Today we bid farewell to Aunt Lauren who returned back to her home.
Elliott was very sad for her to go back home. Jen and I were even more sad. Sure, we love spending time with family but the prospect of returning to a one-to-one adult-to-baby ratio was something that we did not look forward to with a great deal of relish.
After returning home from work I cooked up the next batch of vegetables for the Wombats: peas.
I pureed them and put them on a giant plate to cool rapidly while the babies shrieked in the other room. It could have been because I was so hungry after not eating for so long but the cooked peas smelled so good that I helped myself to quite a few before pureeing them for the babies.
Martin seemed to enjoy the peas though slightly less than the sweet potato.
Elliott, on the other hand, did not seem to enjoy the peas at all. He ate every spoonful we gave him. He didn't cry or fuss. He just made a face as though he had smelled a giant turd after bite.
As I put together dinner I enjoyed a glass of the fourth, and final, beer from the catalog of Two Roads Brewing Company, this Road 2 Ruin Double IPA. This was a nice close to the collection. It's probably the quickest I've ever torn through a brewery's entire repertoire and it's been a very fun trip. This is a great brewery that has only been open for less than a month but I'm really looking forward to their future offerings.
This year Jen made the exact same salad she made last year. She actually wanted to make the entire menu again so that she could enjoy the meal a little more. Last year she was in the beginning stages of her pregnancy and really wasn't able to enjoy most of the meal.
Instead I cooked the main course, my first New Year's Eve dinner that I've prepared in at least five years. I crusted a New York Strip Steak in pink peppercorns and salt, seared it in a pan, and finished it in the oven. As an accompaniment I boiled a lobster tail, tossed it in melted butter, and topped the steak with it. I also made sauteed spinach with garlic and peas with butter, and a baked potato with horseradish sour cream. I could probably have been happy just eating a plate of the peas after developing an incredible craving for them.
Apparently Elliott and I have different tastes.
While watching Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve, usually the worst thing to happen to me in any calendar year, we celebrated the dawn of 2013 with this Cremant de Bourgogne Baillly Lapierre Reserve Brut. While that may seem like a collection of random words I'm sure it means something to somebody. At any rate it was quite tasty.
2012 was a pretty amazing year but it's looking like 2013 is shaping up to be pretty amazing already. I think it will be another year of excitement and change for us but I'm eager to see what it has to offer. I'm not a big believer in the importance of years or numerology, or the fact that any day is different from the next.
That being said 2013 is going to rock some socks off!
Yesterday Winter Storm Freyr tore through New York frightening motorists and nearly shutting down commerce as it dumped three whole inches of snow on our portion of the state. It ruined the lives of all who tried to seek out some semblance of normalcy through its harsh winds and toe-deep dunes of snow.
It also annoyed me with The Weather Channel's annoying insistence on naming the winter storms starting this year. They're really serious about this. They are not letting it go.
The Wombats were not bothered by the beginnings of a snow storm. Instead they both exhibited their insane sleeping poses for a nice afternoon nap.
After the nap a cranky Elliott woke up and gave me this snotty little look while Lauren fed him his bottle.
Tonight, we got the babies fed, put them to sleep, and ordered some Indian take out for Lauren's last night before returning home. She'd been dropping subtle hints about wanting Indian food since she got here, hints like: "So, hey, why don't we get some Indian food?"
Right after the food arrived the Wombats started screaming up so Jen and Lauren fed them while watching A Christmas in Connecticut to celebrate their birth state, and the fact that neither of them have swallowed a watch this Christmas.
Since it's standard to have a crappy lager with Indian food I looked in my fridge but, wouldn't you know it, there was no crappy lager to be had. Instead I got this rather non-crappy Ol'Factory Pils from Two Roads Brewing Co., also in Connecticut, just like Christmas!
This pilsner was dry-hopped. I'm pretty sure it's the only dry-hopped pilsner I've ever had and it was very tasty. It may have also been the only very tasty pilsner I've ever had.
After eating a celebratory Indian feast we settled down to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and pretend that we were awake enough to enjoy the tiny sliver of time in the day we are able to get away with not looking after babies.
Now, let's just ignore the sink full of dishes and piles of dirty laundry.
We had intended to serve the babies their first vegetables on Christmas day so they could have some "real food" while the grown ups ate. A friend advised against this as to avoid the possibility of spending Christmas evening in the hospital. While it was unlikely that they'd be allergic to something like, say carrots, we heeded this advice and waited until last night to feed the babies their first vegetables.
I chopped and boiled some sweet potatoes that I mixed with a little breast milk and, voila, the babies' first real meal.
The issue was that the babies were extremely restless and boiling sweet potatoes takes a bit longer than mixing up a bowl of multigrain cereal. This called for drastic measures and Jen made the game time decision to put on the television and play the movie Elf for the boys. We have not exposed them to a single minute of television in almost two months so the second the screen came on they both were quiet and completely mesmerised by the moving image of Will Ferrell in an elf costume.
After just a few minutes we were able to turn off the screen and feed the frantic, flailing Wombats who seemed to like it quite a bit.
They liked it almost, but not quite as much, as Oprah.
After a messy love affair with their newest food we were able, after several tries and much cajoling, to get the Wombats to bed.
We didn't have much other than a ton of holiday leftovers for dinner. I made this sandwich which, despite its looks, was actually tiny on one of Jen's dinner rolls with leftover ham, Parrano, and mustard.
For a drink I had another beer from Two Roads Brewing Co., this Worker's Comp Saison. Saison is one of my favorite styles. Much like the White IPA of the night before it seemed to me that it would have been better suited to the warmer months. At 4.8% ABV it's fairly low, easy to drink, and extremely refreshing.
This beer is actually difficult to get a hold of now since the brewery seems to have done some tremendous marketing so I'm just hoping I can get my hands on some of this next summer. This would be a great outdoor beer for barbecuing and Wombat-wrangling.
Let's just hope that by the time these guys are up and on their feet I still have a free hand available.
Tonight I got home from work and was able to do lots of fun things like play with the Wombats and do a massive quantity of dishes. It seems unfair that I had to do so many dishes after spending about an hour doing dishes yesterday and seeing that Jen had clearly spent a great deal of time doing dishes this afternoon.
It's enough to consider paper and plastic plates and utensils. If only it wasn't so wasteful to do such things.
That stupid environment.
When I got home from work Martin had discovered a new game: trying to eat his mother's nose. He enjoyed this game thoroughly. Mummy did not enjoy it quite as much as it was a little gross.
In an effort to save her face from baby drool Jen and Lauren decided to distract the babies with the sweet, warming glow of an iPhone screen. This is the most hypnotic thing a baby can encounter in life.
To make Jen's plum pudding this year she needed two 28 ounce cans. This meant I had to find the cheapest item at the supermarket and buy two cans of it so we could empty them and she could steam her plum pudding in the empty tins. This ended up being whole peeled tomatoes. Since I felt bad about just throwing them away I kept them until tonight when I made them into a creamy tomato soup. I used the leftover onion, garlic, corn, and green pepper from the clam corn casserole as well as a little cream and pureed it with a little fresh basil. I served it with a dollop of ricotta and some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Lauren informed me this afternoon that she doesn't eat hot tomatoes. Even after ten years I still find four or five new strange food aversions that she has each time we meet. She let me know that she'd like a big bowl of boiled potatoes so I served just that with some chopped green onion, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper.
Jen seemed to eat her soup as a formality so that she could also help herself to a bowl of potatoes. I probably should have saved myself the trouble and just made a giant pot of potatoes.
For beer I opened this White IPA from Two Roads Brewing Co. This brewery only opened a few weeks ago and I've been hearing a lot of buzz about it in the Connecticut area. After tasting this beer I am going to be watching this brewery very closely. The only thing that could have made this beer better would have been drinking it on a hot summer day instead of a cold, drizzly night in December.
Elliott thought it was perfect for a cold winter's night.
For dessert I used leftover eggnog, bread, currants, raisins, pecans, caramel sauce, nutmeg, eggs, and cinnamon to make this eggnog bread pudding. I'd made a similar pudding last year but I think this year's turned out a bit better.
After dinner Jen and I played a hot round of Mastermind, a game Lauren refuses to play with her because she doesn't like it when she loses. I'd never played this game before but it's quite a fun game. Unfortunately it has six different colored pegs which are nearly impossible to tell from each other. I think I may take them into the backyard and spray paint them to make it a little easier. I guessed Jen's puzzle in ten tries -- the maximum amount of tries allowed by the game. Jen guessed my puzzle in her first try. Now I can see why Lauren doesn't like playing this game with Jen.
Through all of this Elliott refused to go to sleep and we had to entertain him for an additional hour before we finally tricked him into going back to sleep. Lauren required no tricking. She has been upset about not getting to eat dinner at 4:30 PM every day so by the time we do get the boys to bed and have dinner ourselves she usually just sort of sneaks out of the room and we discover that she has put herself to bed.
It's a dedication to slumber that I find highly admirable.
This year, for the first time ever, Jen and I did not travel for Christmas or go home. While this was sad it was also exciting to have our first ever Christmas at home. There is much to be said for being the guest on Christmas. Just showing up somewhere, lounging around, and eating all the food is notably easier than being the host. This is particularly true when you are simultaneously caring for two babies.
On Saturday Paul and Caolan stopped by briefly to pick up Paul's forgotten jacket from our idiotic White Christmas themed dinner. They took the opportunity to play with the boys an their new ball, the price for us securing Paul's jacket for a few days and buying Jen a few minutes of rest while I was at work.
The Night Before Christmas
I was also at work on Christmas Eve while Jen watched the boys. It was a typical round of lousy napping from Martin. While Elliott went to sleep immediately Martin spent his time trying to rip off the few remaining sheep from his mobile.
After work I headed to a nearby grocery store to try to find green cherries, the last ingredient we needed for Christmas cooking. I came up empty then hit three more stores on my way home and finally located a container in a shoddily maintained display next to some bananas.
Victory was mine!
Sadly I had to go out about six or seven more times to get cream, milk, eggs, sausage, flour, and brown sugar. Normally I pride myself in being well prepared for the holidays but I guess the distraction and chaos of having two babies at home interfered with my normal excellent planning.
Not having actually decided on a menu for Christmas Day didn't help matters.
Jen got a very late start on cooking dinner after I got home but was still able to make tourtière, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, and clam corn casserole which we served with mustard pickles. This wasn't done without some level of stress but it was done and that's the important thing.
We were able to have this around 9:00 after feeding and bathing the Wombats and reading them A Visit From Saint Nicholas.
Then, after a dreadful three hour stretch of cleaning and organizing, we were able to sit back and enjoy the tree with a Christmas Ale from Goose Island Brewery. It was a very nice beer but not enough to keep me awake through the entire glass. Sadly I fell asleep on the couch with about a third of the glass remaining undrunk.
The Christmas Ale from Goose Island put my beer spread sheet over 500. I've been keeping a spreadsheet since 2011 of all the beers I've tried so I'm pretty close to averaging 250 a year.
That's right, I'm that cool. In my eyes nothing is really worth doing if there isn't a spreadsheet involved.
On Christmas Day
Christmas morning was a morning like any other except that I wore my Christmas sweater and reeled from exhaustion.
To the Wombats it was a morning just like any other as well except they had to dodge a huge number of gifts while they zipped around in their walkers.
Jen got to work in the kitchen making her sausage breakfast strata while I distracted the babies with toys and my own award-winning renditions of popular Christmas songs. Actually, it was mostly unpopular Christmas songs like Pat-a-Pan by the Harry Simeone Chorale off of the 1963 album The Wonderful Songs of Christmas.
We put out brunch just before my parents and Jen's sister arrived featuring the strata, cinnamon buns, and fruit salad.
There was also this candy cane bread. Jen was not super-thrilled with how it turned out. We got a particularly active batch of yeast so that the dough was swelling out of control almost immediately after mixing. We frantically added extra flour and Jen kneaded it but after braiding it it swelled to the point where we threw it into the oven in hopes of controlling its imperial expansion.
Jen said that it didn't look like a candy cane at all but rather like a Christmas slug. At any rate it was a delicious slug-shaped bread.
After Lauren and my parents unloaded all of their gifts there was precious little room to navigate our living room. Each year we are filled with simultaneous joy for how lucky we are and embarrassment for how obscene our collection of gifts seems to be.
Nana STIM did not waste any time grabbing Martin.
After eating brunch Martin got to licking Grandpa Butch's fingers of the last bits of remaining cinnamon roll frosting.
It's easy to miss snuggling with your own children but yet it is extremely liberating to be at home and not be 100% tied down. This gave me the freedom to do all sorts of things around the house. This is why I would like to petition to have guests as close to daily as possible.
There were many gifts exchanged but Martin and Elliott's favorite was this bag of pasta that we gave Lauren in her stocking. They fought with each other over who would get to play with it next. This garnered more of their attention than any other item under the tree.
Before dinner I poured yet another Christmas beer, this 5 Golden Rings from The Bruery. It was very different, brewed with pineapple and spices, and was extremely potent. I forgot to tell Jen the alcohol content was 11.5% but she was quick to identify that this was not a traditional lager.
After opening presents Grandpa Butch used one of the Wombats' sheep puppets to entertain them which was a smashing hit. This kept them occupied and laughing for about thirty minutes as my dad crafted a story about how the sheep was from Mars or outer space and the tales of him coming to earth to steam babies' bellybuttons.
He's negotiating movie rights as you read this.
We started off dinner with Jen's family's traditional shrimp cocktail starter. I made broccoli, potato, and cheddar soup for Lauren. I made an enormous pot for her to last her the week given her love for broccoli, potatoes, and cheddar.
With dinner I opened this bottle of Stony Brook Red from Sam Adams's Barrel Room Collection. It was a very nice, oaked, slightly sour beer.
For dinner I made an excessively large eight pound ham for the four adults who eat ham. It was the smallest ham I could find. This alone would have been enough but I also made carmelized creamed pearl onions, mashed potato, mashed rutabaga with carrots and potato, and roasted root vegetables. We served this up with Jen's rolls.
After dinner I attempted to flambe the plum pudding per Jen's request but for some reason it would only ignite if I held the lighter in place. It was not a very impressive presentation.
Before putting the Wombats to bed we posed with a few pictures before they lost their minds from the excitement of the day catching up with them.
Dinner was great. One-by-one we started to fade and drop off into sleep and, surprisingly, I outlasted everyone. This is rare these days and yet something else to be thankful for this Christmas.
I'm Dreaming of a White Boxing Day
This morning Jen got to one of her favorite tasks: organizing the gifts under the tree.
She did an admirable job.
Lauren took on the task of supervising the Wombats. I supervised the supervising.
While organizing Jen even found another gift for my father. Who says Christmas only comes once a year?
The boys got some sweet sunglasses as gifts and Elliott did an uncanny Elvis impersonation once he put them on.
After a lunch of leftovers Jen put out a plate of her Christmas cookies.
After Nana and Grandpa left it immediately started snowing and the wind whipped around at the windows with the hard clattering of icy rain. The lights even flickered prompting us to ready our Hurricane Sandy memorial flashlights.
My parents had brought up this little weeble-wobble-esque Santa which was my first ever Christmas present. The Wombats had a great time throwing it around and batting it, enjoying the peaceful tinkling noises it made.
After getting those monkeys to bed we had a large amount of leftovers as well as this Krampus Helles Lager from Southern Tier Brewing Company. The Krampus, if you are not familiar, is a horrific tale of a hideous creature that looks like Randall Flagg that finds all the naughty children at Christmas and takes them off into the night presumably to torture them to death. It's a terrible tale that could only have been dreamed up in the folklore of the early Germans. Only an old and barbaric tradition could dream up such a terrible fate for children who behaved poorly. Personally I think the threat of not getting that skateboard that you really wanted should be motivation enough without having to threaten the lives of children.
Horrific tradition, pretty good and unusually strong lager.