Tuesday, December 30, 2008

holiday craft wrap up

It became quite clear this holiday season that while I love to knit and crochet, I really don't like finishing my projects. I waited until the 22nd, 23rd and 24th to finish several gift projects when I had them ready to be finished weeks before.

For example, I originally wanted to give one of these cute elf gnomes to my sister when I saw her for her birthday at the end of November, that way she could have it for December decorating. I think I had most of the parts made, but sewing it together and stuffing didn't sound like a lot of fun. Well, at least she'll have it for next Christmas.

Another Christmas gift project that actually went a bit better was these crocheted cookies. Except for the peanut blossom cookies that required a little bit of stuffing, the only finishing I had to do was to sew two sides of each cookie together. I made quite a few of these earlier in December but still needed to make a couple more Christmas Eve so I would have enough to fill a jar for my mom.

Once I got in my "finishing project" mode, I also dug out these crocheted candies I made last year (or possibly the year before-yikes!) and added cellophane wrappers and ribbons. I would like to cover my entire tree with them.

If I'm able to hold on to the finishing bug, maybe I'll starch the batch of crocheted snowflake ornaments I came across as well!

We found Christmas

Christmas lives at about 40th and Adams in Lincoln. Corrie and I like to check out the new additions to this yard each year. You can't see them all here, but there are way more inflatable decorations than any one person should probably own. I'd really like to know how they get those lights up in the trees, too.

We snapped this photo on the 23rd, and I hope next year I consider doing a tour of Lincoln lights a little earlier in December and document the most interesting ones.

Next year's Christmas card

I think we have our photo for next year's Christmas card. Norman likes to "help" the most while wrapping presents.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

successful sugar cookies

Growing up, our annual Christmas cookie baking day was always December 23. That seems like it would be cutting it pretty close to the big day, but I think the cookies were baked primarily for our neighbors and probably also to give my sister and I something to do to pass the time until Christmas. (so we'd stop asking/begging to open presents)

I still bake some of the same treats we made all those years, including my mom's special oatmeal cookies (took several years and batches of failed cookies to finally find out that she also adds a cup of wheat germ to them, which was conveniently left off of the original recipe. Once I added that, I had the same oatmeal cookie I remembered from my childhood!) the cinnamon popcorn, caramel popcorn, and classic sugar cookies. The sugar cookies were always the grand finale of baking day because they were fun to make and involved using the green and red sugars and sometimes a few redhots if we had them around. (we were frugal with our varieties of colored sugars and cookie decorations. and cookie cutters-I only remember having a santa shape, a bell, a tree, and a star.) My mom always rolled them out, which I thought was the unfun part, and my sister and I decorated them.

Once I grew up and was out of the house, I wanted to make those same buttery sugar cookies. The recipe my mom used was actually my grandma's: (I would recommend a double batch)

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tbs milk
1 tbs vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Mix butter, sugar and eggs together. Stir in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Chill dough. Bake cut-outs at 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

I tried this recipe time and time again but always found it so sticky that I had to add tons more flour to have a chance at rolling it out. I've asked my mom several times if she left anything off the recipe, and she claims she didn't. She still makes them, too-I've asked if she has a hard time rolling them out, and she says she doesn't. My baking skills have improved over the years, so maybe it would be worth trying this recipe again sometime. I've since moved on to Alton Brown's no fail sugar cookie recipe, which is really good, but they don't taste like mom's. (although the recipes are so similar!!)

Alton's recipe ingredients: (a lot more flour and butter in comparison, but one batch might make a lot more cookies than my grandma's batch)

3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tbs milk

Last weekend, I made Alton's recipe and enjoyed using the variety of colored sugars and cookie cutters I now own.

Maybe for Valentine's Day I'll try my grandma's recipe again. I think sugar cookies make a nice Valentine's treat.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cinnamon popcorn

This is one of the first recipes I remember begging my mom for after I moved into our apartment and I was so new to cooking that I needed a recipe for boiling water. (kidding) Although I think it's fair game for a college girl to ask for a cinnamon popcorn recipe that her mom used to make at Christmas.

Recipe courtesy of a 1980s copy of the Holt County (Missouri) Cookbook:

3 quarts popped corn (12 cups)
1 stick butter or margarine (I use butter!)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. red hots
1/4 tsp soda
1 tsp butter flavoring (I usually skip this or add a little extra butter instead.)

Melt butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and red hots in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted.

Add soda and butter flavoring-mix well. (It will foam up at this point.) Pour over popcorn in a large bowl and mix well until popcorn is covered. Pour onto a baking sheet with sides or into a 13x9 pan and bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees. Stir every 15 minutes.*

*I think technically you're supposed to let it cool on paper towels, then store in an airtight container, but I usually leave it on the baking sheet for a minute or two and then dump it into whatever container I'm storing it in. Spreading it out to cool keeps it from forming big chunks of popcorn, but I'm not against the big chunks (I like them in my cream of wheat as well) and they're easily broken apart with a spoon when you're serving it. (when serving the popcorn, not cream of wheat.)

Another tip-don't try to get a taste of cinnamon tastiness by swiping the candy coating off the spoon or out of the saucepan immediately after cooking-you will burn your finger and your mouth. I know this because I made the mistake last night. I knew I would get burned, but it didn't stop me.

Here's the end result from last night's batch. Very red, and very tasty!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This Woman is My Newest Hero

Before I could even start browsing for a scarf pattern on ravelry.com, I stumbled upon this jem of a craft blog: http://loomlady.blogspot.com/. This woman is my newest hero: she offers patterns for all sorts of overly cute creations that she knits using those looms you see in the craft stores. I will have to visit again.

Unless you're a Buffalo fan, you're not going to get tired of this anytime soon

57 yards and I think Alex Henery's life changed forever. I'm sure glad we went to the game and didn't sell our tickets!