Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Letter 2012

This year has brought us a lot of changes. We’re in a new house that we’re sharing, the kids are growing at an alarming rate, and the days are filled with activity.

Our biggest change this year has been moving to Seattle, combining households with Shannon’s parents. Walker’s tastes in “interesting” places to live appears to come about even when he isn’t involved up-front, as Shannon, Ruth and Ellis picked out quite the place while he was off with Moira (but more on that later). We’ve long since stopped discovering new corners of the house we’d overlooked before, but that’s been replaced by discovering how many people we are able to accommodate for dinners or parties.

Davis has grown as one would expect of a newborn. He’s happy, playful, curious and determined. He is not easily distracted with simple tricks like handing him the broken remote control, or hiding something behind our backs. Lights, however, work very well as a distraction. He’s also proved quite proficient at biting and chewing before getting teeth - he quickly and eagerly gummed mochi to bits, and teeth have only made him more formidable.

He’s also exploring mobility, which is leading to gradual babyproofing of the house. Unlike his sister, he’s been content to crawl to get around the house. He takes a few steps on occasion, but drops to all fours when he really wants to get somewhere. His focus appears to be much more on climbing, opening drawers to serve as platforms for reaching greater heights, and navigating stairs.

For Moira, the challenges have been more with ballet, skiing and biking. The new house has given her more flat real estate on which to learn to pedal. Moving to Seattle has changed her options for classes, and we’re now able to get her into the ballet class she’s been asking for (along with Mandarin), and she graduated from the magic carpet to a ski lift earlier this year.

In February, to give Shannon a chance to bond with Davis, Walker took Moira to Disneyland for a week and a half. They had a great time, and Moira is very eager to go back. Several rides were too scary for her, so she’s saving them for when she can help Davis go on them. She was very taken with It’s a Small World and they went on it many, many times. While in the past, few adults would be willing to ride that nearly a dozen times over the course of a week, the dynamics of visiting a theme park change dramatically when you have a smartphone.

As noted, we’re now living with Shannon’s parents, and Moira loves being able to visit on a daily basis. There are more adults for her to play with and to read to her. She still greatly prefers to have books read to her rather than reading them herself, although she does occasionally read one to Davis. For those keeping track, our household grew 33% last year, and 50% this year. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Shannon continued with her quilting group, helped with Norwescon organization, wrangled Davis in addition to keeping up with Moira’s activities, and continued with the co-op preschool group Moira is attending weekly.

For Walker, autocrossing wasn’t much of a thing this year, as the Porsche factory graciously repurchased his car after an issue with the transmission, enabling the purchase of the new house. It isn’t exactly clear what will happen with enabling the speed addiction, between autocrossing and Moira soon being old enough for a go-kart. Only time will tell...

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2013,

Walker, Shannon, Moira & Davis

Double the Recipe

I don't do much cooking these days. On occasion, I'll make dinner, especially if the plans involve using the grill. Under some circumstances, though, there are things that fall to me to deal with, and tonight's work met those criteria. Namely, it was work that needed to be done while we could expect Moira to stay asleep but not Davis, and it generally fell into the category of baking. While Shannon does a great job in the kitchen for most everything, I do have more patience for following recipes to the letter, which can help in the more adventurous baking endeavors. Tonight's task was not one of those.

The task at hand: prepare a salt dough that will encase tomorrow's beef while it is baking. No one will be eating the dough, so precision isn't critical, but I generally assume a recipe says what it says for a reason.

The first issue is that we wanted to double the recipe.  That's fine, except that the basic recipe uses about ten cups of ingredients. We might have a bowl large enough to manage, but it seemed like a better idea to just make two batches in more reasonably sized bowls.

Five cups of flour. This was probably the most straightforward. With the liquid measuring cup, it was also very quick. Since this won't actually be tasted, I didn't worry that the markings only went to four cups rather than five.

Three cups of salt. Wow, that's a lot of salt. What we had left over in the old box was just enough when added to the new box bought for the occasion.

Three tablespoons of pepper. This is where things went off the rails. First off, I needed to double that. So, three-eights of a cup of pepper. Of course it calls for fresh ground pepper. Maybe there have been times in my life when I've had that many peppercorns on hand, but tonight wasn't one of them. We also only have a regular hand pepper grinder. With an electric pepper mill, this wouldn't be that big a deal. By hand, it's quite the endurance event. I managed about half of what was called for, rather coarsely ground.

Half a cup of fresh herbs. Not too bad, although after having just finished with the pepper, it was a challenge to get the herbs to land in the bowl and not all over the counter.

Set aside. Combine 1.5 cups of water with 5 egg whites, then add to dry ingredients. This is where the real problem with trying to do this in a single bowl comes in. Not only does it need to be big enough to hold everything in the first place, but you also need room to mix and knead.

That gets to sit overnight at room temperature. Good, because there isn't room in the refrigerator for it anyway. There is room for the ten leftover egg yolks, though. Maybe people who are big fans of egg white omelets have other ideas on what to do with large numbers of egg yolks. I think, in my case, other will be lemon pie next weekend. Not lemon meringue, since that'd need more egg whites, and it's been long enough since I've baked a pie, I'm happy to skip making the meringue.