Today went very differently than I thought it would. I had grand plans of a morning workout and an afternoon DIY. Instead, I found a dog while I was out walking, a small chihuahua like rat-dog, and of course I had to bring it home and find its owner. After posting on Nextdoor, Facebook, and taking a trip to the Humane Society to check for a chip, we came up empty-handed on an owner, but we took him for a couple walks and talked to our neighbors and one of them recognized him and directed us to another house, and the ladies that lived there were so excited to see him!
BUT! He was not their dog! Apparently they found him on Thanksgiving, so he’s been missing from him home for a while. They had a bed for him and food and supplies, so essentially they’d adopted him, but were willing to adopt him out if someone else wanted him. We are a cat house (no, not that kind), so we weren’t going to keep him, but another neighbor is considering adopting him. I’m not sure what will come of it, but he’s safely with another family for the time being.
Now, I do not like little dogs. They yap and piss and bite and are all around really mean, but this dog, THIS DOG, was the sweetest, most polite, quiet, cute puppy I’d ever met. He just ran right up to me on the sidewalk and let me pick him up and cuddle him since he was shivering (it was in the 50s here today, but it was in the 80s Friday, so quite a temperature change) and nervous, but I took him home and he was so freaking polite! He was even afraid of our cats! And after a few minutes, he wanted nothing more than to just sit on my lap and take naps. This is the definition of good boy:
I guessed he was a chihuahua (maybe some other terrier in there though), and we wanted to call him something other than “doggo” so we started calling him Paco, which in retrospect may have been a little racist, but when we found the lady who had been keeping him, Rosa who only spoke Spanish (translated for us by her sister), they showed us the little house they’d made for him:
So Paco is in some version of home tonight, and while I was really excited to blog about the awesome night we had yesterday (we went to a SHOW) and possibly about a DIY project I was going to do today, none of that’s happening because I’m too exhausted to even dye my hair which is on the verge of being a necessity. Even after a nap! BEING A SAVIOR IS EXHAUSTING.
I don’t watch TV anymore. With the advent of on demand internet-watching stuff, cable has gone out the window for me and so have commercials. While I’m mostly happy about that, there are a couple Christmas-y commercials that used to come on every year that I really liked. So in order to totally half-ass this blog today, here are a few of my favorites.
Hershey Kisses – who doesn’t love that little extra bell at the end?
Gap – Any of those weird ass Gap commercials from the 90s/00s are a fucking treat:
Coca Cola Polar Bears – Remember when this was like the height of CGI?
Folgers Siblings – Every line in this thing is golden, and you know exactly why:
And the Christmas advert to end all adverts. If I need to cry for any reason, I just put this on (this also counts as the music for today because I wasn’t being lazy enough!):
It’s no secret that I am areligious. In fact, one of the most common jokes I make (or is made about me) is that I worship the devil. Of course, that is not a form of not-religion, but good luck convincing most people of that.
While I would like to believe there’s something greater out there, I fully admit I could never understand what that is, so while I do strive to be a better person and to try and make sense of life, the universe, and everything, I don’t prescribe to any set of rules or named deities.
That being said, I do have a nativity scene up for Christmas. Or, more specifically, a crèche, because that’s what my family always called it and my grandma was really into French for whatever reason. I cleared out a bookshelf at eye level in the great room area, and set up the figurines in the same way they were always set up when I was little. I don’t do this because I believe in Jesus Christ’s divinity, and I don’t do it to honor “the reason for the season” despite my stance. I unpack the box marked “manger” every year in someone from my family’s handwriting, this crazy sturdy, old box that’s been moved from state to state with staples all up and down its sides, and lovingly unwrap each king and lamb and angel because it’s the one constant that I’ve always had at Christmastime, and to me this crèche represents joy and goodness and hope.
So here’s what I was told about this set. My great uncle, so my maternal grandmother’s brother, collected the pieces one by one in the 1940s. I’m fairly certain the barn piece itself is not from that time, but the figures each still have the pencil marks on their bottoms with the price (between 5 and 15 cents). This story has always enchanted me.
First, when I was very little, I couldn’t imagine my great uncle ever being young himself, but when I got a bit older, I put myself in his shoes, trudging out into Boston’s winter, almost unimaginable to a child who had never even seen snow, with just a nickel in hand to the corner drug store to buy a single lamb to add to the collection.
I wasn’t allowed, or able, to touch the crèche when I was very small, as it was kept atop a hutch that typically housed other fancy breakables, but once I could reach it, I would play with it. I remember doing so in secret at first because I knew I shouldn’t be touching something so old or fragile, but I was always a careful, quiet kid, and quickly everyone got over it.
No one ever indoctrinated me into any religion throughout my life, and for that I am entirely grateful, but there was some “Christianity is the right one” background music. I mean, obviously, we had a nativity scene up and were celebrating Christmas, but I didn’t really know who Jesus was. My actual focus was on the animals. There was a long stretch of time I wanted to be “a farmer” when I grew up because in my head that was a person who just owned a bunch of animals and pet them all day, and the crèche was like my mini farm. It had sheep, and cows, a donkey, and even a camel! And my loose understanding of Jesus, deeply influenced by animated Christmas specials, was that the animals came to see him, and to me that was very similar to a Disney princess which was another aspiration of mine. Princess Christ, if you will.
When I was eleven and my mom and I moved out of the house I had lived in my entire memorable life with my grandparents to Ohio a thousand miles away, that first Christmas was pretty hard. It was nothing like the ones that had come before, except the crèche was there. It was always there.
It was there when we lived in that first city in Ohio when we started fresh and I finally started making friends, and then it was there when we moved less than twelve months after that to the most rural place I’d ever seen. It got put up in the tiny one bedroom apartment we lived in for a couple years, and then again put up in the house my mother built with her own fucking hands on seven acres where we actually did have real live cows. And then when we were forced out of the house and back into those tiny apartments, it was put up again. It saw me cry, it saw me go through a phase where I actually did believe in Jesus and so badly needed him to believe in me, and it watched that belief slowly fade away.
And now that I’m again a thousand miles away from the people I grew up with, including my mom, the one Christmas constant I have is this scene of the birth of the messiah from a religion I don’t follow, collected by a man who’s no longer alive and I hadn’t spoken to for at least a decade before he died, and passed down through three generations to a heathen. But despite everything it carries, it gets to look out on a different me, a married me, a happy grown up me, and even though I don’t hold what it represents literally, it is certainly a beacon of hope and joy in this house.
We bought more lights and finished decorating the tree a couple days ago. When purchasing the original lights, we found that Target had some simple stockings that would work really well for our needs, our needs being he and I both needed one, and of course all three of our cats need their own as well.
I haven’t really talked about the cats much on this blog which is an actual disservice to you, Dear Reader, as they really are the three true Christmas gifts. Perhaps I will rename them Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
For almost eight years, Husband and I just had two cats, brothers from the same litter. My friend who had the cats (well, whose cat had the cats–if it were her, you would have seen that on the news) already picked out one of the kittens, a tiny tuxedo, from the litter for us which might sound weird, but it was actually perfect. They were young, but they had personalities and she knew this one kitten NEEDED to live with me. She was right. The other kitten was up to Husband. He was trying to choose between two with almost identical tabby markings, and it was a whole ordeal. He hand-weighed them (they were the same), he tried to get them to come to him (they just ran into each other), he cuddled each in turn to see which felt right (that was just adorable). I am very surprised we didn’t end up with both of them, but he eventually picked one and that cat has been grateful to him, and only him, ever since. We’ve had them almost the entirety of our relationship, and when we made our wedding invitations, they were signed “by” the cats. So, you see, they are important.
Two cats were enough, but then a couple months ago Husband and I were out walking along the river, and the thing I have been preparing for my whole life happened. It was right after Hurricane Harvey which only caused a pretty bad storm here in our part of Florida. From somewhere near us, we heard a mew. Well, not a mew so much as a screeching. “Is that a kitten?” I asked Husband, suddenly on high alert, my ovaries taking over: Mom Mode activated! “It’s a bird,” he tried to assure me to no avail, and I started lifting up the fallen palm fronds on the river’s bank until I found a soaked, shivering, itty bitty ball of black fur. Obviously he has lived with us ever since.
So they have stockings as well, hung above the fireplace with care and command strips. (Oh, idea for…not a band name, but for the Christmas album of the imaginary band.)
And I guess you may as well meet the cats too:
I got some remote activated, flame-less LED candles to put in our non-working fireplace, but I need SO MANY batteries for them and I have none, so that will have to wait. I’m just missing something for the wall itself above everything as the painting that was there is now above the couch. Probably a wreath which I’ll DIY this weekend. (Ah, ghosts of Christmas blogs yet to be!)
So the balls and stars (another band name!) are on the tree as well as a very small handful of personal ornaments. It’s missing a topper (man, getting this Christmas thing together is hard!) but so far so good.
Now please enjoy this video of Cher being a fucking badass just by existing:
I planned to talk about bras today, but I don’t think I’m well enough equipped to do that just yet. I also keep falling asleep. So instead, yoga.
It’s been about a year since I started doing yoga regularly. I dabbled a bit with it on and off in 2016, but I practiced almost every day in December except for the week of Christmas when I was on vacation and didn’t actually end up relaxing at all (go figure). Then in January of this year, I did the Yoga with Adriene 31 Day Revolution. I was using Adriene‘s videos in the previous month, and the timing was perfect: I’d learned enough to not get discouraged and to keep myself going, but was still new enough to feel challenged by the videos and excited by the concept.
That January changed my life. That is so cheesy, but fuck if it isn’t true. I didn’t miss a single day, and I really started planning my whole day around when I was going to get my yoga in. I learned a lot of things, including you need to make time for yourself, and you need to find and practice things in life that you really love, but mostly, I learned (or realized) that I only get one body, and by taking care of it–really doing what is right for it–led to a brand new kind of happiness.
In January, I was halfway through my weight loss. I could definitely see results, but still had a long way to go. I was committed, but wanted to step up my game, and yoga filled that gap. I’ve practiced on average 5-6 days a week since then, and now I do 20 minutes in the morning every weekday, and usually one longer session on the weekend.
Usually I am not good at picking new things up. I love to try new stuff, but I rarely stick to changes, except yoga. It made me flexible, strong, and mindful. It also helped me to appreciate silence. Now I can’t imagine my life without it.
Today is day two of the great Spartakening. I swear, this is not a food blog, but this is like a three day cake. Easy steps for tonight were: make some ganache, pour it on, put back in fridge. The easiest step, eating, comes tomorrow. At least, I hope it’s easy. Gods, please let it be easy.
I did manage to fuck up the ganache though: I needed it to cool down before putting it on the cold cake to avoid melting, buuut I let it sit too long and it came out more like icing? So I got almost no drips and it looks a little bit like one really long, thin turd all over the cake. I used raspberries to masque that. You know I tried to throw Tatyana under the bus yesterday, but that was just to hide the fact I don’t know what the fuck I am doing.
Also, I forgot to mention, but last night after all the baking and before the blogging, I cleaned the whole kitchen and did all the dishes. My kitchen is cleaner today than it’s been since Thanksgiving during which it was messy and I WASN’T EVEN HERE. So go me, I’m being an adult. Someone give me a cookie.
Today was a really nice day, but busy. I’m on my company holiday committee (repping IT) which I lovingly refer to as the party planning committee.
For a dollar a piece, employees can purchase candy grams for someone in the office, and we will be delivering little bags of candy and holiday messages to the recipients. It’s a pretty cute idea, but I was worried it might not take. My concern was totally unfounded. We have SO MANY to hand out, and we’re still collecting them up until the 13th. It’s going to be insane. Candy everywhere, diabetus running amok, sugar highs for everyone.
I’m so incredibly pleased that people at the company are taking such a big part in this. Some of our employees are off site so I’ve been filling out their grams, and I’ve seen a lot now that I’ve put bags together. The messages people are sending to one another are so kind and thoughtful, it’s really nice to see. The money we’re collecting will be used to purchase gifts for a family that has fallen on hard times that the company has adopted for Christmas, and some people have straight up given monetary donations as well. I even had someone contact me today that wants to donate a laptop to the family. People really can be pretty amazing.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still think humanity sucks, and we’re all doomed, but maybe we’re not the worst 100% of the time.
Also, I got my cookies:
Short blog today because I’m extra tired, so going along with that theme, I’m only half-assing the song too:
Listen, Russia, I get that it’s fucking cold and dark 90% of the year there, and there’s nothing else to do besides pose as Americans on internet forums, but why the fuck are your cakes SO DAMN COMPLICATED?
I’m making this chocolate spartak cake for a coworker. The “C” in my place of business’s name stands for “cake.” There’s always cake in the breakroom. But it’s Costco cake. Now, if there’s one truth to know about me, it’s that I love Costco. I FUCKING LOVE IT. And their cake is good, but it’s not THAT good, and we’re also a bunch of spoiled bunch of assholes, so when there’s free cake to break up the afternoon, we complain that it’s the same old cake as always from Costco, but you can bet your sweet ass we all fucking eat it.
I love cooking and baking, but I do very little of both now that I’ve lost so much weight. I eat really simply and am also pretty lazy, so as much as I love cooking, I prefer to spend the few hours I have between coming home from work and going to bed in a near-comatose state on YouTube. But it’s my eastern European coworker’s birthday in a few days and coupled with the same conversation we always have about the Costco cake, I asked him what kind of cake he would want if he could have any kind of cake. This is what he said, so this is what I’m making. It’s the season of giving after all. The cake is complicated of course, but I understand baking: it’s a science. You measure everything by weight and you can’t fuck it up. Right?
Gods, I hope so.
But this fucking cake. Okay. So I followed Tatyana’s directions to a tee. And you know they’re good directions because her name is fucking Tatyana. So as I’m making the dough I’m thinking “I’m not adding any sugar to this. Weird.” I mean, there is sweetened condensed milk, which is basically liquid sugar, but it didn’t seem like it was going to be sweet enough. I continue on and finish the dough, and it’s actually the same consistency as hers and I’m thinking “holy shit this is correct!”
But I didn’t have as much as she did. How the fuck that happened, I will never know, but instead of making 8 layers, I just went with 6 which I still couldn’t get to fill out the 8″ round pans, so I had these floppy fucking dark, floury pads of what I tasted was not particularly sweet at all dough, but fuck it–into the oven they went!
After 10 minutes I had no idea if they were done because you stab these little bitches so they don’t rise and they’re full of dark cocoa, so they don’t change color, and they’re supposed to be hard but also floppy so there’s no consistency I was really aiming for. I took them out and hoped for the best.
Then there was the filling. Tatyana boned me on not having enough dough, but I figured all things being even, I should have enough not-enough frosting to cover my not-enough dough disks. My kitten was really excited about this part because he got to taste a bunch of new things: sweetened condensed milk, heavy whipping cream, butter, and cream cheese, none of which any cat should ever have, but his mom is kind of clumsy and he’s a floor scavenger. But I realized: there’s very little sugar in this either. Where is the sweetness going to come from?
Tatyana says very emphatically to make sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature before doing this. That’s all well and good, but I assume room temperature in Russia is a lot colder than here. Regardless, I left those things out for quite a while, but she DIDN’T SAY TO LEAVE THE OTHER STUFF OUT so when the butter hit the other cold stuff it just stiffened itself right up like it caught a glimpse up Aunt Jemima’s skirt and my frosting/filling had chunks of butter in it no matter what I did, and I was afraid I’d over-cream the whole thing and make, you guessed it, MORE BUTTER. So I left the little chunks because, once you taste this stuff, you can’t really tell what’s what anymore. Like, it’s good, but it’s weird.
Assembly was exciting. I envisioned something beautiful with even layers and a smooth finish. But my cakes were misshapen and even though I literally weighed the damn dough for the 6 pieces, I still ended up with a couple smaller than the rest. As Tatyana warned, the higher the cake gets, the less stable it is, but I only did 6 layers and not 8, so I win?
So it doesn’t look that bad, I guess. Tomorrow I’ll drizzle on the chocolate ganache which, like paint, covers a multitude of sins. It will get eaten on Wednesday, sitting for the optimal two days that Tayana suggests because she hasn’t technically steered me wrong so far except about the dough and the frosting, so what could go wrong, hu? What?
But I came to a realization when I thought about the ganache: this is a fancy cake. This is not a sugary confection of tooth-hurting proportions. This is supposed to taste subtlety of things. It’s supposed to be about the textures and the flavors and the high-quality ingredients.
I should have added more sugar.
Oh, also this is blogmas, so here’s a (kinda) Christmas song about food: