Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year / Glückliches Neues Jahr


It'd be damn near impossible to "catch-up" on what-all has been going on in my life since I last posted anything of importance.

But that's the beauty of "My Blog!" I can write whatever the hell I want to write, whenever the hell I feel like it, right?!

So today I'll blather a bit about the highlights of the Holly-Daze and maybe post a recipe or two...

Christmas was good. Rog and I got smart this year and completed our Annual "Big-Date" ritual early. We went to Christmas in the Park early, and mid-week. Last year, we totally screwed up and went the weekend before Christmas. What a freaking ZOO!

Anyway, our "Big-Date" generally involves a ride on Light-Rail (Eek! Public Transportation?!). We get off the train at Saint James park, then hoof-it over to Teske's Germania - a simply outstanding German restaurant (confirmed by a bona-fide Berliner - the food is definitely authentic!).

I've always kind of associated Germany with Christmas ever since my mom, sis and I went to Munich in early-November 1989 (we were there when The Wall came down - BTW). We visited the Christkindl Markt and, well, that's stuck with me ever since! All the Tyrolean architecture and whatnot just kinda reminds me of Christmas.

So, once a year, Rog and I hop on VTA, stop off for German Food (und gut bier!), then hop back on the train and head to Cezar Chavez park to experience the Christmas displays at CITP... (From Deutschland to Cesar Chavez - Gotta just love that Diversity, eh?!)

Christmas in the Park is cool. It's way more enjoyable when you can actually walk in a straight line and *see* the displays (without having to wear shin-guards to protect yourself from being rammed by a double-wide baby stroller). There're hundreds of "Community Trees" decorated in various themes, and lots of big Animatronic-type Christmas displays. If I weren't feeling so lazy, I could probably post some pictures to the blog - but you'll just have to click on the link above to check it out! Here it is again if you're also feeling too lazy to scroll up! Christmas in the Park

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Now, for Christmas and Birthdays and whatnot, Rog and I have gotten into the habit of maintaining our "Wish-Lists" on They've even got a gadget/gizmo/widget (or whatever) that you can install on your browser toolbar so you can add non-Amazon stuff to your list.

My latest "Wild Hair" (and upcoming "Project") is that I want to have another shed built in the backyard which will serve as my Ceramics Studio. This past summer, I'd set-up an ersatz studio under the gazebo - in front of the hot tub. I found that I was *much* more productive with my ceramic-stuff output - when I had a work-space in the backyard. Unfortunately, sometimes in the summer it's just too damned hot to work out there (and the clay dries super-duper quickly and is prone to cracking). And, of course, in the winter it is just too damned wet and cold (b*tch-b*tch-b*tch)!

So, with mom's recent "departure" and the fact that I will be coming into a bit of an inheritance, I've decided that mom would be more-than-happy to see me with my own studio - because she knows how creative I am, and how happy that would make me. So her gift to me will be: My very own studio!

During this past summer, I was pretty content with hand-building my wares in the backyard and taking them up to The Studio to have my stuff fired. But in the meantime, my good friend Priscilla received a most generous gift: The entire inventory of a woman who used to teach ceramics to young children. Priscilla is Good People and she shared some of her good fortune with me (banding wheels, assorted tools, work-boards, and a tiny "Test Kiln"). But she had also acquired a very nice electric high-fire kiln as well.

...And I was suffering greatly from "Kiln Envy!"

Now, I'd been making plans to have a "real" Backyard Studio built, and I'd pretty-much determined that I would end up buying a used kiln on craigslist whenever I finished with the Studio Build (slated for early 2011 - I hope!). In the meantime, I was trying to figure out how to get an electronic controller for the baby kiln so I could do some glasswork. I tried putting the "controller" on my Wish-List - but I wanted to make sure it would be up-grade-able for use on bigger kilns and, well, long-story-short (famous last words!), it just got waaaaay more complicated than it should have.

Rog finally got frustrated and said "Why don't you just put what you *really* want on your Wish-List?"

"Well, because what I *really* want is too expensive!" (A new high-fire kiln - similar to Priscilla's - would run appx $2,800.00! And require a 240v electrical circuit - which we don't happen to have readily available).


"Okay, okay... Let me look some more..."

And I did look some more. And I stopped to consider the size of most of the things that I make in ceramics and I realized that I really didn't *need* a full-sized kiln to meet my needs. Most of what I make is less than 12" tall/wide/deep. On the rare occasion that I might make something larger, I could always bring it up to The Studio to have it fired - since I do intend to retain my membership there. I found a smaller kiln (13.5" x 13.5" 7-sided kiln) that runs off of 2 x 110v circuits (which we have aplenty!). ANNND only cost about 1/3 of what I originally thought I wanted! So *that's* what ended up on my Wish-List. That, and a pair of raku mitts, dark-green protective eyewear, and a pyrometer (so I can do Raku up at The Studio).

Well, now that I'd "upped-the-ante" in the Christmas Gift Realm, I determined that Santa had to be Extra-Nice to Rog this year. So Santa got Rog a Super-Duper GPS-enabled/knows where all the red-light-cameras are/knows ALL the different bands/yada-yada Radar Detector; and a James-Bond-esque scuba mask with integrated Hi-Def Video Camera (and assorted other Gee-Gaws) but those were the Big-Ticket items! Oh, and I found a pony-keg of Warsteiner Beer (from Berlin) at BevMo. I simply *couldn't* pass that up!

So, a week-or-so before Christmas, Rog comes home at lunchtime and announces that I need to help unload a very large, heavy box from the back of the truck. He kvetched (a bit) about how he was forced to "spoil the surprise" when I saw the return-address from a kiln manufacturer.

FWIW, the same thing happened when Mr. UPS Man showed up (a few years ago) with a monstrously large, heavy box that said "SONY 52" LCD TV."

Ya know, sometimes you can't help BUT spoil the surprise. And that's OKAY!

Anyway, Santa brought me my kiln (Yay!). I still haven't tested it out - but I will soon! (just as soon as the friggin' rain eases up!). I also got my raku-mitts and glasses (Double-Yay!)

And Rog was very happy with his goodies!

I'd also gotten a Way-Cool Tiki Lamp Potpourri Warmer from Priscilla and a most-thoughtful (and unexpected) gift from my cousin, LeAnn. LeAnn sent me a stuffed elephant made by "Shining Stars" - in conjunction with the International Star Registry. With the stuffed elephant, there is a code that will allow me to name a star! Uncle Gene (LeAnn's dad/Mom's brother) passed away a couple months before mom, and LeAnn found the "Shining Stars" toys for the grandkids. They've named a star for Uncle Gene. I thought that was the coolest, most-thoughtful gift ever (and I bawled my eyes out when I read the card she'd sent me).

Anyway, it was an awesome Christmas!

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Now it is New Years Eve (and we still have the pony-keg of Warsteiner in the garage fridge!). And I am, once again, jonesin' for German Food. This is a problem since we won't be hitting Teske's again until December of next year!!! Now I don't recall if I had a Blog the last time I attempted to cook German food (I suspect not), but I *do* recall that it was a memorable occasion because the kitchen ended up looking like the remnants of an atomic blast when it was all said-and-done (Rotkohl: Not something you want to make at home - trust me!).

On the Plus Side: Our local Safeway has a very good "ethnic food" aisle - so I've found decent rotkohl in jars (Yay)! On the Down-side: Veal cutlets seem to be hard to come by around here. I ended up going to three different grocery stores, but I did find veal for scallopini which will work just fine for wienerschnitzel. And I Googled 'til I found a couple of halfway decent-sounding recipes for "German-Style Scalloped Potatoes" and/or "Warm German Potato Salad."

This is the part where the Blog-Post comes full-circle!

Tonight's Menu:
Warm Kartoffelsalat (Potato Salad)
Wienerschnitzel (fried veal cutlet)
Rotkohl (Sweet red cabbage - from a jar!)
Apple Turnovers (because I'm too lazy to make streudel!)
And, of course, Warsteiner Bier!

And the recipes:

Warm German Potato Salad / German Style Scalloped Potatoes
(Lazy Crock-pot method)

I adapted this from several different recipes I found on the 'net

8-10 slices of thick-cut bacon.
1/2 chopped medium-sized fresh onion
2 pkgs dried scalloped potatoes (plain kind)
2 (+ 1/2) cups water (might wait to see if it needs more - it did!)
1 can cream of celery soup (condensed)
1 5oz can evaporated milk
4 (+2) Tbs white vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard (I just used plain ol' French's)
1/2 tsp celery seed
4 Tbs bacon grease
4 (+2) tsp Splenda (or sugar, or whatever)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c heavy whipping cream

Fry up bacon and tamp grease out w/paper towels - reserve bacon grease
Chop onion and fry until light golden and limp (not crispy) - in the bacon grease
Dump the dried potato chunks into the crock pot, add the sauteed onions
Mix the seasoning packet (that came w/the scalloped potatoes) w/2 cups water, dump that on top of the potatoes
Add the can of crm of celery soup and evaporated milk. Add 4T vinegar, 4t Splenda, and mustard. Mix it in
Crumble the bacon and add it in, along w/bacon grease and celery seed.
Mix and add salt/pepper to taste

Cook in crock-pot on low for 4-5 hours.

After about the 3rd hour, I'd determined that it needed more liquid so - at that point - I stirred in 1/2c water + 1/2c heavy whipping cream. I'd tasted it again and decided it needed more vinegar (+ 2T) and sweetener (+2t Splenda). You might be okay with just adding these in at the beginning - but I am documenting as I do it!

Let it simmer for another hour, then serve warm.

*Okay, I ended up "getting creative" and added about a cup of shredded mozzarella in the last half-hour of cooking. Maybe not very authentic - but it was Super-Duper Delicious!

Austrian Wienerschnitzel (borrowed directly from

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 4 veal cutlets (traditional) pounded to 1/4 inch thickness (about 5 oz. each) (you may use chicken or pork, as well)
  • 1/4 c. flour (all purpose or brown rice)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Oil or lard for frying (lard is traditional)


  • To pound meat thin you may want to place the cutlet between sheets of plastic wrap for easier washing up. Use a heavy, flat-surface pan to pound if you don’t have a meat mallet.
  • Pound the meat evenly to 1/4 inch thickness for best results.
  • Do not press the bread crumbs into the meat. The crust should not adhere completely, but form a loose shell around the schnitzel.
  • Make sure the breaded meat “swims” in fat. Contrary to instinct, the breading will take on less oil than if the meat is sticking to the pan. Also, the breadcrumb topping has a chance to puff up a little, and your clean up is easier! Wiener Schnitzel in pan.

Set up 3 shallow dishes. Place the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in one and breadcrumbs in another. Beat eggs well and place in the third dish.

Heat at least 1/4 inch of oil in the pan to 350°F.

Working one at a time, dredge cutlets first in flour until the surface is completely dry. Dip in egg to coat, allow the excess to drip off for a few seconds and then roll quickly in the breadcrumbs until coated. Do not press breadcrumbs into the meat. Place meat immediately in the pan with the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Cook the schnitzel in batches, if necessary.

Fry the schnitzel for 3-4 minutes on one side. You may want to swish them around a little with your fork to make sure they are not sticking to the pan. Turn them over once and fry until both sides are golden brown. Remove from pan, allow the oil to drain off, place on a plate with lemon slices and potato salad or green salad and serve.

Also good with Wiener Schnitzel: cucumber salad and french fries.

And the Rotkohl (sweet red cabbage) came in a jar manufactured by Hainich

I'll be nuking that :-)

And the Apple Turnovers are courtesy of Pepperidge Farm...

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I might try to edit and post pictures later - but that's my post, for now!

Happy New Year (or Glückliches Neues Jahr - for any German-speakers!)

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Double-Bonus (but not for tonight's menu): I also found beef tongue at the grocery store again - so I'll be cooking that up in the next day or two :-)


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