Christmas 2007 Report

Here’s a quick highlight reel from the past few weeks. I’m sure I left out some important details, so please forgive me for the quick buzz:

Dad drove up from NJ on the 20th, and after a quick meal at the Halfway, I took the wheel and drove us back to Hopatcong. It was snowing in Boston-land, but once we got a bit west it mostly ceased. We made good time and didn’t really encounter any big problems. Getting home we were greeted by Mom, Aimee, Aiden and the dogs. It was the first time meeting Aiden and he was just as cute as the avalanche of pictures have portrayed him. Aimee and Aiden had to fly back to Tennessee before Christmas, so we celebrated early. Saturday morning we drove down to Grammy and Grampy’s neighborhood for lunch with them, and then returned to Hopatcong to sit down around the tree and open gifts. Everyone seemed to enjoy the gifts which were exchanged, and I got all kinds of stuff. I got a bunch of cooking-related books and items, which was cool. I also got a few more seasons of South Park to further round out my collection. went above and beyond and got me a Donkey Cigarette Dispenser. While I don’t smoke, I love donkeys, so this alone would have been an awesome gift, but she then instructed me to operate the dispenser. A pencil shot out of the ass’ ass (haha) and it was wrapped in a piece of paper reading “Good for One Xbox 360”. I had been talking about getting one for awhile now, so this was a real nice surprise. While it was weird to me to celebrate Christmas a few days early (and at night, to boot!), I soon got over it and enjoyed spending time with kith and kin. We popped in Christmas Vacation and dug in for the night.

The rest of our time in NJ was great, I even had the opportunity to make attempts 3 and 4 at “Mission: Kolach”. 3 continued the improvements I had managed with attempt 2, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I think everyone else was more forgiving of it than me, but I intend to keep working on it until it’s perfect. But I was able to get the crust much less thick by kneading less. I’m going to knead even less next time and see what happens. Attempt 4 was somewhat of a disaster in my mind. I mis-measured the butter and added 8 tbsp. instead of the 6 I had been working with. I’m also going to get a second loaf pan so I can make a double-recipe. I took the original recipe, which made 4 loaves, and quartered it, but that left some of the measurements odd (1.5 egg yolks, for instance), so by making two loaves I can eliminate those weird measurements (which I ended up rounding up to avoid having to deal with it).

On Christmas Day, Dad took Corinna and I to the Newark Airport for our flight to Michigan. When we got to the airport we found out our flight was delayed by two hours. We went to the bar for a few drinks to kill some time, and while we were sitting there I saw David Zayas (a.k.a. Lt. Angel Batista from Dexter) approach the bar, I did a double take, but without mentioning anything to Corinna, when he stepped away from the bar and sat in the booth behind me, she saw and heard him and came to the same conclusion. We didn’t bother him, but we just silently geeked out in our booth.

We arrived at Coco’s parents’ house around 9:30pm, and much of the family was already there. We mostly just decompressed and hung out with everyone. The next day we observed Wigilia, and everyone was there. It was really cool, and it was fun watching all the kids open their gifts. The Wigilia meal was huge but delicious as always… I actually felt like I was going to explode. This probably wouldn’t have been considered very festive, so I managed to hold myself together.

We spent the rest of our time in Michigan visiting friends and family. We drove up closer to Detroit to visit Corinna’s Great Aunt and Uncle. Her great aunt has been ill lately, so it was important that we got up to see them. Afterwards we headed over to the Raz’s abode to visit , Andy, and Colin. We headed for dinner over to Game Works, which is kinda like Jillians’ used to be, an adult arcade with several bars. The food was only so-so, but it was great catching up with the Razzies, as the past few visits to Michigan we’ve had limited exposure. Their kid could easily be the “token cute kid” in a sitcom if he developed a catchphrase (although “I SIT DOWN I SIT DOWN” might be a good start). Also, I can’t remember the last time I was set loose in an Arcade, so I had a great time. Corinna and Amy kicked it DDR style a few times. Andy and I stuck mostly to vehicle games, although we did go for a few rounds in that Jurassic Park shooter. When we got back to Chelsea, we dug into the Pats game with Kim. The rest of our time in Michigan was pretty laid back and quiet (at least in comparison to having 19 people sleep in one house!) We had a wine and cheese movie night with Corinna’s parents and watched #99 and #100 on my video list for 2006.

The trip back to Boston was pretty uneventful, occuring mostly on time and after a short taxi ride to Watertown we were home. I turned right back around to go to the markets to get supplies for our New Years party, and afterwards crashed into the bed for a nap to recharge. Everyone came over around 9pm and seemed to have a great time. The party broke up around 2am, and while we had a ton of leftovers I was actually expecting worse. The next morning I went out first thing to redeem my Xbox voucher, and after some AV-setup wrangling (and a trip back out to Best Buy for a forgotten accessory) I was up and running. I basically played with it for the rest of the day… You can find me on Live as “dos burros”.

Cheri’s Christmas Meme

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Almost all wrapping paper.. I think the only bag I used was for the Yankee Swap at work.
  2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial; We want a real tree, but since we evacuate Boston for the last 10 days of the year it’s not really practical.
  3. When do you put up the tree? We had it up soon after Thanksgiving.. Since we aren’t actually home on Christmas we figure we might as well make the most of it.
  4. When do you take the tree down? I believe the plan is some time in January.
  5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, both the supermarket and boozy kinds
  6. Favorite gift received as a child? Commodore 64
  7. Do you have a nativity scene? No.
  8. Hardest person to buy for? Mom
  9. Easiest person to buy for? Corinna, usually
  10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I honestly can’t think of one, but even if I could, I probably wouldn’t call it out..
  11. Mail or email Christmas cards? None, we’re lame.
  12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Three-way tie: Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Die Hard
  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Late November, usually. I’m often done weeks before Christmas.
  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I have both re-gifted a gift as well as recycled it in the environmental sense.
  15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Grandma’s Kolacs and Christmas Breakfast
  16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored
  17. Favorite Christmas song? Dominick the Christmas Donkey
  18. Travel for Christmas or stay at home? Travel a lot
  19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes
  20. Angel on the tree top or a star? We don’t have either yet
  21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Morning? My family traditionally opens on Christmas Morning, Corinna’s on Christmas Eve. But this year my family observed Christmas on Saturday Evening and we aren’t getting to Michigan until Christmas Night.
  22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? If I could teleport instead of travelling, that’d be awesome.
  23. What I love most about Christmas? Spending time with the whole family together
  24. Favorite animated holiday TV show? The Spirit of Christmas

Kolach: Attempts 1 and 2

My grandma used to make this bread called Kolach every holiday season..   We’d always get a few frozen loaves to thaw and enjoy throughout the Christmas.  When she passed away a few years ago, obviously this tradition was disrupted..  We even found a recipe filed away with all the other recipes in her collection, but it was handwritten and tough toread and selected words were in Hungarian slang. 

Every once in awhile I would think about how I’d love to eat a toasty slice of this sweet bread, smothered in butter, and bust out the recipe to give it a swing, but I never would have enough confidence in my interpretation to start..    A few weeks ago I threw caution to the wind and figured I’d just go for it.  This first attempt ended up in complete disaster.

First off, without really thinking about it, I followed the recipe verbatim, but it soon became clear that this was a “big-batch” recipe.  Before I knew it I had amounts of ingredients mixed together that would soon overwhelm all my mixing bowls, etc.  I tried to divide the dry ingredients before adding the wet works, but things just ended in disaster.  Second, the dough was way too wet, it was more like cake batter than dough.  Third the first rise was a complete failure, nothing rose at all, and I got pissed off and bailed out.

On Monday night, I saw the yeast packet sitting on the counter taunting me, and I figured that since I had enough ingredients, I’d give it another go…   I decided to quarter the recipe, guessing that the amount of dough I had made the first time around would have made about 4 loaves.  I spent some time triple-checking all of my conversions and started in.  Everything divided pretty evenly, except for my need for 1 and a half egg yolks…   I figure that if I actually get reliably successful at this recipe, I can just double it and use 3 egg yolks, but for the time being I am just going to cut one of the yolks in half… 

Following the directions I had divined, I set back in, this time applying some experience and rational thought into the process.  I warmed the milk for the sponge to 110 Fahrenheit Degrees, which allowed the yeast to actually bloom instead of remaining in hibernation…  I also warmed the milk that formed the bulk of the wet ingredients (but that was called for in the recipe).  This time around, when I brought all the ingredients together, I still got cake batter-like dough.  I was trying to knead it in my stand mixer, but I eventually dumped it onto a board to try and salvage it.  I kept adding flour trying to get it somewhat dough-like and kneadable.  Eventually it sort of formed together into something I could work with and after a little kneading I set it aside to rise.   But once again, it didn’t rise…  Now, I’m no bread baking expert, but I had baked a few loaves back in 2001 when I first got my mixer..   I had totally ignored the fact that the yeast like a somewhat warm environment to rise and we keep our house at like 65 Fahrenheit Degrees…  So after waiting for it to rise an hour, and still nothing, I “punched down” the loaf (even though it hadn’t risen so there wasn’t much to punch down) and put it in a loaf pan.  This time, however, after remembering what yeast like, I ran the oven up to 170 Fahrenheit Degrees and then let it cool down with the door open so it was just warm.  Then I put the loaf pan with dough into the oven.  An hour later it was fully risen.  I resumed the recipe and baked it for 45 minutes at 375 Fahrenheit Degrees after giving it a brushing with some egg whites..  The recipe called for an egg white/milk wash, but I had run out of milk.

What came out of the oven was promising:  It actually looked like a loaf of bread!  I let it cool for a few minutes on a rack and cut into it.  Oh. My. God, it was almost exactly as I remember it.  It was a slight bit denser, probably due to the lousy first rise, but the meat of the bread was perfect.  The flavor spot on.  The only problem with this loaf was that the crust was way to hard and thick.  My next attempt I’m going to have to figure out what I need to do to keep the crust thin and soft (think less hearty bread, more Wonder bread; Suggestions welcome!).  Maybe in my attempt to get the loose dough together I over kneaded it, forming too much gluten?  Suggestions appreciated…  Not sure, will have to do some bread reading..  Also next time I am going to cut back the amount of milk in the wet ingredients (the original recipe was bracketed 1.25-1.5 cups, and I went with 1.5, which was obviously a mistake), as well as reserving some of that 1.25 to make sure it’s not too wet before adding the rest.


Dad was up this weekend, both for a visit and to bring back Hawkeye.  It had been awhile since he had been up to Boston, and he had the honor of being the first overnight guest in our new house.  The house is still a complete mess, with boxes all over the place, but at least now all of our stuff is in the house now (and out of storage or my parents’ house).  Now it’s just a matter of unpacking it all and putting things in their place.  I’m trying to get rid of as much crap as I can as I unpack things, especially a lot of the geek cruft I’ve accumulated over the years…  I have several boxes which are just full of cables, and that’s just ridiculous!

Anyway, I got home from work a little early to meet with the RCN technician who was there to install the two CableCARDs into my new Tivo Series3 HD.  It took about 45 minutes, some of which was the technician waiting for someone at dispatch to pick up the phone and activate the cards…  You would think they would just do that before sending out the tech, but that would make sense.  Anyway, after the dispatch guy putzed around for like 20 minutes they were eventually up and running with almost all of the channels, but Discovery HD, HDNet, and HDNet Movies had no picture or sound.  I made an executive decision to neglect to mention this to the tech and deal with someone over the phone instead.  This morning I read on the Tivo Community Forums that those three channels were the only members of the HD Tier, so I assumed that the HD Tier was not activated on my account.  Sure enough, a quick call to RCN resolved that (in theory, I’m at work so I can’t test it.. :P).  Now I just have to get an HD television… :P

After the tech left my dad called and said he was mired in traffic on 90..  Pretty unusual, since most people are leaving Boston around that time, but who can predict traffic around here…  Anyway, Dad arrived around 5:30pm, and Corinna got home for work soon afterwards..  After a quick tour of the new place, we hit up the Summer Shack in Cambridge for dinner..  I normally might have preferred the downtown location, but I was pretty hungry and it was a home game for the Red Sox, so it tends to get a little hairy down there…  Dinner was awesome, and afterwards we headed back to the house and took a walk along the Charles before settling in for the night.

Saturday was pretty busy, we left the house pretty early to head over to the Museum of Science.  We weren’t actually going to the museum, though, instead we were picking up a Duck Tour there.  We got there around 11am, but they were already sold out until 3pm, so we ended up heading over to Harpoon Brewery for one of their tastings.  It was a pretty good time, even if I’m not the world’s biggest beer fan.  I did manage to get a case of their draft root beer, which is delicious.  The Duck Tour was OK, but I think it was pretty redundant for someone who’s lived in Boston for 6+ years..  I did learn a bit about Charlestown, which I had never really explored much…   I made some BBQ chicken and grilled veggies for dinner and we watched a movie which was terrible.  Never watch this movie, and reprimand


for making me write about it.  I now realize they hate me with every fiber of their being.  Little did they know that not only did they attack me, but their car bomb also took out

and my father.

My dad left Sunday morning, but before he did I made some french toast and bacon for breakfast…  It came out pretty good, I used half a baguette I had lying around for a few days, so it was good and stale and really sucked up the custard.  After dad left there was much napping and eventually we saw Crazy Love with the film club.  It was a small turn-out, but it was a good time.  The movie was almost unbelievable, just a crazy story..  We had a good time afterwards discussing the film and other randomness.. 

turned up towards the end, he was passing by on his way to play pool with

at Flattop’s.  After we finished chilling with the film club peeps we popped over to Flattop’s to say hi to the two of them, which was cool…

Homes for the Holidays


 and I are jumping on a plane and heading out to Michigan to spend time with her family for Christmas.  Tomorrow, we are borrowing a car from her folks, driving out to a suburb of Chicago to visit some of her family living out there, and returning to Michigan that same night.  It should be a fun, but hectic, time.   We are celebrating Wigilia a day early, on the 23rd, so that we can fly to NJ the evening of the 24th to celebrate with my family.  It is going to be some hectic traveling, but it will be nice to spend Christmas together for the first time..  I also don’t know much about Wigilia, so it will be interesting to participate in that tradition too.

Turkey Weekend

and I headed down to Jersey after work on Wednesday.. We waited until 6:30pm or so to avoid traffic, which worked, until we hit torrential rain in New York state. The traffic wasn’t bad, per se, but the rain really slowed us down. We arrived sometime around 11pm, and crashed pretty quickly. Thursday morning I woke up to the turkey preparations, which were already under way. This year, my parents had access to two kitchens, as our neighbors across the street were out of town and we were watching their house. This inspired my mom to pick up two 20lb. birds! This way we were able to feed 16 people with plenty of leftovers! Corinna prepared Alton’s Cranberry Dipping Sauce, which I was always curious about, and was awesome.

Friday was pretty crazy… Corinna and I were planning on traveling into Manhattan to visit her friends Sara and Dave. Corinna decided that she wanted to do something “touristy” in Manhattan, so she plotted out a window shopping route that would take us from the 33rd street PATH station up 5th to 60th St. This wasn’t something that I was terribly interested in, and expressed displeasure, but never really made it clear how little I wanted to do it… When we got there, Corinna witnessed the power of this fully armed and operational battle station. It was a total sea of people, we could barely move, and by the time we hit Rockefeller Center we gave up. We jumped on the subway to head down to Sara and Dave’s (down by the World Trade Center pit). The rest of the night was tons of fun, though, so we were able to erase the bad taste of Black Friday Retail Hell.

Saturday was ‘s birthday, so we mostly celebrated that, going out to the townie bar Tidal Wave to celebrate after cake. It was a really weird bar; They had a football game playing on the big screen and pool tables in the back, but they also had a DJ spinning the worst dance dreck of today. I also, somehow, ended up as DD, so I couldn’t even drink it away. :P

The trip home on Sunday sucked SOOOOOO badly… A normally 4 hour trip took 6.5 hours, and Corinna and I were ready to tear our eyes out by the end of it… I was so freakin’ crabby and just wanted to find somewhere to hide…

Today I had a physical, my first real physical in ages… Apparently I am still inexplicably healthy, although I will have to wait awhile for the cholesterol and other blood tests to come back. My blood pressure was still pretty good at 110/76… Obviously I have to lose some more weight, but my walking to work seems to be helping in that department.


Well, I am technically unemployed until Tuesday… :) My last few days at Goodrich were uneventful, everything went smoothly with the design review, and my last day came and went with little fanfare. I wasn’t very emotional leaving on Friday, I said goodbye to everyone and carried the last box of crap out to my car after turning in my badge. I felt good leaving, so I guess I made the right decision after all… :) I’m really looking forward to starting anew on Tuesday, so we’ll see how that goes.

Friday Night, Aaron was in town, so I hung out with him and Tim. They started at Goodrich as co-ops the same day I started working there, and Tim came back to work there full time after graduation. It was a strange bookending that Aaron just so happened to be in town on my last day at the company. Tim’s brother and another friend from RIT was in town, so we all grabbed dinner and drinks, meeting up with some other friends.. Saturday morning I headed down the NJ to spend the weekend with my Fam. I’m driving back to Boston Monday morning after lunch with an friend from Hopatcong High.

Buffer Zone

Even though the weather wasn’t interested in cooperating, this weekend was fantastic. A bunch of friends from RIT descended upon scenic Lake Hopatcong this weekend for the now annual Summer Outing. This year we actually camped in the back yard, which was rather full (mostly due to my gigantic tent, though). It’s tough trying to figure out who to invite, etc… The boat provides a good upper cap to the number of people, I’d hate to have to leave people on shore because I over-extended… Heck, a few of the people we were expecting were unable to show. But I guess if we grow too much we can always rent a second boat.. :P

Anyway, it was a ton of fun, we boated, swam, caught a flick (Clerks II), and drank. Another highlight of the weekend was tooling around with Air Hogs, which several people purchased… They are neat little toys, makes me want to get a real R/C plane to compliment my helicopter. This was also the triumphant return of my Helicopter, which has been out of commission for awhile due to a bad crash.

Clerks II was fantastic, way, way, way better than I had expected.. Working long hours again this week to make up for Friday, which I am taking off for Stellafane 2006. Then I am going to hide in Boston for a few weekends to recover from all the recent travelling…

Ben and Aimee

Ben and Aimee
Originally uploaded by seangraham.

Ben and Aimee’s wedding was this weekend. The whole affair went off pretty smoothly, but it also kept me rather busy. Everyone here at work is asking how my long weekend was, and I have to let them know that it was more of a short weekend… More accurately, it was a weekend with periods of partying punctuating a hum of stress and schlepping. But what else can you expect from a wedding… :)

and I arrived in Jersey around midnight after work on Thursday. Friday, Ben and his family (who I hadn’t met before) arrived, so we entertained them and kept the 4 dogs (two are my parents’ and two are Ben & Aimee’s) in line. Saturday was the rehearsal dinner, and so we were moving food and drinks over to the hall for a lot of that day. But once we were set up, it was great seeing all the family and friends who had come out for the wedding.

Sunday was the big day, and I was standing with Ben, which required me to get into a tuxedo for the first time in my life. The ceremony was at 11:30, but we had to get over to Bretton Woods for pictures and whatnot by 9:30. The weather held out for pretty much the whole day, although it started getting overcast after the ceremony, but we were inside at that point. Everyone seemed to have a great time.. Ben and Aimee seemed so comfortable; Television and movies have taught me that people are supposed to freak out before their wedding, but these kids had it together.

Monday was very relaxing, we spent the day on the boat and caught Superman Returns at night. That movie was fantastic… People seem rather polarized by it, but I thought it was great.

Anyway, there are tons of pics of the weekend up on Flickr, so if you care, take a gander. I also created a Flickr group for the wedding, so if you think you should have access to that drop a line to Aimee or myself.