Thursday, November 20, 2014

A drizzle of sunshine

The weather outside is frightful...so the song goes. And it really is.  It's been freezing, and depending on where you live we've had anywhere from 4-14 inches of snow and the wind is howling. It's all about two months too soon. 

I've been packing and rearranging and loading and hauling because the house stager said to. But today my sit down job was to coat another 135 peppermint patties with chocolate. When I finished I had lots of chocolate left. As I was pouring it into another container I remembered the raspberries in the fridge.

I'm not such a fan of chocolate on my fruit but my daughter said, "WHAT?? Chocolate and raspberries go together like Parmesan and Chardonnay!"

She's right.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pie Presssure

Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is coming up in about 10 days and while it's hard to even conceive of Thanksgiving without a turkey,  it's even harder to think of the day without pie. Turkey and pie.  The other side dishes can vary by family tradition, but turkey and pie are the bookends of the meal. Pumpkin pie is traditionally there, but since not everyone likes it (that would be me,)  there is usually a fruit pie offered as a pinch hitter.

Last summer Friends Marge and Jenn wanted to learn how to make pie crust.  They called me, brought apples, husbands and toddler AJ and came down for the day to learn from (their quotes) "the master."  Jeez O Peets, as Marge would say.  I'm not a master and I don't make pie crust from a recipe.  I just do it.  Believe me, the day was much harder for me demonstrating than for them taking notes.
 But we drank some wine, ate some goodies and they each went home with a pie.
Now we're down to the wire, the big day approaches.  It's a big deal, Thanksgiving Day.  The food is the star of the show. No gift shopping, no wrapping, no lights and carols.  Just the food and a table with family and friends all around to eat it.  Marge was feeling the pressure.  Since her mom has become too elderly to do the pies anymore she took on the task for the family.  In order to not mess it up, she did a trial run with pumpkin and apple.
 These pictures are from her phone so this one is a little blurry.  But look at that golden crust! The firm custard filling!

She also made apple pie and then took them over to her sons' houses to taste test.  And after the votes were counted Marge's pies were declared "better than Grandma's!"  Yay Marge!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rudolph!



Rudolph! by Mark Teppo



Well.  I can say I never read anything like this book.  But I’m not much of one for fantasy or Sci-Fi.  Not that this is Sci-Fi, but you must, absolutely,  suspend all preconceptions about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa, the elves, Mrs. Claus, the North Pole and all,  ALL other Christmas traditions.  And if you have read this far be warned and be aware, this is NOT, I repeat, NOT a children’s book. NOT.

Let me see if I get this straight.  Mrs. Claus has an iMac and Santa has a stun gun. He sends Christmas cards to the Pope, he is color blind.  The elves are unionized. Santa goes into lockdown the day after Thanksgiving until Flight Night.  Rudolph’s nose glows because he’s radioactive. And finally, for one and all who just don’t believe Santa can get the job done in one night, it’s explained in here.  Considering the rest of what happens in this story, I believe the explanation!

Here’s what happens.  Really.  It’s almost Christmas Eve and Santa finds a letter that has been overlooked from a little girl asking for her daddy for Christmas.  Daddy recently died.  Santa can’t deny a Christmas wish.  So, well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?  Santa and an elf and all the reindeer hack into Heaven’s list of new “members” and they invade purgatory looking for David Anderson.  They find him, battle ensues with the angels guarding Heaven’s gates and Santa delivers daddy.  It’s a miracle.  But miracles come with a price.  Santa upset the balance.

Santa gets sick.  Really, really sick.  It’s the work of Satan and now the Reindeer and elf are off to, you guessed it,  they find they have to travel through Dante’s seven levels.

I’ve suspended all belief by now.  By now I’m finding nuggets in this story to keep me going.  You see, Satan stole Christmas spirit and without it, we’re doomed to nothingness for the long, cold winters. We are shown how our small little minds have changed what Christmas is supposed to have been.  Not Black Friday, to be sure. Not limited attention spans because all the kids want now are electronics. 

It’s about having something to believe in. We “have to believe in miracles that are never going to happen.” We have to ”believe in the possibility.”  I have to say, as outrageously imaginative as this book was, we were smacked in the face with the reality of things as they are.  And while I smiled and sometimes laughed and shook my head at the imagination involved in writing this story, I did get the message.  He said it so well.  “Angels can’t just come down and fix. You can’t depend on them if you can’t depend on yourself.”   Keep the spirit alive.

Secrets


Snow brings Santa, even if it's in November!  Santa stopped by this morning and picked up a package and headed right off with it.  It's going to my Secret Santa somewhere in the world.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yummy in your tummy...and a quilt

    My friend Laurie is going to be a grandma for the first time so I made this for her new Little Man. If  you look close, in the front seat of the car is the Cat in the Hat. 




The chocolate factory geared up this week. 


I made 220 peppermint patties, with one more batch of about 100 to go.  It sounds like a lot but there's a line forming out the front door, so I need to make more and more every year!  That's ok, I love it when something is a hit.   Oh, and a tip:  when working with 24 cups of powdered sugar don't wear black.



 And, I tried a new recipe.  I found it on Pinterest.  There are about a zillion recipes for toffee on Pinterest and I don't know why I picked this one, anytime someone says their recipe is "signature" or "handed down from grandma" or "been in the family for generations" or "came with auntie on the Mayflower"  I will look twice and taste as I read.  This one didn't require a candy thermometer.

I will share.  Honestly, it's so very, very easy.   Really, so easy.   Really.  Easy.

Toffee by Monica at The Yummy Life

1 cup unblanched whole almonds - skin on
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1  12 oz. package milk chocolate chips (use Ghiradelli or other very good brand...it melts better)
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Toast almonds by spreading them in a single layer on a plate and microwaving on high for 2-3 minutes.

Line a foil baking sheet (small sheet pan..like 9x13. ) and arrange almonds in a single layer on foil. This doesn't make a huge amount. I put the almonds on the sheet pan in a "together" kind of look. The toffee just covers this, it won't cover the whole bottom of the sheet pan. Not need to butter the foil, the toffee won't stick to the foil.

Cook over medium high heat and stirring constantly with a clean, dry wooden spoon the butter and sugar, vanilla and salt.  When butter has melted cook and stir constantly for 7-10 minutes (it took mine 8 minutes) till the candy is the color of the brown skin of the almonds, and it will start smoking slightly.
AT THIS POINT, when it starts smoking, stop stirring, DO NOT SCRAPE THE PAN and IMMEDIATELY just pour the toffee over the almonds. No scraping, just pour.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and wait a minute, they'll melt.  I used the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate over the top of the toffee.   Sprinkle the pecans on the wet chocolate and press in a bit.

It takes a long time to cool....like hours.  When cooled I pressed the point of a knife into it in areas to break off pieces, then stored in an airtight container.

Make two batches.  This one won't last long.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Announcing!

The birth of a new blog page!  

Yes, I now have two.  If you will look to the right you will see a big picture (that I wish I could make smaller) of a sun and "Denice's Photos" above that.  Click on the sun and it will take you to my new page devoted just to pictures I've taken.  This is going to be new and fun for me but as PH said when I told him I now have TWO blogs..."TWO?  sigh...."  I can't imagine how many times he's heard me say, "....for my blog..." when talking about something.  But truly I do find myself thinking of posting just about any time of the day.

I want to tell you, though, about his miracle called technology and the absolute dumbness of me (trying not to say the "s" word).  I got into a conversation about the site Snappyfriends (on my blogs I'm following list on the sidebar), a site that I discovered years ago and was instrumental in my starting to blog.  It kind of went away a bit ago but is being resurrected by Chookyblue.  We email talked about me setting up a new page for my photos and linking it to Snappy again. 

Well, factoring in my dumbness,  Sunday night I sat on the couch here in Michigan, U.S.A. and she sat somewhere in her house in Australia and SHE SET UP MY NEW PAGE!!!   I think when it was over and the page was born I called her a brilliant angel and if she was here (or I were there) I would have hugged her till her eyeballs popped out.

I have to tell you, friends, I set this blog up to meet people in the quilting world from all over the world.  Two have been instrumental over the years in holding my hand as I panic about not knowing if the button I just pushed sent my blog into oblivion. Or helping me gadget something or finding something or any number of things that I don't know how to do.  I get it after they hold my hand and guide me through it.  I've always been a "show me, don't tell me" person. But Donna and Carol have really been angels. 

Today, for instance, I was going to put the link onto this page for the photo page.  I couldn't figure something out, then noticed something else about the page and started to hyperventilate.  Knowing Donna was probably asleep because it's the middle of the night in Australia, I called Carol and she talked me off the ledge.

SO, while I don't claim to be an expert, just someone who is comfortable with a camera,  if you like looking, once in awhile click on the quilty sun on the right and go see for yourself.  Donna is going to link other people to the page, so there will be lots to look at.  And who knows,  it might inspire you to start a blog!

Thank you, Donna.   Thank you, Carol.







Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Boston Girl

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant


We all know the book The Red Tent.  Right?  You’ve read it?   It was Anita Diamant’s first novel and an instant hit. In it she imagined the lives of the women we know mostly only as names in Bible stories.  The book was fascinating and one that we still ask of each other“did you read The Red Tent?”

The Boston Girl is Anita Diamant’s new novel.  In it Addie Baum is 85 years old and telling the story of her life to her grand-daughter, Ava.  It’s a good story, an immigrant story of a Jewish family making life their own.  Some in the family are maintaining the traditions and values of the past, while Addie sees a new way in this country and tries to make it her own.  

 She is the “rebel” daughter, the one who works and lives and makes her own decisions no matter the reaction of her mother, who, by the way, I got tired of listening to as she kvetched about every single thing.  I know she had to be there in the story and she had to be what she was but boy, she never let up!  Of course, because she didn’t,  Addie worked all that much harder to be her own person.

I was drawn to this story because we, my cousin and I, have been recording the stories of the elders in our family.  We realized almost too late how valuable these stories are, how much the  ‘seniors’ love talking and how much we are learning about ourselves by listening to them. 

I wouldn’t put this one on the level of The Red Tent but it was good watching Addie grow up and become Addie. I like strong women.