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What I'm Doing During my SF Holiday Staycation

burger and shoestring fries at Zuni Cafe in SF

It's hard to believe I am only halfway through  my holiday staycation! Needless to say, I'm definitely finally feeling relaxed, as one should on a vacation. Even the kitties are cooperating by being good.

So far, this staycation has been a busy one. I kicked off the week with getting all my holiday cards completed, and shipping out a few packages. But Tuesday is what felt like the real kickoff.  I treated myself to a long leisurely lunch at Zuni Cafe, long one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. I even splurged on a great glass of pinot noir and saved room for dessert -- the always delicious espresso granita. Despite being a one-top in a sea of larger parties, I was well taken care of, and had a prime seat in the sunny main room, with plenty of people watching.

After lunch, I hopped on the F Market Streetcar and made my way to Macy's Union Square, for my two-hour shift volunteering for the SFSPCA and their holiday windows fundraiser and adoption event. If you're not familiar with the SFSPCA holiday windows, check out the window cams of adorable adoptable kitties and puppies now. Be warned that you may be overloaded with cuteness.

I've volunteered for this annual fundraiser at least a half dozen times over the past 12 years. This year, as with most years, I was on duty to answer questions about the adoptable pets in the windows and the SFSPCA. There was not too much foot traffic, which is not surprising given we were on the O'Farell side of the building, post-lunch and pre-evening crowds. But I still had the opportunity to talk to a number of animal lovers about their pets, which is always one of the nice side effects of this volunteering.

I gathered about $100 in my collection box, and spread the word to dozens of folks. And I think a 4-year-old poodle may have found himself a forever home as a result of our shift too. A rather enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. I highly encourage SF peeps to sign up for a shift. But don't blame me if you end up coming home with a new furry family member...

The rest of this week has been consumed with plowing through the Hunger Games book series (I am 75% of the way through the third book now), and getting started with playing the new Star Wars MMORPG. If you're interested in learning more about that part of my week, peek at the blog I've started that focuses on my SWTOR adventures.

Next week, I am most looking forward to my significant other finally being able to eat solid, chewy food again after 3 weeks of post-surgery recovery, and making a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at home, then heading up to Sonoma for Christmas Day. So nice to have a relaxing holiday season for once, instead of trying to cram in all the to-do's after work in the weeks leading up to the holiday. I hope to have the opportunity to take this time frame off again.

A Cookie Baking Weekend

image from

I spent all of this weekend baking cookies. Chocolate shortbread. Honey Merry Christmas rolled out cookies. Peppermint surprise chocolate cookies. Then I spent the better part of today decorating them. Milk chocolate used as glue for getting smashed candy cane bits to stick to the peppermint surprise or the chocolate shortbread (which also had a set with pistachios on top.)

But the big push was icing and sugaring all the honey cookies. I try to do a wide variation in decorating these cookies-- some with only a little sugar and icing, others with sprinkles, and only a few that go full out with the icing and sugar. For some reason, folks can be a little timid about biting the top off a big sugar coated tree. Which is why I always make so many of those wee stars. I consider them to be the gateway cookies. People take one to be polite and bite in, expecting a dry, flavorless vanilla sugar cookie, and instead are hit with the aromatics and taste of the honey. And *then* the go for the tree.

These honey cookies are pretty much the only holiday tradition I have carried with me from childhood onward. I remember making these cookies with my mother and grandmother as early as 7 years of age. And using some of the same HRM cookie cutters I used today. (As an aside, that snowman is my most favorite cookie cutter ever. I use it sparingly however as it is cracked. I keep hoping to find a set of them in a junk shop.) And just as I did as a child, I make my own colored sugar, using regular old table sugar and food coloring. I've never developed a taste for those bigger pre-colored sugar crystals. For me, the hand colored sugar is what these cookies need to be complete.

The next step of course will be to package up all these treats, then give them away to the folks who have made my life a better, happier place in the past year. I'm planning to put a number of them in the mail and hope they won't be too battered when they arrive. And hope that the folks who open up their mailbox to find a small package of the cookies know that even if I don't always say it, they are most appreciated and greatly missed.

The only fly in the ointment in this cookie euphoria is my SO had oral surgery last week and is on a strict no chew diet. I reserved a couple of the cookies for him, however, to be crunched up into a milkshake. It's not as fabulous as the finished cookies mind you, but it will do in a pinch.

I would have waited until he is back on solid foods, but since I am taking vacation time for the two weeks prior to Christmas, this was my only chance to bake cookies to bring in to work.

I haven't had the weeks prior to Christmas off in at least 5 years, probably longer. But this year, since I hadn't taken a 2-week break, and my SO has the time off from his Master's in Library Science studies, I am thrilled to be able to get the time off. I plan to go do some volunteering at the SPCA holiday windows, have a lunch or three with friends I don't get to see often enough, and to trek out to the Valley to see the other Erika.

I'm totally looking forward to my leisurely long holiday break.