Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas

I’d love to be one of those writers who intentionally “takes time off” from blogging to “really enjoy the holiday season.” Truth be told, I just didn’t have time/energy/motivation to write over the break, and I’m OK with that.

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(Jason refers to Christmas cards as “old-fashioned Facebook Likes.”)

We had all the kids for Christmas this year, which always carries the Potential for Disaster, or at least, Potential for Homicidal Urges. But it was fine! They got along well, and we have a big enough house where they can be physically caged, er, separated from each other in times of stress. I think they’re finally appreciative of the thoughtfulness of Christmas gifts, rather than just the volume, which is a tremendous relief. The biggest hit appears to be Settlers of Catan, which they played at least six times between Wednesday and Sunday. Ah, the sweet sounds of bickering over sheep and logs….

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My mom and my brother came over for the holidays, and they seemed to have a nice time. (Yes, my brother is really, really tall.)

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Right after Thanksgiving, I made an Epic Christmas Plan (no, seriously, I have a Google Doc with that title) and stuck to it. I listed two or three “big” projects each weekend, and smaller projects during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It made everything seem much more manageable and less overwhelming.

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I listened to plenty of Pandora’s “Swinging Christmas” station, made ornaments with the kids, and spent a lot of time gazing at my tree. We also went to see the Hobbit movie, which I enjoyed.

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(This goldfish is mesmerizing.)

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By Saturday evening we had most of the Christmas decorations packed away in the attic, and on Sunday all the children decamped to spend the second half of winter break with their other parents.

A nice quiet has descended over our house. I have a list of projects to tackle in the week that the children are away, and I am mentally rubbing my hands together with glee at the prospect of crossing things off a list.

Mmmm… lists…..

I hope your holidays were festive.

 

 

 

 

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That’s how I roll.

I’m not the world’s largest fan of sweets. Chocolate gives me migraines (I KNOW, THE HORROR), and I tend to prefer taste over looks, so highly-decorated Christmas cookies are not at the top of my list of things to make in December.

However.

Jason gave me the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook for Christmas several years ago, and I fell in love with her cinnamon rolls. They’re delicious! I made them around Christmas 2009, then skipped three years for no good reason (I had several not-good reasons! Like not having the children for Christmas in 2010 and 2012, and moving back into our house during Christmas 2011!).

This year, I decided to re-instate the cinnamon-sugar goodness.

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That’s not a typo – the full recipe makes a LOT of rolls. I decided to halve it.

It turns out, that was the last good decision I made that day. Because you see, children, there is an instruction hidden in the recipe that I totally missed. More on that later.

I made the dough, rolled it out, and hummed a hymn of praise for my capacious counter tops:

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I also made the decision to incorporate finely-chopped, almost ground, pecans to the roll filling:

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YES PRECIOUS.

I tight-rolled them like my jeans from 1994, sliced, and arranged them in pans:

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I left them to snuggle under a dish towel while I made the maple glaze. But when I removed the towel 20 minutes later, I found something…. unexpected:

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The rolls, they had not risen.

I looked back at the recipe and discovered the hidden instruction I missed the first time. Halfway through the dough formation, you’re supposed to let it sit for an hour. I’m used to pizza crusts and other yeast doughs, which rise after the dough has been prepared.

Undeterred, I baked and glazed them anyway. The kids will love them.

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The next day, I made a second attempt. I would not be thwarted by a yeast dough!

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That, my friends, is properly risen dough. Feeling quite smug, I finished preparing the rolls, popped them in the oven…… and spied the unused cinnamon sitting on the counter.

I GIVE UP.

 

 

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It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.

It’s an inevitable Awkward Holiday Moment – a neighbor or friend knocks on your door bearing gifts, and you’re caught flat-footed (and empty-handed). In addition to these well-meaning elves, there are also teachers (between them, the kids have FIFTEEN), co-workers, and other people with whom it’s become customary to exchange gifts.

All that giving adds up! Fast!

Last year I made Pumpkin Pie Spiced Nuts to give out, which were a big hit. This year I got even more daring and decided to make and can apple butter. I used this tutorial as a guide, but made several modifications. My recipe went something like:

Two three-pound bags of granny smith apples (about 22 apples)
Splash of lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
Several generous dashes nutmeg

I cored and chopped the apples, but did not peel them (you’ll see why in a minute). I threw everything in the crock pot and let it cook on low overnight. When I woke up, I removed the lid and cranked it up to high for an hour and a half.

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At this point, my house smelled awesome.

I busted out my immersion blender and gave the apples the what for. And guess what? All those apple peels? Obliterated. The mixture was silky-smooth. I poured it into my (sterilized) 4 ounce mason jars, wiped the rims, fitted the (heated) lids, screwed on the bands, and threw them into the boiling water canner. Ten minutes later, I had 22 jars of apple butter – I could only get 20 in the canner, so two went straight to the fridge.

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My only expenses were for the apples and the jars, so this was a very cost-effective project.

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So pretty! And Jason and the kids all gave it two thumbs up. They like it on toast, but I’m thinking about mixing into oatmeal, or getting crazy and serving it over Brie. Mmmmmm.

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I hope your holiday preparations are going as smooth as…. apple butter. Yuk, yuk, yuk.

 

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Well, nuts.

Last year I made a gorgeous wreath for my front door:

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I glued lima beans onto a wreath form for FOUR HOURS to create said wreath, then spray-painted it. It was a labor of love.

After Christmas, Jason carefully hung it in the attic so that it would be ready to roll this year.

Last night, Jason ventured into the attic to retrieve our Christmas decorations.

The first thing he did was apologize.

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It appears that critters ATE THE BEANS OFF MY BLEEPING WREATH as it hung from a rafter.

I admit, there was a moment of despair. But I’ll figure something out. It’s just a wreath. Deep breaths.

Grrrrrrrrrrr.

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