peace on earth, good will toward men, and maybe an xbox

So now I can talk about all the awesome presents I bought everyone:

Granny: There isn’t much a 92-year-old woman really wants or needs. I got her a jar of soaps that look and smell like gardenia petals; each soap is good for one handwashing, it lathers up and washes away. She loves scented things, and this will be something that she’ll enjoy but will get consumed.

Phil: I bought him a scrimshaw box made of water buffalo bone. He always admired scrimshaw, and he needs something to put his watch and rings in so they aren’t just rolling around loose in his night table drawer.

Mom: You know those oval paper cups with the fluted edges that they serve hot dogs in when you get them at a fair or from a street vendor? I got her a set of 5 stoneware dishes that look like that. Mom likes the occasional chili dog, and you can’t go wrong giving her any kind of dishes.

Jamie: I got her a bamboo serving tray that’s got a slate inset and comes with chalk. So when you serve cheese or whatever on it, you can write the name underneath. It’s a good size, it will hold at least 2 or 3 cheeses or appetizers. And it matches her bamboo floors!

Rian: Rian loves jigsaw puzzles, so I got him one of those 3D puzzles of the New York City skyline. What’s cool is it has buildings from different eras, so you can build the 1812 skyline, then remove some of the buildings and put new ones it and re-create the skyline all the way up to next year (it includes the Freedom Tower, which hasn’t been built yet).

David: David loves cookbooks (we all do; Mom, Rian, David, Jamie and I all got cookbooks for Christmas) and a few weeks ago he was saying how he thought Persian food had a real interesting flavor profile, how it blends sweet with savory. So I searched on Amazon and found him an introductory Persian cookbook.

Rian got me the Real Simple cookbook, Dinner Tonight: Done!. Uncle Larry got me The Atheist Manifesto and a gift card from Barnes & Noble (already spent that on a fountain pen!). Jamie and Greg of course got me the trip I took to Los Angeles last month and seeing The Cure at the Pantages. Mom and Phil got me season 5 of Dexter, The Girl Who Played With Fire (the novel, I already have the DVD), some instant film, a sealing wax set, some stationery, perfume (Tom Ford’s Violet Blonde), gift cards to Hobby Lobby and Old Navy (already spent on capris and a couple of graphic tees), and they renewed my subscription to Real Simple magazine.

My culinary contributions thus far have been cake balls, which David says has ruined cake for him. You make a cake, just a sheet cake from a box mix. And you let it cool, preferably overnight. Then you crumble it up, mix it with a can of frosting and form it into balls, about rounded tablespoon size. Freeze them for at least a couple of hours, then melt some chocolate in a double boiler and dip the balls (heh) in it. Set them on wax paper or aluminum foil, and by the time the chocolate hardens the cake inside will be thawed. I made a butter pecan cake with chocolate frosting and semi-sweet chocolate, and a lemon cake with lemon frosting and white chocolate. That one is TITS.

And yesterday afternoon I baked a brie. I actually got the recipe from a magazine ad for Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry, which any honest professional chef will tell you is preferable to making your own. It tastes exactly the same and saves you hours of prep. Anyway, you thaw a sheet, roll it out on a floured surface, and cut off the corners. Mix chopped dried cherries (soften them in warm water first), toasted pecans, honey, rosemary, and a tiny pinch of salt. Put it in the middle of the sheet, put a large round brie on top (and when you’re baking brie, it doesn’t have to be a super expensive gourmet one), and pull the edges of the pastry sheet up. Flip it over onto a baking sheet, brush it all over with egg and a little water, and I usually decorate it with little cut outs of pastry from the corners you cut off. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes and cool for at least a half hour. I don’t put this on crackers, I just cut little wedges and serve it that way. It’s pretty and tastes like a million bucks, but it’s super easy to make.

So, what did Santa bring YOU?

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