Monthly Archives: December 2011

Sweet and Sour in 2012

Lots of bloggers are posting about new year’s resolutions, goals, or doing retrospective things for 2011.  I had some grand thoughts at the beginning of this week to finish up some outstanding projects, clean up the house, clean out the fridge–you know, the normal out with the old and in with the new kind of stuff.  But, as with many good intentions, life just seemed to take over and none of what I envisioned happening actually got done.

Instead, what I did was sleep in everyday, did a little post Christmas shopping, went to museums with the boys, watched a bunch of movies, and ate out almost everyday.  As I read that last sentence, I realize that we have been having a staycation!  The last six months have been a little crazy busy for us and even when we have gone away, we have been busy.  This week of just hanging out together has been really nice and I do not regret it at all.

However, not being one to stay off the bandwagon, I do have a few things I want to try to do in they new year.

The first has already begun: sourdough.

I have had mixed success with creating my own sourdough starters over the years.  This time, I decided to cheat and I ordered sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour.  It has not disappointed me.

after 8 hours

Right now, I am in the process of testing out some other starter formulas, using the KA one to build them up.  My trouble is that I have a lot of various bread baking books and they all seem to use a different starter formula.  I’m planning to try a whole bunch and see what shakes out in the end.  Will I need to keep all these starters going or can I figure out how to just have one and make what I want with it?

The second thing we are all trying out as a family is: juice.

A couple of months ago, we saw this juicer at an Asian store and stood a little mesmerized as we watched the video.  Since then, it has shown up in a few other stores we have visited and, after reading a disturbing article about commercially sold juices, we decided to try it out.  It’s pretty amazing so far.  The waste stuff that comes out is bone dry (the husband keeps talking about making it into something: fritters or fruit/veggie leather  maybe?).

The juice is pretty yummy and, contrary to the name, it is really fast.  The machine made a half gallon of juice in something like 5 minutes.  There was 20 minutes of prep time, but that’s only because we decided to peel the apples because they were not organic. Cleanup time was only five minutes as well.  This is our attempt to be more healthy in the new year.

The third project I would like to tackle in the new year has to do with a sweater I made awhile ago for the husband for our 15th anniversary.

I designed this sweater myself and I am hoping to make one for myself, write up the pattern, and possibly “publish” it.  There are a couple of things I will need to figure out how to do in the process, but  as long as I’m going to be knitting one for myself, I might as well try to tackle those things as well.  It will be interesting to see how I like this process and whether pattern writing will be something I might like to pursue after it is done.

I think it is always a useful exercise to think about what one has accomplished or learned and to look ahead to new goals and purposes.  As people, we change and learn, whether we want to or not, so we might as well try to change and learn in a more purposeful way.

What are you hoping to accomplish in the new year?

A Little ReCap

Christmas is all done.  I hope yours was as good as mine.  Here’s a brief recap.

  1. I had to knit all during our Christmas candelight service, but I did get the fingerless mitts done for the boys.  The pattern is from the Fall in Full Color knitting club.
  2. I also managed to finish the elder son’s denim sweater, so we were all matchy matchy for Christmas Day.  The younger one is almost too big for his, so unless I knit another sweater, this might be the last year for the whole family matching sweater thing.  The boys might hate me for it when they are older, but for now, I love this! 
  3. The stollen was amazing.  This is the third year I have made the recipe from this book and this year’s was the best so far.  I attribute it to a very warm kitchen when it was rising.  In year’s past, it’s been very chilly on the day the stollen was made.
  4. I tried making Jim Lahey’s panettone recipe on Christmas eve and it was a real flop, literally.  I may have put in too much fruit or too much rum, but it never rose the way it should have and was fairly dense.  We called it Christmas bread and ate it anyway, because it was pretty tasty–it just wasn’t panettone.
  5. Of all the cookies I made this year, the Speculoos recipe from this book was our favorite.  I may have to make some more recipes from this book to see what else might be good.
  6. After all the festivities were over, I was able to work some more on a project that was not a Christmas gift.
  7. The boys have been busy spying around with their night vision goggles.  Darkness may never be the same in this house again! Don’t they look ready to catch some bad guys?
  8. Speaking of gifts, the runaway winner this year is this toy.  It’s called Perplexus and at our party, it got passed around by all the guys. 
  9. Last night I slept for 10 hours straight and woke up with the customary post-holiday-coming-down-with-a-cold-feeling.
  10. I now have 6 days to look forward to with nothing on the calender.  Yay!

Christmas Riches

The countdown to Christmas is almost over and so is my word of the day exercise.  It has been really interesting and fun to choose a word each day and think about what I will say.  The exercise has also helped me to reflect on Christmas and what it means to us as a family.

When I was young, Christmas was all about gifts and wanting and wishing.  I was one of those kids that would think about what I wanted and I would make detailed wish lists.  If I am honest, I am still the same way.

The boys, however, are not really this way.  It’s not that they don’t have things that they want (because they certainly do want things), they just don’t think about it much and they don’t seem to really long for things.  This has made me reflect on the attitude of wishing and wanting.

We have hit a kind of gift “wall” this year.  There is nothing that any of us needs and there really isn’t even anything any of us really want, so it has been kind of hard to shop.  But, gifting is not about the gift itself, right?  In the past couple of years our gifting has transitioned from getting items that we “need” (clothes, socks, tools, etc.) to getting things that we would like to have (books, yarn, paper shredders, etc.).   This is new to us because the husband and I both grew up in less than prosperous circumstances, so not needing anything kind of catches us off guard. It feels kind of indulgent to buy things we really don’t need.  We made do for so long without them and are we just giving in to the commercialism of Christmas if we buy things for the sake of buying things?  Well, as with a lot of things consumer related, there is a balance to all things and I think it has to do with the heart.

As I have thought about what I want this year, I kept coming back to the thought that I really have everything I could want and more.  I am more blessed than I ever dreamed I would be when I was a kid, which is not to say that we don’t have struggles, because we do-the same as anyone.  It’s just that I never knew how rich life could be when love is the foundation.  I know I can wish for things and even want things, but the heart that is content will also be ok without them.

So, this weekend, when we exchange (I know, it doesn’t really start with an x, but I just could not find a xylophone anywhere!) gifts, I hope that we can remember that these gifts are an overflow of the blessings God has given us.  Even if we did not have as much materially, I know that we would still be rich–in the same way as George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.  I think/hope that the knowledge of this will make our exchange of gifts more meaningful.

Our plan for the next few days is to enjoy the time we have together with our friends and family, mostly while we are eating!  The boys love this time of year and they really do keep a person Young at heart.  Through them, we remember the Christmases of our Youth  (the good and the disappointing), we will make new memories of Christmas now, and look forward to the fun of Christmases to come.  And, though we do not have a lot of gold, we do have Pandoro, which is I think the best thing I have made this month.

Bread of Gold.  It looks plain, but it sure does pack a lot of flavor (there’s a comment I could make about life here, but I’ll skip it.  I’ve done enough deep thinking in this post!).  Soft and buttery, it almost melts in the mouth.

We will enjoy all this and much more.  And when it is all done, I hope to get some Zzzzzzzs!

Thanks for sticking with me in all my varied holiday ruminations.  Here is a (maybe) fun recap of the month using my words of the day:

With the Advent of December, the Anticipation of good times to come begins to grow.  We get Busy Baking for future Celebrations, all the while keeping in mind the Deadline of the 25th.  Extras are indulged in, Fruitcakes are made, Gifts are planned–some are even Handmade!  Everywhere we go, the darkness is Illuminated by twinkling lights and bits of Joy spring from them.  Kugelhopf and St. Lucia buns remind us that Christmas is a Multicultural affair.  The cookies get Nutty (and so do we!).   Ornamental decorations are brought out.  Three recipes of Panettone and a Quince paste are made just for fun.  The Radiant candles make Stollen and Toffee taste better, but the Unfinished projects cast a shadow just 5 days before C-Day.  Variety makes the holiday, the gingerbread houses, and the cookie plate more interesting.  All Wanting and Wishing is left behind when we Exchange our gifts of love.  The Youth provide the magic of making everyone Young for a moment and when everything is done, sweet Zzzzzs complete the day.

Merry Christmas!

Resurfacing

Remember that headache I mentioned last time?  Well, it turned into a two day migraine that I am still trying to recover from.  I really intended to write a longer post today about the letters U and V (such interesting letters!), but I am afraid we’ll both have to make to with a few photos and captions.

U–Unfinished

With 3 days left before Christmas, I have various projects that are still unfinished, like this panettone made with sourdough and our amaryllis.  Sadly, I don’t think the amaryllis will be ready on Christmas day, but that’s ok.  We’ll have something to look forward to later on in the week.  The panettone will be going in the oven soon and I hope that it will be good.  I am using a new recipe (surprise! haha!) and I am feeling a little uncertain about it, even though everything has gone according to schedule so far.

Unlike this pandoro that I am making.

This has got to be the most extensible (breadspeak for stretchy) dough I have ever made.  It’s too bad that in my post migraine-induced stupor, I skipped a four hour step this morning.  Still, I am hopeful that it will at least be edible, although you know I will have to make this again to see what effect skipping that step had on the final product.  The only problem with skipping this step is that I may have to stay up all night to bake it when it is ready!  Ah well, what’s Christmas without an all-nighter or two?

I also have some unfinished knitting projects.

I wanted to have fingerless mitts done for the boys’ stockings.  This is all I have done so far.  These are quick, so I am optimistic and, hey!  I’ll be staying up all night with the pandoro anyway, so I might as well do some last minute knitting while I am at it.

Variety

I like a lot of variety at Christmas.  Especially when it comes to cookies.

I think a cookies plate looks really nice with a wide variety of cookies, don’t you?

The boys like a nice variety of candies, which you can see here on their gingerbread houses.

Don’t they look great?   I think it’s their favorite thing to do during the holidays (besides open presents!).  We’ve been doing this with a couple of good friends and their kids for at least 5 years now.  We keep saying that if the kids ever give it up, the the adults will take over willingly!  Personally, I have always wanted to do a sliced almond tiled roof…

What is your favorite holiday tradition or cookie?

Time to Slow Down

I’m going to be quick today because for some reason I have a blinding headache and I think I need to take a day to rest.  However, I wanted to catch up on my words of the day.  So, here it is, almost wordless.

Radiant

We love our Christmas pyramid.

Stollen

My shaping was a little off (I was kinda busy baking 15 dozen cookies), so they look a little funny.

Also, I apologize for the blurry pictures.  The lighting is not really great today.

Toffee

This candy is really easy to make if you have a candy thermometer and SO much better than store bought.  We will never buy store toffee again.

Recipe can be found here.  Seriously, you should go make some.  This is our second batch and it makes a great gift.  Also, if you get gluten free nuts and use all clean equipment and your ingredients are not cross contaminated–they are gluten free.

5 days ’til Christmas.  Are you ready?