Thursday, December 31, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #11

Remember those days when you would turn on the old transistor radio (or maybe that Panasonic clock radio, with the numbers that flipped) to listen to the top songs of the year played all day on New Year's Eve?  Yep, me neither :)

Here's an a capella version of the top songs of 2015.  It's pretty catchy.  These kids might have something here (via BuzzFeed).  Enjoy - don't overdo it tonight!

Of course, if music isn't your thing, the year end lists are everywhere. Here's one of the top 2015 movies (via kottke).

Monday, December 28, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #10

The Brave Astronaut is hosting an Open House at the Launchpad on New Year's Day!  Are you coming?  While we will be having appetizers and desserts, there is likely not going to be any homemade stuff - a factor of time, unfortunately.  But that is not to say that these might not appear at some point in the future.  From Land O Lakes (hence the emphasis on Land O Lakes products) via the Pioneer Woman.

Pecan Pie Bites
40 min. prep time
1:25 total time
36 cookies

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 6 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter, softened 
  • 1 Land O Lakes® Egg (yolk only) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans 
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray 36 mini muffin pan cups with no-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, butter, egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat at low speed until well mixed.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls; place each into prepared mini muffin pan cups, pressing dough onto bottom and up one-third sides of each cup, creating a shallow cup.

Combine all filling ingredients in bowl; spoon 1 teaspoon filling into each cookie.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 10 minutes in pan on cooling rack.

Remove cookies from pans by running small knife around edge of cookie. Place onto cooling rack; cool completely.

Nutrition Facts (1 cookie)
Calories: 80 
Fat: 5g 
Cholesterol: 10mg 
Sodium: 25mg 
Carbohydrates: 10g 
Dietary Fiber: 0g 
Protein: 1g 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

On Bagels

The Brave Astronaut Clan is on Long Island this weekend for some Christmas visiting with the family.  I have long said - there are no good bagels outside the New York area (despite that it might be an urban myth - I'm pretty sure it's the water).  The clan will certainly stock up on our way out of town before heading home to the launchpad.

In case you were wondering, I am not alone in my thinking.  Here's an article from the New York Times Magazine.  And here's a shameless plug for the best bagels in the New York area - if you need one, you've got to go see the Boss.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #9

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

I hope that all of you always hear the bell.  I still do.  As did Virginia O'Hanlon and Francis P. Church.  Remember, while he may not exist physically, Santa lives in your heart.


Francis Pharcellus Church
Virginia O'Hanlon
Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897.

The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps - Read more

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. 

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #8

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

NORAD's Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport
December 19, 2014 4:02 AM ET
NPR Staff

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

The Santa Tracker tradition started with an ad for Sears, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa's exact location.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," she says.

"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?'"

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus."

"It got to be a big joke at the command center. You know, 'The old man's really flipped his lid this time. We're answering Santa calls,' " Terri says.

"The airmen had this big glass board with the United States on it and Canada, and when airplanes would come in they would track them," Pam says.

"And Christmas Eve of 1955, when Dad walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole," Rick says.

"Dad said, 'What is that?' They say, 'Colonel, we're sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?' Dad looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, Dad had called the radio station and had said, 'This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.' Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and say, 'Where's Santa now?' " Terri says.

"And later in life he got letters from all over the world, people saying, 'Thank you, Colonel,' for having, you know, this sense of humor. And in his 90s, he would carry those letters around with him in a briefcase that had a lock on it like it was top-secret information," she says. "You know, he was an important guy, but this is the thing he's known for."

"Yeah," Rick says, "it's probably the thing he was proudest of, too."

Monday, December 21, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #7

As discussed earlier - it is likely there will be a New Year's Open House at the Launchpad soon.  An invitation is being drafted and should be circulated soon.  If you're in the DMV, consider yourself invited!

Now I just need to decide what to serve and where we will put everyone!  I do own two crockpots  . . . (recipes from a BuzzFeed post)

Mulled Ginger-Apple Cider
Serves 12

Slice 1 apple thinly crosswise (like, across the equator) so that the center forms a star pattern. Remove the seeds. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the apple slices with with 1 gallon fresh apple cider (preferably unpasteurized), ½ cup roughly chopped fresh ginger, 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 5 whole allspice, and 1 thinly sliced orange. Cook on high heat for 3-4 hours, or on low heat for 6-8 hours. Spike each serving with 1½ oz. dark rum.

Crockpot Spinach Artichoke Dip
Serves 12

Put 3 cups chopped artichoke hearts, 1 lb. cream cheese, one 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, 8 oz. shredded part-skim mozzarella, 1 cup each grated parmesan and mayonnaise, and 2 chopped garlic cloves in a slow cooker. Season with a teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours or high for 2 hours, stirring at the end. Serve from the slow cooker (set to “warm”) with crackers.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's Brave Astronaut Day!

Today is the day set aside for me, the Brave Astronaut.  Feel free to wish me well.  If you're looking for gifts, here's a list of ways for me to show my Sagittarius pride (via BuzzFeed).
1.  A delicate bow and arrow tattoo - though I'm not the tattoo kind of guy

2.  This adorable embroidery

 3.  This print

4.  A nice Sagittarius key chain

 5.  This T-shirt with a Sagittarian personality

If all else fails, you can just send money :)

Thanks all for reading over the years.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #6

Someone on Facebook asked the very important question the other day - what's your favorite Christmas movie?  My immediate response is that's like choosing you favorite child.  I mean there are 12 Days of Christmas, can't I have 12 movies?

1.  It's a Wonderful Life - always number 1.

2.  Collectively, the Rankin-Bass specials
  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - Fred Astaire!
  3. The Year Without a Santa Claus - Mickey Rooney!
  4. Frosty the Snowman - Jimmy Durante!
  5. there are others, but those are all you need
3.  The Original (Boris Karloff!) The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

4.   A Charlie Brown Christmas

5.  Scrooged

6.  Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) - and the first shall be best (Alistair Sim)

7.  Elf - we just watched this the other night!

8.  White Christmas

9.  and to a certain extent, though Fred Astaire's firecracker routine is what makes the movie, Holiday Inn

10.  Love, Actually

11.  Miracle on 34th Street - the original, always, and un-colorized

12.  Die Hard - sure, sure, I know, but it takes place on Christmas Eve!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #5

Sorry.  I just need a minute.  Deep Breath.  Deep Breath.  Now I can go make this.  (via BuzzFeed from Crunkcakes)

Dark ‘n’ Stormy Apple Crisp with Rum 
Recipe by Faith Alice Sleeper of Crunkcakes

  • 5 Granny Smith apples 
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced 
  • 1 ½ tablespoon freshly grated ginger 
  • 1/3 cup Goslings Rum 
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats 
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed 
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 

Peel, core, and slice five apples, then add into a large bowl. Add lime juice and zest, grated ginger, rum, and granulated sugar, and mix thoroughly until apples are coated.

Then, make your crumble: Stir together the flour, oats, and brown sugar in a bowl. Melt a stick of butter on the stovetop or in the microwave, and pour it into the flour mixture. Stir until fully combined.

Pour the apples into a greased baking pan, then cover the top with the crumble mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until crisp is golden and apples are softened, about 45 minutes.

This recipe is part of a complete baking & booze dessert menu, found here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #4

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of the Chairman of the Board.  Frank Sinatra.  Growing up in my parent's home, Frank was a staple, broadcast on WNEW 1130 on your AM dial.  Needless to say, Frank's Christmas music made frequent appearances on the stereo at home.

The new car at the launchpad has XM radio in it and I have been listening to the various Christmas music channels that have cropped up at this time of year.  Of course, there is the local radio station that has been playing Christmas music since, I think, July.  But on that station there is a greater chance of hearing this song, which is banned at the Launchpad.  Mrs. BA usually promotes this analysis of the song anyway.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #3

Any 12 posts of Christmas would be incomplete without letting all of you know how much it would cost you to buy all the items from the 12 Days of Christmas.  Herewith is the breakdown of the 2015 gifts.  The total cost this year rose .06% for a total of $34,130.99.  It is noteworthy (to a history geek like me) that this tradition started 32 years ago when an economist at PNC decided to figure out how much all the gifts would cost - and PNC has kept the index every year since.  For comparison, in 1984 when the index was first published, the gifts would have cost you a mere $18,845.97.

Most of the prices stayed level this year and no costs went down this year.  The largest jumps came in the avian category, with two turtle doves rising 11.5% and the cost of one little partridge went up 3.5%.  All of the other birds, french female chickens, birds on phones, and geese and swans all held the line.  Rising salaries for ten Lords A Leaping also saw that cost increase 3%, although all of the other individuals (milkmaids, dancers, drummers, and pipers) stayed the same.

Remember that the costs above are for single gifts - if you want to buy all of the repeated items in the song, amounting to 364 gifts, it will set you back $155,407.18.  But remember, that can get you in trouble.

Now to find a tree, well several trees for the launchpad (one for the living room, one for our bedroom, and one for the boy's room).

(you gotta love both the mullet and the femullet in this)

Monday, December 7, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #2

Mrs. BA is thinking about a Holiday Open House around New Years.  I'm on board with this plan.  Maybe we can make a boatload of mug cakes, particularly this one (from FiveHeartHome). (via BuzzFeed)

Snickerdoodle Mug Cake 
Yield: 1 mug cake

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature 
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
 For layering/topping: 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon until thoroughly, completely combined, with no streaks of any ingredients remaining. Blend in milk, butter, and vanilla until batter is smooth. Into a 14-ounce (or larger) microwave-safe mug with straight sides, scoop a big spoonful of batter, then sprinkle with a spoonful of cinnamon sugar. Alternate layers, ending with cinnamon sugar. 
  2. Microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until cake is done to your liking. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #1

Here it is December 1 and things are heating up at the Launchpad.  This weekend will be set aside for a number of activities, including the first Christmas party of the season - the St. Ambrose Men's Club President's Dinner!

I am also hoping to carve out some time for decorating - though it doesn't look like we will have time for tree hunting this year.  But with this list and a half-full DVR, I can plan my holiday viewing accordingly.

Now this list is by no means complete - I also need to see Scrooged, Die Hard, and all of the Rankin-Bass specials, among others.

Wednesday, December 2
  • Christmas in Rockefeller Center NBC | 8:00pm - this showing always gives me the opportunity to tell the story about my brother getting separated from the rest of the family when they went to the tree lighting one year.

Friday, December 4
  • Elf ABC Family | 7:30pm - though I own this movie so we can watch it anytime we like.
Saturday, December 5
  • A Very Brady Christmas ABC Family | 7:00am - "I asked Santa to give Mommy her voice back so she could sing in church!" - Cindy Brady
  • It’s A Wonderful Life NBC | 8:00pm - This is also a movie I own and will watch at least once during the holidays.
Thursday, December 17
  • Disney Prep & Landing ABC | 8:00pm - IT'S SO TINSEL!
  • Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice ABC | 8:30pm 
Thursday, December 24
  • It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown ABC | 8:00pm - I also watched this last night, too.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas ABC | 9:00pm