They have tons of killer dioramas, which is timely given that Sophie is working on her California history unit mission diorama (how cool do you think royal icing will work as adobe plaster???). It was fun to talk about how if you lived before computers and television in a small town or the country the circus—really a traveling small town—visiting was a really important event. Did you know the circus they depict had a staff of over 100 just to prepare food?
We also enjoyed the glittering Santa's Village display, although I was at a total loss to explain how it had anything to do with amusement parks or circuses. Someone just really likes to make dioramas, I guess.
Our absolute favorite park though was Pinball Alley. Forty pinball machines all set on free play!!!! We played, laughed, gabbed, and I tried to explain the story of Tommy ("That deaf, dumb, blind kid sure plays a mean pinball!"). The pinball crown for the afternoon was Sophie's given that she beat me soundly on almost every game.
We left feeling all giddy and holiday-like since we had just had a wonderful time and were heading home to roast a pre-Thanksgiving turkey. And so we got in some good work on the Christmas lists. Sophie thinks Husband should receive:
- new underwear
- the cream he likes to put on his face after shaving
- a bottle of Scotch
Done! We can totally handle that. Sophie would like:
- ski race training shorts
- a Nerf gun
- new skinny jeans
- a roast chicken she can have all to herself to pick on at her leisure
I can do that. Although Husband's not going to be happy about the chicken. My list was harder. I want for little. I'm signing up for:
- world peace
- lots of snow
- good mashed potatoes
World peace is not looking good. Lots of snow is. We're playing hooky tomorrow and heading up to the mountains for a pre-Thanksgiving ski, a rarity in our neck of the Sierras.
And I've had mashed potatoes on the brain lately. It's one of Sophie's favorite foods ever. She would have them as a side dish for nearly every meal if she could, and I indulge her a lot. They just make you feel good. I think if more people ate mashed potatoes, they would be happier, nicer to people, and we might have a better shot at world peace.
So for Christmas I would like (my sub-wish list):
- No one to buy frozen mashed potatoes at Trader Joe's. The packaging is wasteful, and they're just not that hard to make.
- No one to use an electric mixer to make them. Just makes them all gooey.
- Everyone who does not have a food mill to run out and buy one.
They are inexpensive, work when there's no electricity, and make perfect mashed potatoes.
Buttermilk and melted butter, both at room temperature before they are combined and added are a secret of this recipe, modified from a Cooks Illustrated issue of a few years ago. And stirring in a little cheese (we like chevre or paremesan) doesn't hurt a bit.
BUTTERMILK MASHED POTATOES
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled and cubed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Place potatoes in large saucepan; add cold water to cover by 1 inch and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes break apart when paring knife is inserted, about 20 minutes.
Set food mill in sink and pour through to drain. Set mill over medium bowl and turn to process potatoes.
Gently mix melted butter and buttermilk in small bowl until combined. Fold mixture into potatoes using rubber spatula until just incorporated. Adjust seasoning with salt. Serve immediately or cover tightly and then warm in microwave and refold before serving later.