Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching up on Christmas

The tradition started more than two decades ago. We were scraping by, raising four kids on one income, and we just didn't have the ability to buy gifts for our extended family. To fill the void, I began baking Christmas cookies and breads for the family. We were living in Wisconsin in the early years, far from family. To make the gift seem more substantial (to me at least), I packaged the stuff as prettily as possible, and called it an instant party: just pull it out of the freezer about an hour before guests arrive and let them believe you've been baking all day.

I started this Christmas season with a whopper of a sinus infection. Honestly, at one point I thought my teeth were being forced out of my jaws. Ever hopeful that I might keep up with my baking schedule, I spent a week stockpiling cookie dough for baking when I felt a bit better.

After eight days of misery I threw in the towel and went to a "Doc in a Box" (MedExpress). When the doc lightly touched my face it was all I could do to keep from decking him (and it wasn't the "with holly" type of decking I had in mind). He gave me excellent drugs. I felt nearly human again in a couple of days.

And then I tried to bake up all that cookie dough. When the first batch turned into lava in the oven, I realized that I had doubled the butter in all of the recipes. I guess I decided that 1/4 pound = 1/4 cup. Hey, I was sick! There was nothing else to do but toss the dough for double batches of gingersnaps, oatmeal jumbles and sugar cookies. Yikes! How long have I been baking?

I love orange cranberry nut bread. I use an old family recipe from Ocean Spray. (I didn't say it was MY old family). This year I planned to use tiny little bundt pans for the baking.

Aren't they adorable? They would have been, if I had thought to turn down the oven temp just a smidge so they could bake long enough to cook through without over browning on the outside. The first batch turned out to be piles of mush, that I practically had to pry out of the pans because I took them at their word when the label said nonstick coating. After a liberal dose of antibiotics (for me, not the bread), the second batch came out much better.

When I wasn't throwing a pity party on the couch, or inflicting miserable crimes on baking ingredients, I did spend a bit of time weaving up some of my hand spun yarn on my rigid heddle loom.

I'm not sure that I'm sold yet, on the whole weaving thing. It's pretty repetitive. But it is rather fascinating to watch the colors change, and there are some nifty weaving tricks I look forward trying. We shall see.

Our Christmas was very quiet this year. Our boys are far flung now, and none of them made it to the house this year to celebrate. I thought I might be sad about that, but, to tell you the truth, I was totally okay with it. Since we also weren't hosting any family Christmas parties this year, we barely decorated, and that was okay with us as well. Despite all the kitchen fiascoes, and the quiet household, we had a lovely, joyous Christmas. Here's hoping that your holiday season brought you the same.


  1. Anonymous2:19 PM

    Sorry your baking turned sour,,,,you might want to stick with quilting,,,,your really awesome at that,,,,Happy new year.

  2. Your baking blunder sounded very familiar to me. I put my first 2 cookie sheets of chocolate chip cookies in the oven when it dawned on my that I didn't put the second full cup of flour in the recipe. I tried to remedy it by adding some to the remaining batter. As it turned out, the first ones that baked were the best, and the others were dry as a bone.

    Your weaving project looks beautiful! Happy New Year to you and your family!!

  3. Your baking stories are wonderful, but I don't bake. Our daughter loves to, so I let her do it all.
    Our Christmas was smaller than recent years, our son is going through a divorce. We just did our best to make it fun yet peaceful for him.

  4. Glad you're feeling better. I have that same cranberry bread recipe and LOVE it. I usually bake it in little loaf pans, but I have those bundt pans too. Do you mind if I learn from your boo boo and ask how low you turned your oven and how long you baked them? Have a very Happy New Year!

    1. I dropped the temp by about 30 degrees, and I put them on a lower rack, so the tops would brown as quickly as the bottoms. Tops being the fancy side (which would be the bottom in the oven).

      They were good in about 20 minutes or so.

  5. We had a fudge failure here. Never happens. Until this year. I've been making this fudge for 40+ years.

  6. We had a "light" Christmas as well (no decorating, tree, limited company) and I have to say after the year we've had (recently retired and relocating) it was welcomed. Hunkering down now for the onslaught of winter weather (Northern Michigan) and looking forward to hours in my quilting room. Hope your "good drugs" worked wonders and you're feeling yourself at the New Year! Linda