Archive for December, 2014

That’s how I roll on Christmas

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

When I was growing up, I knew that as I raced past the kitchen on the way to the living room to see what Santa had left us, I would catch a glimpse of my mother standing at the kitchen counter. She was chopping celery for the giblet (what is a giblet and why would anyone want to eat one?) dressing for our Christmas dinner which was an exact repeat of our Thanksgiving dinner…with one minor change: my mother usually swapped out the Pineapple Cottage Cheese Lime Jello salad from the Thanksgiving menu for a festive Tomato Aspic Gelatin Salad with Pimento-stuffed Green Olives.

There are some holiday food traditions that are better left to die a natural death – giblet dressing and Jello salads fall into that category. So early on in our marriage, I started my own Thanksgiving and Christmas morning tradition: homemade Cinnamon Rolls.

I always make the dough the night before – once again putting my 30 year-old Kitchen Aid mixer through its paces because I always make more dough than the bowl is designed to hold. I’ve come to find out that yeast dough is really quite forgiving. It can be left on the counter to rise – poke it with your finger and if the hole starts to fill in, it needs to rise more. After that, I just put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight and count on the yeast to do its magic and rise a second time the next day.

Ready to pop into the oven.
Ready to pop into the oven.

So on Christmas morning as long as our kids can remember, they awake to find me in the kitchen rolling out the dough…although I’m certainly not dressed like my mother. She would have been wearing a shirtwaist dress ala June Cleaver. The gay apparel that I don on Christmas morning falls into the yoga pant and baseball cap category. Another hour or so until the dough expands to fill the pan and they are ready to bake.

Is there anything in the world that smells better baking than Cinnamon Rolls? And it’s not the cloying, created-in-a-lab kind of smell that is pumped out of a Cinnabon stand. This smells yeasty and dreamy. Cutting into the squishy dough, the girls joke about using the fluffy goodness as a pillow.

While I have certainly enjoyed my share of Cinnamon Rolls over the years, I think that the real pleasure in cooking comes from watching others enjoy what you’ve made.

The stuff dreams are made of.
The stuff dreams are made of.

And when it comes to the leftover Cinnamon Rolls packed into the Tupperware in the fridge, our adult daughters bicker over who’s eating the center out of them – which is the best part – and leaving the edges. If they are worth fighting over, I know they are good; they certainly aren’t arguing over who ate the last of the Bean Salad.

I guess I’m feeling a little sentimental this year over the Cinnamon Rolls because I don’t know if our children will be home for future Christmases – when it’s just Steve and me, I certainly won’t be baking up a pan of a million calories of carbs for just the two of us. So for now, it’s another reminder to breath in the aroma and savor the moment . It’s delicious.

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

This week, I’m re-purposing (I love that word, it sounds so much better than saying that I’ve found a way around doing more work) our 2014 Christmas letter as my blog post.

If you follow my blog, (so you’re the one!) thank you for the time you haven taken to read my ramblings and hear about the happenings in our household. I wish you and those dear to you a very Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

We hope this letter finds you enjoying a happy, healthy, and not too crazy holiday season.

Speaking of health, that’s a subject we don’t take lightly as we begin a new year. Steve knew he had some heart disease but when he went in for a stent last March, the cardiologist discovered that his arteries looked like the LA freeway system on a Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend – clogs everywhere. It was either schedule the surgery ASAP or make sure that he had 911 programmed as a “favorite” on his phone.

So in April, Steve had triple bypass surgery and eight months later he’s doing great; he dropped 20 pounds, went through a cardio rebab program, and recently resumed his workouts at the gym. We feel so blessed that it wasn’t an “event” – the euphemism for a heart attack – that put him in the hospital, but instead, we were able to schedule the surgery around our kids’ graduations.

First up on our graduation trifecta was Ethan’s in early May when he graduated from his 18 month Korean language program at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.  Following graduation, Ethan spent the summer getting additional intelligence training at an Air Force Base in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas. Then it was on to Korea where he is stationed at a huge Army base in the heart of Seoul. Because it’s the army, he says there’s the usual amount of make-work projects, but he continues to be enthusiastic about his decision to enlist and the opportunities available to him. As long as Kim Jon-un doesn’t go totally wacky, Ethan has his day job on the base and the weekends to explore the second largest metropolitan area in the world. Let the adventure begin.

In mid-May, we drove to Orange, CA for Valerie’s graduation from Chapman. After initially feeling that she wasn’t “blonde” enough for Southern California, Valerie found her place in the graphic design program at Chapman, thanks to a wonderful department chair who nurtured her talent, developed her marketable skills and also welcomed her into his family. Right now, she’s wrapping up a short term job at a law firm – not related to graphic design but it pays the rent – and looking forward to expanding her free lance clientele. She hasn’t changed from when she was a preschooler drawing at her Little Tikes table; she is always creating art. Since she’s not a big self-promoter and I’m a proud mom, I will add that you can find some of her delightful art by searching for her name on Tumblr.

And last but definitely not least, at the end of May, Jennifer Lynn graduated from Montgomery High. What motivated her during her senior year to get out of bed, work hard to pass her IB diploma exams and keep smiling at cranky customers during her shifts at Starbucks?  The dream that her efforts would result in the opportunity to escape our condo in Cotati and go away to a four-year college right out of high school. We consider it nothing less than divine intervention that her dream became a reality when Pepperdine in Malibu offered her a full tuition scholarship. Gauging by the infrequency of her calls home and the frequency of her Instagram postings with friends at the beach, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, and Bevery Hills, she has had a wonderful first semester. She assures me that studying does happen in between the SnapChats.

While Steve keeps Rustad Marketing chugging along, I spend my days managing projects for a branded promotions company. Hard to believe I’ve been there a year because the days absolutely fly by. We work with a lot of great clients including developing products for museum stores. S o remember, always exit through the gift shop!

We wish you and your family a joyous holiday season and very Happy New Year.

Love, the Rustads