I’ve been up to my ears in gift wrapping and baking

Archived | December 22, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’ve been up to my ears since in gift wrapping and baking and running the kids here and there and haven’t had a lot of the kind of time where you just sit and take in the lights and the music and the scent of pine.
Not much time to finish the fleece quilts I’m making, either, or the few Christmas cards I’ve stamped and addressed, or the list of eleven kinds of cookies and bars I’d like to make, much less the plates of cookies for the neighbors. Not quite enough time to clean the house the way I’d like, or get Mr. Sundberg a new suit, or string popcorn. And then there’s the matter of that red dress at Macy’s, the one with the sequins and a sash, the one that made Mr. Sundberg turn for a second look. Not enough time, even, to make all the calls I’d like to make to tell all of my faraway people how much I love them even though they already know. It’s nice to hear the words now and then.
The thing about this time of year is that you can’t hold on to much of it or slow it down or do anything but feel it as it passes by. Time never did slow down for anyone, and it’s not about to when you’re up to your ears in ribbon and bows. There is, however, a moment – sometime around midnight on Christmas Eve, when time stops. It stops, and the whole world is silent, just for that moment, and everything feels right. Then, without lingering, it starts on up again.
I can’t promise you’ll feel it, but keep your eye out. Just don’t blink.
This toffee is easy and the kind of thing you can’t stop eating. My advice? Make a double batch right off the bat.
English Toffee
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 T water
1 T white corn syrup
3/4 cup choc chips (I use 1 cup)
finely chopped walnuts (or almonds)
Melt butter and add sugar; bring to full rolling boil.
Add water & syrup.
Cook to soft crack stage (290′), stirring all the time.
Have buttered cookie sheet ready. Spread mixture with
rubber spatula. Sprinkle chocolate chips over and spread
after they melt a bit. Sprinkle finely chopped
nuts over chocolate. Cool. Break apart.

Nothing like having a ton of snow dumped on you out of the blue.

Archived | December 15, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Oh, let me tell you, what a time this week has been. Nothing like having a ton of snow dumped on you out of the blue. I won’t go into detail about it, but we don’t have a snow blower and our driveway isn’t the smallest driveway on the street. We do have two shovels, but two shovels smacks of the pathetic when faced with an obscene amount of snow. Throw in near-ass-burn temperatures, and you’ve got yourself a battle with the elements.
Well. I’ve never been one to let the weather get me down. One reason I LIVE here, a big reason, is that there are four seasons, and there seem to be seasons within those seasons. The change is nearly constant, and I find entertaining the attempt on the part of meteorologists to make a solid prediction. It seems an educated guess is as good as it’s gonna get, and that’s no one’s fault but the Sky itself.
Imagine living in a place where the weather never changes. I’ve visited places like that. They may be warm and balmy and sun-filled and all that, but it would be like living in a gated community where everyone wears yellow and is happy all the time. Or eating your favorite food every day for the rest of your life. Not my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong – I love warm, sunny days, but I love them so because of the storms. And Lord, I do love those storms. And wind. My favorite season of all is wind, and if it blew constantly, I wouldn’t know how dear it is to me.
So bring it on, Mother Nature. Give us all the snow ya got. I just bought another shovel, and the neighbor has a new snow blower. The kids got their sleds down from the rafters, and it’s been a while since I’ve built a snow cave.
Add this one to your Christmas Eve menu. Easy and as comforting as mashed food can get.
Mashed Potatoes with Cornbread:
1 batch cornbread (any boxed or homemade recipe)
5 Idaho potatoes
Dash salt:
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp chopped parsley
Prepare cornbread and set aside. Wash and peel potatoes and cut into small cubes. Place
in pot of cold water with a dash of salt and boil for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain water from cubes and add milk, butter, and cream. Mash. Crumble a large piece of cornbread into mashed potato mixture. Add salt, pepper and parsley and mix. Garnish with small slices of cornbread.

It’s the time of year when the kids tend to hover a bit.

Archived | December 7, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s the time of year when the kids tend to hover a bit, snoop around here and there, ask questions they normally wouldn’t – you know. I don’t mind all this, and wasn’t surprised when, during intermission, they wandered into the kitchen where I was making Reindeer Balls (my version of Russian teacakes – oatmeal instead of nuts) and asked, “Mom, if you could have anything for Christmas, money is not an issue and it has to be something material, what would it be?”
Well, now, I couldn’t come up with much at all except for a DVD player (ours kind of blew up last spring) or a new crock pot (same fate as the DVD player). “No!” they hollered. “It has to be just for you!” Big sigh. I’ll need a bit of time to think, I told them, and asked that they come back in 24 hours and ask again.
I do my best thinking while I’m baking or cooking. Sometimes vacuuming. Anything that takes focus. But it was shoveling I had to do most of Sunday, and shoveling doesn’t require a lot of focus. Shoveling is where I fantasize about things. Not naughty things, mind you, but things that would be really really wonderful if they happened or appeared or simply were. Not that I need them to happen; sometimes the thought is enough. Like if all the mosquitoes just up and died one day. Or if hair grew only where it’s supposed to grow during one’s lifetime. Or if there were suddenly a pool of warm raspberry Jell-O in my backyard. Or if all the crappy, self-absorbed drivers got flat tires one Saturday morning at a particular time. That kind of thing. This time around I thought about how great it would be if some wealthy anonymous old land baron paid my way through school so I could get a degree in psychology and counsel people like I do a lot as it is but I’d get paid for it, and in turn I would bake cookies and pies and cakes for him every week as a kind of thank you stipend deal. Before I knew it I was done shoveling, and still hadn’t come up with a response for the kids.
When they did ask, I said I had to be honest, and that what I wished for was a thing, an event, and it would be that we would be together, at some point over the holiday, for even an hour, and share a meal, and laugh, and tell a story or two before we all ran off our separate ways. And if that doesn’t happen, that’s fine, because it’s bound to, eventually. We’re a family, after all, and families tend to find each other, wherever they may be. Come hell, high water, or enough snow to keep you shoveling most of a Sunday afternoon. Love is like that. It gets through things. It would be nice, though, to be able to plan a meal. It is the holiday, after all. You know.
These bars offer up a delightful combination of tart and sweet.
And they look pretty. Just in time for Christmas.
Cranberry Chocolate Graham Bars
12 graham crackers (double squares) broken into pieces, 1/2-1 inch
2 sticks butter
1 cup light brown sugar
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Place graham cracker pieces into an 8 x 8 baking pan along with cranberries.
Combine butter and brown sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil for two minutes.
Pour hot brown sugar mixture over crackers and berries and toss to coat. Bake for ten minutes at 350. Sprinkle chocolate over and let cool for an hour. Cut and store in fridge in covered container.