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Column: The ballad of vacations and panini presses

I am not going to lie -- it felt awesome and very relaxing to take a week off at the end of 2023.

This had been only the second time I had been able to take off that much time in the past eight years, and I tried to enjoy it the best I could.

While I had planned to get out of the house a little bit more, I won’t complain about putting a permanent dent in my couch cushion from watching countless hours of games and binge-watching some fantastic television shows.

After a few days, it started to get a little bit weird because I wasn’t quite sure what day it was, and when I finally got back to work, I had to keep convincing myself it was a Wednesday when it felt like a Monday.

When I wasn’t stuck on my couch, I spent a lot of time cooking. While it was just the two of us at home this year for Christmas, I still wanted to cook something we both enjoyed. Melissa and I put together an excellent Christmas menu, including making “California Burritos” on December 23.

For those unfamiliar with a “California Burrito,” it usually consists of carne asada, potatoes, cheese, and some red sauce or Pico de Gallo.

It’s not something I generally would cook during the week, but with a few days off, I was really looking forward to eating it.

Going into a week off with nothing to do, I would most likely get myself into some mess, but I didn’t think it would be because of the burritos.

The start of cooking went smoothly. We both enjoyed a few drinks as I cooked the potatoes and carne asada and made a homemade Pico with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, lemon juice, and a few spices.

Once the burritos were assembled, we decided to warm them up to melt the cheese on our panini press. The bottom of our press is flat, so I just lifted the top to put them on each side for a few minutes. This doesn’t sound too complicated, but it turns out it was.

As I was going to flip the burritos, I must have bumped the press, and the top fell onto my hand.

It was instant pain. I had not been burned like that in a while and let out our shriek that people probably could have heard two miles away. For the first time in four years, I had neighbors and felt terrible I made that much noise, but then I realized I shouldn’t because there was so much excessive dog barking around my new place that I should be able to make as much noise as possible.

After I lifted the press again into what I thought was the “lock position,” it fell again on my other hand, and this shriek was probably even louder. It might have been louder than those pesky dogs who seem to howl 24 hours a day.

During these five to ten seconds of nonsense, I remember looking at Melissa, who wasn’t quite sure what to do but also seemed to be trying to hide a laugh from the ridiculous noises I was making.

Melissa was able to get the burritos off the press and onto a plate, and we then spent the next few minutes tending to my hands, which were both badly burned.

Despite both of my hands throbbing, the burritos turned out amazing.

The whole time I was eating them, I knew they were really going to hurt in the morning, but I just wanted to enjoy the meal and the rest of the evening.

The last few days of my vacation were spent with sore and gnarly-looking fingers, but at least I could eat good food and enjoy time off.

If we try “California Burritos” next year, I will not use the panini press.