quiet weekend, which is just what I really need.

May your weekends all bring just what you want.

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