Sunday, September 8, 2019

Pregaming Christmas - The Hairy Bikers Home For Christmas

The Hairy Bikers Home For Christmas 

A pair of  hirsute bikers who love to cook and are hugely popular in the UK, and no doubt elsewhere.

Taking a look at episodes from this 2017 series to see if there’s anything that sounds like it could fit in on our family's holiday table this year. And, even if all the recipes aren’t my cup of tea, it’s still great fun watching the bikers cook and banter, with each other and their guests.

Click the episode titles to be whisked to the BBC recipe page for that episode!

Episode 1 The Big Day

Not a great start. A nut loaf? Kimchee? On to the next show which is episode 5, at least that's the next one I’ve seen.

Episode 5 Winter Sun  

Leftover Turkey Jambalaya and Sweet Potato fritters: I’m sure it's delicious,  but I’ve got Cajuns in the family and this wouldn’t cut it.

The Lamb Tagine also sounds great but wouldn’t be a holiday dish around here.

The Chocolate, Orange and Spice Fondue, on the other hand, is getting made this year. I'm thinking tree trimming party and then if it’s good either Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve  - We usually do traditional cheese, then chocolate,  fondues at New Years anyway so this is an easy addition.

(Slightly funny fondue digression - my family has been doing fondue for New Year's Eve forever. I imagine it started in the early sixties when my folks got the obligatory Fondue pot as a wedding present. My wife’s family also does fondue, and not just on special occasions. Imagine my surprise, back in the day when my wife and I were first dating and her folks invited me over for some fondue.  I showed up primed for some cheesy goodness to find a pot of scalding oil in the middle of the table and a dish full of raw meat at every place setting -  not what I was expecting. )

Episode 6 Unexpected Guests

It’s always neat when you see an idea being presented on a show like this and you can go “Hey, we do that!” In this case it’s the mulled wine kit gift idea. Everyone seems to love it when they get it, though, as there is wine involved, what's not to like… I do wonder, though, how many people take time to mull the wine? Maybe our friends all have kitchen drawers full of the mulling spices we’ve given them over the years.

The Fruitcake - I love it but I’m ashamed to admit my generation is the first not to make our own. Is this the year? Probably not, we have a couple of faves that we get every year and have become traditional for us. (Plus the wife detests marzipan)

Episode 7 Couch Potatoes

Nice enough episode but none of the comfort food recipes really do it for me.

Episode 8 Leftovers

From nothing looks great to everything looks great. Though where I’ll find green ginger wine, for the trifle, is anyone's guess.

Episode 9 Showing Off

Probably an unpopular opinion, but I'm a big "no thanks" to Lobster Mac and Cheese - two tastes that taste great - until you cook them together. Equally as controversial perhaps - I love me some Brussels sprouts, so the sprouts and bacon salad has a good chance of getting in my belly come December.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Pregaming Christmas (Getting On, Dinosaurs, Elf That Didn't, Kiss, Compton)

* TV

Getting On (S3 E5 Hulu))

Christmas card competition creates complications in this vaguely holiday-themed episode. Dreary UK dramedy set in an elder care ward. No doubt a critical smash. Not for me.

Dinosaurs - Happy Refrigerator Day (S2 E12 1991 Hulu)

Loved this series at first but, after a while the preachy messaging turned a goofy sitcom into a perpetual "very special episode."

Refrigerator Day is the Christmas surrogate with Earl not getting the holiday bonus he’s already overspent.

* TV Movies

The Elf Who Didn't Believe (1997 or 2000)

Elmer is a disgruntled elf, a malingerer, a lazy brat who only wants to be a '"real boy". And he's our hero in this community theater level production. I assume its' heart is in the right place so I hate to hate on it - and there are a couple of cute lines. I would have suggested it as a good fit for kids but once it moves out of the North Pole it throws in political corruption, a snarky valet, a small town where "the plant's closed down and everyone's out of work", and an ambitious young girl reporter. It tries too hard to do too much and does none of it well.

A Christmas Kiss (2011)

Holiday romance.Nothing special but, if you like this sort of thing, you'll like this sort of thing.

Christmas in Compton (2012)

Saw Eric Roberts in the credits thought, naw. Saw Keith David in the credits, thought maybe. Glad I stuck around because this was pretty good.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Pregaming Christmas (A Christmas Mystery, Christmas Road Trip, We Wish You a Merry Christmas +)

* TV Movies

A Christmas Mystery (2014 Amazon Prime)

Tepid holiday mystery / romance. Emphasis on the romance. I don't know if Secret Past was the original title and they re branded to make it seasonal ,where the bar for such things is so much lower, or if they re-christened it so folks wouldn't be put off the other eleven months of the year.

Holiday Road Trip (2013 Amazon Prime)

The name Fred Olen Ray in a film's credits fills me with the same brand of dread as David DeCoteau (Santas Summer House) . So imagine my shock when I sorta liked Holiday Road Trip.

A pair of feuding pet supply company execs take a last minute road trip with the firm's canine mascot. It's sitcom level stuff but that's better than a lot of these things. Perhaps not surprisingly the supporting cast is festooned with sentimental favorites like Shelly Long, Susan Olsen, Donna Pescow, Mindy Cohn and George Hamilton, among others.

Yeah, it's a bit long and, despite the plethora of decorations and non stop mediocre Christmas tunes in the soundtrack it never really felt all that Christmassy.

* Kid's Stuff

We Wish You a Merry Christmas  (1999 )

The town of harmony is too busy to have music… but they do love Christmas… and there’s an orphanage run by a clean freak… and the kids are so used to being given presents by the townsfolk that giving something back is an alien concept to them… and this leads to the invention of Christmas carols?

A human couldn't have written this nonsense, had to be some alpha version of a cheap holiday cartoon algorithm. Not absolutely terrible but totally unnecessary.

* Christmas Books

Christmas with Jinny Beyer (1996)

A terrific resource for a crafty Christmas, but as the only thing I’m remotely crafty about is hiding Christmas presents that I’ve bought for myself (and others),this will be thumbed through by my wife far more than me. I can look at all the pretty pictures though.

Thrift store find. Not a bad deal for a buck.

The Spirit of Christmas Four

Another thrift.

Before lifestyle blogs, Pinterest boards and socially media food and style influencers annual book series like this, from Leisure Arts in this case, was where, in concert with seasonal issues of your favorite magazines, where one might find all sorts of holiday inspiration back in the day. Crafts, projects recipes, it’s all here.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Pregaming Chrstmas - Christmas from the Archives, September 2008

My ne'er do well cousin Prof. Ravensdeath decided to copy my pre-gaming idea so in turn I'm going to steal his plan to plunder the archives. This blog started, as an offshoot to an earlier general interest one, in 2007. September posts didn't begin popping up until the next year and, predictably, there was not a lot of Christmas stuff going on. Here are some highlights of the slow season that year...

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Pre-Gaming Christmas Day One

It's too early in the season to watch my holiday favorites but I'm determined to get blogging and there is a ton of Christmas stuff out there I haven't seen. So, I'm Pre-Gaming Christmas (and my cousin's doing Halloween elsewhere) and taking a random ramble through streaming services and my own collection to hopefully find some new favorites. For the next couple of months I'll be logging all the Christmas related stuff I watch, read and listen to, making brief notes along the way. 

* TV Movies

Summertime Christmas (2010 Tubi)

Nearly switched off during the opening credits, perhaps the worst opening credits I’ve ever seen. Thankfully my wife, whose a big fan of cheesy Christmas movies, shot me a dirty look and so we persevered. And it was sorta terrible but also sort of charming at times. My wife lasted longer than I did and said it was OK and I have to work on my negativity and cynicism.

Miss Me This Christmas (2017 Netflix)

Another low budget Christmas Soap Opera. Not terrible but not magical either.

You Can't Fight Christmas (2017 Netflix)

A companion to Miss Me This Christmas and set in the same small town hotel it's another familiar tale done competently enough.

* Christmas? Movies

Anomaly (2014 Amazon Prime)

There’s a lot going on in this rather extraordinary short film. Despite what one must assume was a shoestring budget it’s gorgeous and expertly, and lovingly, crafted.

A moving thought provoking soul searching alternate timeline period science fiction mystery melodrama Christmas film.

* Christmas TV

Here's the thing: I'm committed to a certain amount of randomness in my selection process but that sometimes leads to complications. Dropping into a Christmas episode / special of a TV series I've never seen means I'm not only unfamiliar with the characters and and story lines but it's hard to tell if the holiday outing is an outlier in style, mood or structure. So...

Miraculous Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir Christmas Special (2016 Netflix)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg meets magical super hero anime at Christmas. Is this show, now in it'a third series always half sung? Idk, and I'm not interested in finding out. Maybe it works better in the original French . Maybe. "The Christmas of Revenge" indeed.

Naturally if you, or more likely your kids, are fans then have at it.

Free Rein: The 12 Neighs of Christmas (2018 Netflix)

Next verse, same as the first. A kid's show I know nothing about. Basically a teen soap from the UK about some girls and their horses. Lots of familiar territory is trod. Production values are good and I imagine my daughter would have loved this when she was younger. And it's pretty Christmassy so a thumbs up I guess.

Angela's Christmas (2018 Netflix)

An animated adaptation of Frank McCourt's children's tale of early 20th century Ireland. Would this have been done in a more traditional animation style it might have been a bit more satisfying, not that the script or voice actors are exactly killing it either. First real disappointment of the day, hoped for much better given the source material.

* Christmas Books

The Countdown to a Cozy Christmas Cookbook: An Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of Hallmark Movies (2019)

So, a handful of very familiar recipes repeated in dozens of slightly different variations using the same rotating group of ingredients that were somewhat popular twenty years ago but can now be got on the cheap?

Just kidding, I'm sure the book will be lovely.