Wednesday, November 30, 2011

20th Century Christmas in the 21st Century

...sort of. Let's face it, I like streaming my Christmas music, so the cleaning and decorating aren't interrupted. And, yes, I do use Facebook.

But here's a list of some of the things I do in preparation for the holidays.

*Bake. A lot. For example (this year's plan): Christmas Cake, Plum Pudding, cookies (probably about 8 or 10 varieties), maybe a chocolate whiskey cake, and some savory crackers. Mushroom turnovers (hors d'ouvres sized).

*Make candy. Candied peels (clementine, some orange, lemon, grapefruit). Bourbon balls? Maybe brittle of some kind.

*Clean, THEN decorate (this is why I want a house elf for Christmas). Decorating does mean Christmas stockings (to be filled, yes: I look forward more to the stocking than other gifts).

*Christmas cards. Yes, real ones. (Who knows, the USPS is quite possibly about to be vintage.)

*Sending packages. No, almost no one sends them back to us. But I've been doing it for more than 20 years, and I don't intend to stop now. These go to close family, and our dearest friends. The boxes include gifts, cookies, candies, home canned goods (mostly jams & such). By the way, I don't mean our families forget us! But not everyone has the time or inclination to make homemade items, gift wrap everything, and ship it. I do have the time, and enjoy the process.

And...most of the ornaments are blown glass, or old fashioned (like real pine cones or gilded walnuts). I put a wreath or a spray on the front door. Sometimes I put one on the side door, too.

We go to parties, and we dress up for them. I'm lucky enough to be married to a man who doesn't think a necktie is a form of torture (I've worn them, they're not...on the other hand, try standing around in a drafty cocktail dress and ill-fitting heels some time). I even dress nicely on Christmas day, although I'm inclined to indulge my inner cornball. Plaids, fur trim, and some glitter...why not?

It's time-consuming, and old-fashioned, and sometimes it has to go by the wayside, but it's what I do for the holidays. (Yes; holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's--look, three!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas is a-coming

No goose, but there will be plum pudding (in addition to the Christmas cake). Between the two, I suspect there will be at least one more trip to the liquor store for brandy! This year I've made all small puddings. That way they won't go to waste...we never ate the large pudding last year, saying things like, "Oh, it's so rich, and it's just the two of us..." and other variations on that riff. Not this year!

The same recipe gave me 15 small puddings, so we'll have plenty to give away. I'm planning on sending some to family, and giving some to friends in the area, plus we'll account for a few.

I haven't yet started cookies, but that will kick off this week as well. Not a dozen varieties this year, I think, but a good selection.

The knitting is nearly done--I'll have photos soon of the scarf I made for my MiL (she's not online), but most of the other recipients read this blog, so the pictures will be posted after Christmas.

How are your baking/knitting/shopping plans proceeding? As planned? Better? Worse? Well, don't worry about it, there's nearly a month to go!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not Christmas, but Christmas baking

This past week I did it again--made a traditional Christmas sweet that I've never made (or even tasted) before. Christmas cake!

For those Yanks who don't know what I'm talking about, it's a fruitcake---now, now---wait! Not that awful plastic and sawdust thing strangled in cellophane...this is a rich cake loaded with real dried fruit and candied fruit that I mostly candied myself, including real glace cherries. And I'm not using cheap cooking sherry to douse it, but a decent cognac.

After it's baked and then aged with the brandy, it's wrapped in an almond paste (marzipan) "icing". It must wait for its final wrapping for nearly a week, as the oil from the almonds will otherwise stain the royal icing yellow.

Right after its final icing, it's decorated. I'm still deciding, but am leaning in the direction of making marzipan holly leaves and berries...and maybe a sugar mouse or two.