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We are determined this Christmas to stay at home. Most major holidays, we had been spread too thin whenever we attempted to visit with family, getting caught up into fragments of a day. Sometimes, it would be only four-hour intervals for each, since we had to factor in the now 2-hour trip that must be tacked on to the beginning and end of each visit.

In past years, failure to anticipate the start of meal times, with what was feasible for our visiting schedule, left us eating Arby’s take out at a roadside truckstop at 8:00 at night. Not to mention the holiday that we spent stranded in an exit ramp motel after two blizzards converged over Upstate New York. I believe it was gas station hot dogs, beer, and Christmas cookies and a shower that didn’t work and the tub had no stopper. I remember filling up the ice bucket and tossing the water over myself like a freaking caveman in a desperate attempt to get clean. Eighteen hours of white knuckle driving will do that to you.

So, we swore to ourselves that we would do better and often what that means is to lay low. We normally plan a big meal, give one gift early on Christmas Eve, and chill out. The rest of break is for playing with our new toys from Santa.

This morning, I gave my husband a new grain mill. It’s sort of a gift for both of us, but since we started brewing with grains, we’ve had a need to mill them at home. Our present operation involves a strangely designed Corona mills. The bucket mill will keep him from having to go to the filthy garage to mill grain and will expedite our brew day. It’s pretty major.

I got a gift card for Best Buy, so I’m going to hang on to that and see what kind of ridiculousness I can get. I’ve been dying for the new Zelda for Wii game, Skyward Sword. This would be enough to buy it.

Today, I’m working on stuff around the house, which is the closest thing I’ve had to a mental health day in months. It is so peaceful. I’m still making decisions about a brew day either tomorrow or Monday. Belgian or Lager? We shall see.

I also picked up some flour and bread yeast at the store. I’m considering an experiment in bread. Learning to make bread is on my resolutions list for 2011, so I’m running out of time. We have two recipes I found online that wouldn’t require any additional items from the grocery store – bonus – so it’s another set of decisions. Either soft pretzels or focaccia bread are the options. Both seem equally simple and straightforward, so hopefully we can execute them.

Our planned epic meal for tonight is a steampot of Dungeness crab, followed by grilled porterhouse steaks on the new Cobb grill. We bought a bunch of interesting bottles of beer last weekend, so there’s some exciting options for pairing. I intend to steam the crab with our homebrew. We have an imperial white ale, which was spiced with bitter orange peel and coriander, and a german style alt bier, a malty session ale with a warm reddish color. Either would be great steaming, and since I’m adding a bunch of Old Bay seasoning as well, so I’m leaning toward the white ale to play off those spices.

I probably boil them more than I should, but I really like when the shell is easier to open and gives the seasonings time to meld. We’re going to do a dry rub marinade for the porterhouse steaks. This is our first endeavor to the entire porterhouse. We often will go with one over the other. It will be interesting to work with.  So, I’m excited. Anything is better than Arby’s or gas station hot dogs.