Valentine Pie

How do you (a) wish your sweetheart a happy Valentine’s day, (b) celebrate in a really unique way and (c) overachieve at the same time?

You bake a heart-shaped apple pie.

Valentine Pie

Here’s how it happened:

Last night I stopped at the grocery store to get milk and bread.

Many dollars and several grocery bags later, I came home with milk, bread, and a slew of other things too good to pass up. Like heart-shaped baking pans for a buck.  (You see how this would be irresistable on Valentine’s Eve, right?)

Sadly, I had to resign myself to waxy grocery-store Granny Smith apples instead of the delicious, local Jonagolds, Ida Reds, Braeburns and Melroses I normally bake pies with.  But that’s the trouble with adult ADD  doing things on a whim  being spontaneous: you sometimes have to  settle for what’s available.

I used my new favoritest-ever pie crust recipe for this pie.  It ended up making a bit too much pastry for the pan, but I’m sure we will suffer through a few hand-pies tomorrow once I whip up some more filling.  Or maybe we’ll just have a little baked sugared dough.  There are far worse problems to have.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Little Turkeys

I couldn’t think of a clever title for this post, but that’s not important.  What is important are these ridiculously cute cookies I’m about to show you.

Some friends are coming over this afternoon, you know, to knit and watch movies and eat stuff.  And since this week is Thanksgiving here in the USA, and Thanksgiving here is All About The Bird, I started thinking that it would be fun to have some turkey cookies.  But not turkey flavored, because that would just be weird (though not necessarily bad… maybe I will experiment someday) (maybe not)(okay really, no, not ever). And then I remembered this cute little cookie cutter my MIL gave me ages ago, which at the time did briefly give me pause to wonder, when will I ever make a turkey-shaped cookie?!  And the answer to that question is now, baby.  Now.

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Not only is this cooky cutter in the shape of a turkey (or chicken, I guess, depending on how you decide to interpret it), it is adorkably tiny.  I love tiny cooky cutters.  Sure, they take longer with the rolling and re-rolling of the dough, and you have a lot more cookies to decorate when it comes to that part.  But I’ll be honest, my diet has improved considerably over the years and I no longer want a half pound of butter, sugar and frosting in my hand when I want a treat.  I just want a taste, and I want a small taste of something very good rather than many tastes of something mediocre- but that’s another story. Back to this turkey. It fits right in the palm of my hand.

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And it makes the cutest little cookys. I thought a gingerbread dough would be very appropriate.

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And then you can get all crazy and decorate them so that there can be no doubt (or very little anyway) that These Are Turkeys.

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And then you can make a whole flock of turkeys, and serve them to your friends, and know that you did your part to represent the most underrepresented symbol of a national holiday in the entire cooky cutter universe.  And you can also make terrible jokes about how people just “gobble” up your cookys.  I know I will.

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And in case you care, I used the Joy Of Baking Gingerbread Cooky Recipe for these little guys. I like that the dough isn’t overly sweet.  Keep in mind that small cooky cutters mean you might want to lessen the baking time.  I went 6 1/2 minutes per tray on these.

Advent Calendar Day 1

We started using our Advent Calendar today and the girls just loved it.  S5 read a little poem I wrote, and O3 placed the star on today’s pocket.  Here’s what she read:

It’s the first of December!
Time to count down
to the day when old Santa
rolls into town.
Each number you see
represents one more day
closer to Christmas
and the big holiday!
So place the gold star
on pocket Number One.
Look inside for a treat,
then the countdown’s begun!

There were two little chocolates in the pocket, which the girls devoured.  They are really excited about tomorrow already.  I may have created a monster here!  How will I come up with 23 more bits of verse?  Better get working…

 

Advent

One of my favorite Christmas memories (and we’ll just ignore the fact that the last blog post was October 1 at the end of CSA season, right?) growing up was doing an Advent calendar with my siblings.  I remember we had a paper calendar, with little doors that you popped open to reveal a cute little holiday-themed picture.  There were, of course, 24 doors, one for each day of December until Christmas.  The last one had a picture of Santa in it.  I can’t remember now if my mom bought a new one every year, if she got them from church or something, or if we reused the same one.  But it sure did heighten the anticipation for Christmas all December long.

I’ve been wanting to make an advent calendar for my girls ever since my artist auntie showed me the one she made for her boys when they were young.  While the paper doors were fun, my aunt’s version was handmade, reusable and incredibly personal.  Into the pockets for each date in December she put little notes and poems, left clues for prizes, stuck in candy or sweets, and generally had a lot of fun helping her sons look forward to the big day.

Well, this year I’ve finally gone and done it.  I feel a tiny bit embarrassed about this project, because I practically copied it verbatum from The Purl Bee’s version.  But my plate is so full with things to do/places to be/ stuff to bake and make for the holidays already that I figured it was better to make someone else’s design and use it than spend all my time daydreaming about what I’d like to make (and never finishing it).

Anyway, here it is hanging up next to where the tree will (soon) (hopefully) be:

Hanging Advent Calendar

And here is some slightly better lighting:

Advent Calendar

The pockets consist of a 2 1/2″ square, embroidered with a number and stitched to a 3″ square of a different color felt.  The larger square is then sewn as a patch pocket onto the felt background.  Fairly straightforward, really.  Actually, my pockets aren’t exactly “straight”.  I wanted it to feel homemade and not in the least bit commercial, so I did all of the placements by eye.  I am noticing that everything sort of slants to the right as a result.   Honestly, it looks much better in person.

24 more days to christmas

Let the anticipation begin!

(By the way: thank you, Purl Bee, for such a cute idea. I didn’t mean to suggest your project was an embarrassment, only that I’m not the type to just blatantly copy someone else’s stuff… even if it is a free pattern!)

It’s Turkey Time

Actually, it’s not exactly turkey time; that’s still a day away.   But today is the day to do all the prepping and kitchen organizing so that tomorrow, official Turkey day can go off with relatively few hitches and I can spend time with DH and the girls.

I’m trying really hard to get my head in a better place regarding this whole holiday.  This year, more than ever, I am stuck in a dumb rut and really wallowing in the self-pity.  I miss my siblings.  I miss my family.  Heck, I even miss my husband’s family.  I want my kids to have the same wonderful memories of Thanksgiving that I do.  And I am, unfortunately, not helping things with all this doomy gloom.

My husband says that the problem with holidays is that the expectations run impossibly high, and then people end up disappointed.  I think he’s spot-on with that assessment.  I do have high expectations (for everything, but especially holidays).  And I’m already disappointed, and nothing’s even happened yet.

I need to let go of my expectations.  I need to stop comparing holidays present with holidays past.  I need to come up with my own, new, fresh and different definition of a successful holiday, preferrably one that focuses on the good fortune and good health we enjoy now, and not one that bemoans how things used to be.
So how, exactly, does one get the emotional part of the brain to embrace the logical solution that the analytical brain has calculated??

Cold Turkey

It’s dubiously ironic that MotherMe’s very first blog post was about turkey. I just got my Thanksgiving turkey today. Actually, I got three of them; one to roast this week, and two to freeze for later. We’ll probably have one for Christmas and the other sometime in the New Year. Good thing it’s cold outside. I have some time to rearrange things in the freezer to make room for 34 1/2 pounds of spare turkey.

This is our fourth year buying free range turkey, incidentally. It’s also the fourth year that we’re on our own here for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone else has either moved away or is busy with other folks, so it’s just me and DH and the girls who sit down for the big meal. Some of my inlaws stop by later Thanksgiving evening to visit, so we do get to spend part of the day with family. But I can’t help but feel a little bit left out. Growing up, Thanksgiving was a huge, hectic, all-day affair, celebrated with cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles and who knows who. There were lots of women in the kitchen and lots of kids running around. I remember helping Gram set the ping-pong table up for 20 or more people to eat. My grandma’s teeny tiny house was bursting with warm bodies and good smells and noise and happiness and hustle-bustle. My house, now, is just…. me. I’m the only one in the kitchen, and DH and the girls are the only ones eating. It’s pretty darn lonely, to be honest.

I don’t mean to be all down in the dumps about Thanksgiving. I’m so lucky in so many ways, and we do have an awful, awful lot to be thankful for. But I can’t help but feel a little bit let down again this year. It’s so weird to have Thanksgiving as a quiet dinner with DH and the kids after the giant holiday affairs of my youth. And I’m especially sad that my own kids don’t have all the hooplah that we did, with rarely-seen cousins to play with and family all around. I’m finding it harder and harder to muster enough energy to even mash the potatoes.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to be grateful for what you have when all you can think about is what you’re missing.

Okay, So It Wasn’t ALL Bad

This weekend involved lots of self-pity and wallowing-y moments, but it did have some bright spots. It wasn’t all gloom and horrors, no; not really.

Since Independence Day is our country’s birthday (in a fashion) we celebrated the way we celebrate all birthdays in this house: we had a cake decorating party. And how can one be gloomy when there is cake? It’s hardly possible.

There was frosting:

Frosting

There were toppings, in an appropriate color palette:

Toppings

There was, of course, a cake to be decorated:

Plain Cake

S4 commenced the requisite Taste-Testing of the Frosting (all-important, after my last fiasco with buttercream):

Frosting Check

…and the verdict is….

Licking the Frosting

…we’re good to go!

There aren’t many opportunities to photograph when you’re swishing frosting on a cake AND trying to keep your busy little helpers from swishing frosting on each other, the table, the chairs, the windows, etc. Thus, you must trust me when I tell you that we frosted the cake.

Then came the fun part. Toppings!

Checking the Ingredients

Of course, no amount of admonishing my offspring about saving the toppings for the cake could keep them from sampling the goodies.

Yum

At least they got some on the cake, right?

Taste Testing

Speaking of cake, they did a really nice job.

Fourth Of July Cake

And how could one have a birthday cake without candles on it?

Finished Cake

Yes, those are sparklers on the cake. It’s the Fourth Of July, which might as well be “Fireworks Day” in our neck of the woods. Gotta have the sparklers.

Cake Sparklers

And in case you think we aren’t cool or something, let me just say this:

Lighting the Cake

and this:

Cake On Fire

Yeah, Duff Goldman. Take THAT.

In other happy-picture news, I peeked out at the garden yesterday, and guess what I saw? A baby tomato!! It’s so teeny tiny, but it’s there! And my other tomato plants have flowers! Wooot!

Tomato Flower

And there’s more. Oh, yeah, baby, there’s more. Like, my first nasturtium bloom:

Nasturtium in Bloom

Nevermind that little bit of red lettuce poking up on the right. It was in my salad today.

Meanwhile, we have a wicked cucumber plant doing all sorts of acrobatics on the trellis:

Cuke Plant in Flower

Do you see the little flower near the ground? How exciting is that?!

Cuke Flower

Sigh.  Doesn’t that just make you smile?  It does me.  I can’t wait for all the plant sex to start.  It’s very exciting.

It appears that the secret to happiness- in my case, at least – is to set cakes on fire and film plant pornography.

I must be really, really tired.