29 December 2009

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner! Quite the feast, if I do say so myself. There are two things you need to know:

1.) My oven is extremely small and has only one rack.

2.) I have an 8-month-old baby who does not like to sleep or be left alone for long stretches of time.

Thus, I had to

1.) Make things that I could prepare ahead of time in short bursts.

2.) Make things that didn't require an oven.

Our Christmas dinner menu was as follows:

--Herb-stuffed Cornish game hens (oven-roasted and stuffed with fresh basil, sage, and garlic cloves)
--Mixed green salad with
green onion
hard boiled egg (which I actually forgot to put on)
homemade croutons
Parmesan cheese
olive oil and balsamic vinegar
--Homemade whole wheat crescent rolls (with butter, of course)
--Crock pot ratatouille
--Cranberry lasagna

This processes started on Monday, when I defrosted my frozen bread butts so I could make croutons. (Don't tell my grandma I call them that -- my mom will get in trouble.) Tuesday I made the croutons and went to the store and bought A LOT of food.
[Croutons! I make croutons out of the ends of our bread machine bread. It's, as always, easier than it sounds. Take your bread ends, cube them. In a bowl (large enough to hold all your bread cubes), combine olive oil, garlic powder, and various dried herbs, like basil, sage, thyme, oregano, or whatever you want, really. You can also add Parmesan cheese, but I would use the cheapo shakable stuff, not the fancy shredded kind -- it doesn't stick as well. So you mix up all this stuff, throw the bread cubes in, and stir. Then you take the bread cubes out, spread them on a cookie sheet, and cook them in the oven at a low temp (like 250 or so) for at least 20 minutes. Stir them and check them every so often. When you bite into one, and it's crunchy, they're done! Let cool and store in a mason jar.]
Wednesday I dried out the rye bread for the cranberry lasagna, and soaked the flour for the crescent rolls. Thursday was the big cooking day: I baked the crescent rolls and made the cranberry lasagna, which involved toasting the rye bread crumbs and making cranberry sauce, among other things.

I ruined the first batch of cranberry sauce because I tried to make it without a recipe. I had a good reason, though. I knew from reading The Tightwad Gazette that you can put some baking soda in pies made of tart fruits and it will cut the tartness so you can use way less sugar. And I knew that any cranberry sauce recipe I found would not acknowledge this fact, and would therefore not actually help me. But I got a little overzealous with the baking soda on the first batch. It... um... Well, when Norman tasted it, he said, "It's like there's flavor at first, but then it gets sucked away!" Yeah, it was weird. Luckily, I had followed the advice on the bag of fresh cranberries -- "Buy Two; Freeze One!" So I tried again, but I put waaaay less baking soda in, a little at a time. It turned out AWESOME. Just cranberries, honey, and baking soda. Awesome.

I tried to give our postal carrier some crescent rolls, but he/she never showed. Can you blame him/her? The blizzard we had that day was ri-diculous. So there are some crescent rolls in my freezer right now. Woot! The recipe made 32 (the way I was making them. It was supposed to make 48).

Then on Christmas Day I started the crock pot ratatouille first thing in the morning. It simmered away for 7 or 8 hours, and man, was it tasty. Unfortunately, we gave some to Lucy and her chin got a little bit of a red rash. So that interrupted dinner. I suspect it was one of the many, many herbs and spices in the recipe. (We tried eggplant on her again yesterday, and she didn't have a reaction.) Ah, the adventures of baby-led weaning.

Christmas Day I also roasted the game hens. Om nom. Sadly, I forgot to take photos of them. Boooo.

Then, right before dinner I put together the salad and mulled the mead. Which was very tasty.

And then... I was exhausted. Man, putting together a feast is hard work!

Oh, but then I got my second wind on Boxing Day. Norman had the idea to make some noodles to go with the leftovers. I made egg noodles with butter and mixed them with the leftover ratatouille and chunks of the game hens (I'm reading this over and that sounds gross. Hmm.). Wow. Very tasty. So apparently, if I'm trying to make something out of castoffs, I can cook all day. Makes sense, I guess.

25 December 2009

And a Fabulous Day Was Had By All

Merry Christmas, everyone!

It snowed 14 inches here yesterday. It was a beautiful Christmas miracle. Miraculous things include, but are not limited to:
1.) We lost neither power nor internet, despite wind gusts of 65 mph.
2.) Snow for Babby's first Christmas.
3.) We had nary a plan to go anywhere, so we experienced no stress at not being able to leave the house.
4.) Breastfeeding left me even less stressed, as I had no worries about being able to feed my baby if we did lose power.
5.) I bought two bags of cranberries on a whim, and lo and behold, I ruined the first batch of sauce. Saved!

Here is our (fun, laid-back, just-the-three-of-us) Christmas Day in pictures:

22 December 2009

How We Do Christmas

Here's a questionnaire (or a meme, as the kids are calling them these days) about how we do Christmas. I stole it from SortaCrunchy. (Apparently I steal all my memes from her...)

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Well, since we will now drink only homemade versions of both of these, Ima hafta go with hot chocolate, but only because it's easier to make. I do still love me some Braum's egg nog, though.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

We don't believe in Santa. Gifts come from people who love us.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

None this year. I'll probably throw some multi-colored lights on a bush at a future house. Or maybe hang a string of lighted snowflakes. Those are cute.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

Yes. Well, a plastic approximation.

5. When do you put your decorations up?

Day after Thanksgiving if I have anything to say about it.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?

Tricky question. My favorite from my old life is probably "sticky rolls" (refrigerated biscuits, dipped in melted butter, rolled in cinnamon-sugar, baked, and drizzled with icing). We're working on new traditional holiday foods. (I made some very tasty gravy at Thanksgiving, but that's not really a dish, is it?)

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?

This is odd, since my husband and I vow not to travel on Christmas, but my favorite Christmas was probably the one we spent with my cousins in Chicago. We got to housesit their neighbors' house, and there was snow, and those cousins are my favorites.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

Oy. Growing up, Santa filled the stockings. I was 7 (SEVEN!) the year I overheard my dad ask my mom where she had bought the G.T. and the Halo Express cassette tape I had found in my stocking. That sucked.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

Not unless we're at a relative's house and they're giving us presents.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Quickly, enjoyably, and without much fuss.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?

Love it! I know I'm an adult, but it still seems like a surprise vacation and an adventure, especially if it's too nasty to drive.

12. Can you ice skate?

Oh yeah. I wish I could do it every day. EVERY DAY. I would be so fit.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

As a child: The one that's springing to mind is ... I can't remember if her name was Kenya or Kendra, but she was this African-American doll that came with a lot of hair, a lot of hair product, and a lot of beads. Oh my goodness -- I wanted that doll so much. I got her the Christmas I was nine, and I remember thinking about how much I wanted her and realizing that that's what it was to covet. I remember showing her with pride to my grandpa (who, I had some vague idea, didn't like Black people very much), and all he could say was, "Well, they certainly captured the Negro nose, didn't they?" HA!

Looking back now, it's probably a major coup that I even got the doll at all. I can only imagine what my mom was thinking when I told her I wanted it...

As an adult: An engagement ring. :-)

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?

Looking forward to Jesus' return. And listening to Christmas music.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Again, tough question. Old school: Not too much tops Dream Bars. New school: I'm hoping this is delicious this year.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Watching the A Christmas Story marathon ALL DAY on TBS. (But we don't have cable. I'll have to settle for watching my VHS copy through once.)

17. What tops your tree?

This year, a star from the thrift store. Someday in the future? This!

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?

Crafting to give.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?

Hymn: "O Holy Night"

"Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease."

Yes, please.

Secular: Probably "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses

20. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?

A complete waste of sugar intake. If I'm gonna be eating sugar, it'd better be bready, chocolaty, creamy, or all three.

As a completely unwise man once said, "If you're gonna do something wrong, do it right!"

21 Favorite Christmas Show?

I assume this means movie... A Christmas Story, with It's a Wonderful Life in close contention.

22. Saddest Christmas Song?

The sad ones are cheesy and I hate them. There. I said it. "Christmas Shoes", I'm lookin' at you.

18 December 2009

Sesame Ball candies and Christmas presents

Well, it's that time of year, isn't it? No, I'm not talking about the Season of Perpetual Hope; I'm talking about the Season of Perpetual Baking! Friends, this has been particularly hard on me this year. Sometime several months ago I decided to give up sugar. My body likes it way too much. When I have a little, I have to have more and more and more. I strive to be beholden to nothing created. So I tell myself I can't have sugar today. Every day. And it's a whole heck of a lot of NO FUN to bake tasty sugary treats for people if you can't taste test them.

But ya know, there are some crafty, crafty people out there. They're always figuring out ways to make tasty things out of really nutritious ingredients. I allow myself limited amounts of fruit juice, raw honey, and maple syrup, so this treat is something I can indulge in.

This is my own version of the "Sesame Seed Candy" recipe found here. (I eventually changed it so much that I needed to just write out a new recipe card, especially since I took them to a cookie exchange last night.)

(This will make 3-4 dozen balls 1-1 1/2 inches across.)

2 c. sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 c. coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4-1/2 c. maple syrup or honey (agave nectar might not set up properly)
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
1 Tablespoon carob or cocoa powder

Toast sesame seeds, if necessary. (I do this one cup at a time in a frying pan on med-high heat. Toast them dry and keep stirring!) Allow to cool. Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir or mash with hands. Shape into balls (refrigerate briefly if this is not possible). Optional: Roll in powdered sugar or cocoa powder. Refrigerate to solidify.

(Those of you in Norman can get bags of raw sesame seeds at ValuFoods for a very reasonable price. They're on the ethnic foods aisle across from the meat.)

In addition to making these for the cookie exchange, I made a batch for my bulk Christmas presents. Hmm, that sounds crass, doesn't it? But you know, there are people you want to give gifts to, but you don't really have the means/knowledge to buy them all individual presents. So I usually do a couple different handmade things in a bag. I've done Christmas CD mixes, Christmas mugs and hot chocolate mix, peppermint marshmallows, "dream bars" (which unfortunately are full of corn syrup and breakfast cereal, so we won't be doing those anymore), lavender sachets... stuff like that.

So here's approximately what this year's "bulk" presents look like. (I made cinnamon candles, but I forgot to take photos while I was making them.)

(Oh yeah, and all you friends who are getting one of these this weekend, um... Just forget you saw this.)

15 December 2009

Deluxe, a Recap: 2009

Deluxe was fun! My booth was right next to Katie, and we had a fun time chatting. Several friends came out to see me. It wasn't the financial success that last year's was, but we're gonna blame that on the economy. Seems everyone's sales were down.

But it was still a blast! Plenty of customers to walk half-way by my booth, slow down, stop, back up a couple of steps, pick up one of my items, and say, "Oh, cool!" Sigh. I love that reaction. Even if they don't buy anything. Really. I understand.

I bought a wooden cross for some dear people, but I didn't catch the name of the maker. D'oh! It's gorgeous, though. All scrolly.

Here's my booth:

Here's the view from my little corner:

And here's me and babby... NOT getting high:

Across the aisle from us, Science Museum Oklahoma had a booth, a tub of cheese puffs, and a tank of liquid nitrogen. Awesome. They were soaking the cheese puffs in liquid nitrogen and having people eat them. After watching about 75 people do it, I finally got my turn. See, if you close your mouth while you chew the cheese puff, all the steam comes out your nose! Fun! So I had the guy take a photo of me. Repeat: NOT getting high. You hear that, internet?? (Probably not.)

08 December 2009

Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar

This Saturday, I will be peddling my wares at the annual Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds. It will be a marvelous affair. Did you go last year? Well, this year it's in a different place, there will be a ton more vendors, and various non-profits will be there to tell you about themselves. Cool, right? There will also be door prizes, goodie bags for the first 50 shoppers through the doors, kids crafts, a band... It's really more like a carnival than a craft show, isn't it?

Plenty of your favorite Oklahoma Etsy sellers will be there. And, of course, me. I'll have fresh batches of comic book note cards and recycled book journals, along with board game coasters, Christmas stockings, cute little zipper pouches.... You know the drill.

Be there or be awesome-Christmas-present-less.

Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar
Saturday, December 12, 2009
11 am - 5 pm
Oklahoma City Fairgrounds
[Modern Living Building]
Free admission | Free parking

And if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of my adorable baby, who you'll notice in my post about last year's Deluxe, went by the non-gender-specific name "Bun".

04 December 2009

O Christmas Tree

Lovely, isn't it? It's the first time I've had a full-sized tree of my own. I've been using my old American Girl doll Christmas tree for the last 3 years. (It's about 2.5 feet tall.) This is much better. We got it from Freecycle!

Apparently I decorate a Christmas tree like a lazy person. I was explaining my strategy to the Husband, and he was very confused. I decided to just take a couple strings of lights and drape them back and forth across the front of the tree. He did not understand -- apparently in his family, you wrap a string of lights tight around the whole trunk, and then wrap more lights around the tree in the branches (all the way around, even if you can't see the whole tree). No. Too much work. All you want is for the tree to have lights, right? Okay then.

He was equally confused by my tinsel-applying technique.
1.) Take some tinsel.
2.) Throw it at the tree.
3.) If it's too clumpy for your taste, spread it out a little.


I've been collecting full-sized ornaments since high school, in anticipation of having my own tree. One year I even hung a bunch of them on the curtain rod in our living room. (Can't seem to find the photo of that...)

Anyway, here are some of my ornaments. They have stories.

This is my favorite. Isn't she gorgeous? My mom gave this one and the next one to me last year. I thought she'd have to be dead before I'd get these. Really. I had no hope. But they downsized, so here we are. Yay!

This is also from my mom. I think her grandmother made it. It's the same style as my mom's stocking. I love it! So many sequins!

This one I made with the campus Mormon missionary sisters my senior year of college. One day they were hanging out outside the library and approached me as I was leaving to ask if we could talk. I have no idea why I said yes, but I'm so glad I did. We had some good talks, and the "sitters" (as they called each other) were so fun! One of the times they came over, we made these ornaments out of strips of wrapping paper.

And here we have Our Lady of Guadeloupe. She was a gift in high school (because I was taking Spanish, I think). I brought her to our AP Spanish test senior year of high school and set her at the front of the classroom on a podium, for luck. I guess it worked -- I got a 3 and tested out of 3 semesters of college Spanish!

Assorted other vintage ornaments, from my mom and my grandmother.

Um... We don't have a Christmas tree topper. Oops. I'm looking to remedy this with something classy and non-angelic. I'm considering this. Any other suggestion will be taken under consideration.

UPDATE: I found this tree topper at the thrift store on Wednesday! Classy and non-angelic... and only $1.99! It's lovely, and it'll have to do until we can justify spending $50 on a nicer one from Etsy.

What's your favorite family Christmas ornament? Any photos to share?

01 December 2009

Christmastime is Here

Mmm... Can you smell that? It's Christmas. I'd been talking about decorating for Christmas all week, even after Thanksgiving and all those people and dishes. Still excited.

I woke up Friday morning to the sight of our faux Christmas tree all set up in the dining room! Gasp! I was totally planning on setting it up myself that day, but Husband had done it for me in the middle of the night. So sneaky!

Here, in no particular order, are this year's Christmas decorations. The post about the tree will come later (Friday).

Stockings! (Norman's, Lucy's, and mine)

The Three Kings. They are on top of the tall bookshelf with their camel. From their perch, they can see all this:

...including the rest of the Nativity scene on the stereo.

This is my grandmother's old set. I had a ceramic one I bought from Hobby Lobby on sale after Christmas several years ago, but... meh. This one is much better. Paper-mâché, I think.

It's not missing its Baby Jesus. I left him in the box. Doesn't seem right to have him there, for some reason.


Mistletoe under the doorway between the living and dining rooms. [Mwaah!]

I bought this table runner with every intention of cutting it up for crafts, but it's just too cute. Colorful, flowery snowflakes!

Advent wreath. I'm excited to really celebrate Advent this year, in addition to secular Christmas. I think there's room for both.

[If you're looking for an Advent devotional, here's the one we'll use this year. (PDF) It has a theme for every week, and the sheet music for a song to go with each devotional. They also have other resources here.]

[Also, I'm so annoyed that I couldn't find the four tapers together in a package anywhere. I tried WalMart and Hobby Lobby, but no. Hobby Lobby? Really? Come now.]

A musical, rotating, wooden Christmas tree from my grandmother. It plays "O Christmas Tree".

Awww! Woodland creatures! Love it.

What are your personal favorite Christmas decorations that you look forward to pulling out every year?