Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Smells

 Well, here we are at the end of  2020,  holding it by the tail and doing some swift turning in the yard hoping to fling it as far away as possible.  Round and round we go gathering speed ready to let it go.  And hope it stays gone. We don't know what our new normal will be like, and I'm sure there will be a whole lot of  "we USED to be able to...." and I'm sure I'll be heard muttering it now and then but really, no one wants to hear it because it's quite obvious and sometimes when we look back, we see the effects of out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new.  We are always changing and bringing in the new we just normally don't do it all at once.     

    Christmas had a different look for everyone this year and if you manged to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on as best you could or found new ways to muddle through then good for you! Not being able to see friends or go to parties or open houses brought me to thinking of what COULD happen. What's left?  It brought me to thinking of the smells of this month.  

    So many smells. Fresh pine trees in the living room, scented candles lit in the evening, peppermint hand washing soap, and above all, cinnamon.  Cinnamon was everywhere in the house.  Even though it's just PH and me I do love to bake and did my fair share of it because to be real, it was about the only thing I COULD do.

I started the month with sticky parkin cake.  I noticed a small notice in a magazine from England about sticky parkin cake.  I contacted the magazine and they sent the recipe.  I also contacted Brian  and he sent a recipe even though he said he'd never heard of it.  I used his recipe.  Now, there were a couple of things I had to improvise on, but that's how I roll anyway so no problem there.  The biggest was the spice mix.  Apparently England has this blend that from the sound of it you can only get there, called Mixed Spice. Later on I looked it up and it's a mix of Cassis cinnamon (which I do have), coriander, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves all in certain proportions. Well, for this cake I read that as Allspice.  It's not the same but I used it anyway.  I improvise all of the time and it's as close as I could come.   With sticky parkin cake the trick is not to eat it till it's aged in a tin for at least five days.  The longer you wait the stickier it gets.  Well, they weren't kidding!  If you like spices and fork and finger licking this is really, really, really a tasty treat.  I savored it.
These gingerbread crispy cookies had to be kept in the freezer in the garage so if I was going to have any I had to work for it. I rolled them thinner than the recipe called for so they were crisp.  I like to dot one chocolate chip in the middle of gingerbread.  Molasses was NOT to be found on store shelves so no molasses cookies this year.  I made a few snowballs, some cut outs and chocolate teddy bears for the kids.
This stollen is one of my favorites and it makes three very large loaves ( !!! ) so I eat one, send one down the street to daughter's house and freeze one.  Next year I think I'm going to make some of  it in smaller muffin like loaves. Who doesn't like the smell of bread baking? 

So far the smells have been spicy and bakey.  But then I did this.  You have to smell  chocolate, too, right?  I got the bright idea to make hot chocolate bombs.  This was something new to me.  I thought I'd make them for the kids.  I had to order this mold first.  I ordered in November and it just came Dec. 23.  I spent the afternoon playing with the concept of a hot chocolate bomb.  After watching YouTube demos I thought, "How hard can it be? I know how to do stuff."  If you don't know what it is (and I didn't,)  it's a circle of chocolate filled with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows. Look it up.  It's all over YouTube.

Well. I can't believe I am even showing this pathetic excuse for an un-decorated hot chocolate bomb.  I learned a few things. More than a few.  I learned a lot of things!  It was recommended NOT to use chocolate chips because they aren't really bomb friendly. Chocolate chips aren't good for anything but cookies.  I have plenty of good chocolate so that wasn't an issue.  I tempered some dark and semi-sweet chocolate together.  Here's what I learned: 

    1)  wear gloves so fingers don't leave prints.  

     2) good chocolate is far more delicate than not good chocolate - I knew that but don't usually play with my chocolate.  I eat it.

    3) make the chocolate shell a lot thicker than you might think is necessary and when they say to really build up the rim?  They mean it.

     4) don't try mending a  hole by holding a spoon over a flame and then smoothing it over a small hole in the bomb.  Hot spoon + chocolate = bigger hole.  Geez. What a mess.

     5) mending isn't recommended.  Just remelt the thing. Or use it for a demo piece if you've already added the hot chocolate mix in the bottom half. 

    6)  Chocolate will be EVERYWHERE so don't wear white.  What a mess.  Chocolate was everywhere.  The kitchen looked like I gave a container of melted chocolate to a gang of hyper active toddlers.

I did get six bombes to take to the girls this evening and they will like them and I'll get better at it.  I do understand now why they sell for $5.00 each in the shops.  And I'm glad the mold didn't come till it was too late to make them for our Christmas. 

We had a plan, we had rules, we all agreed that if we had to change things up for this year so we could be together then that's what we would do. And we were able to have a Christmas with the kids last weekend. Our plan? First of all, no judging allowed or invited but this was our plan.  We ALL got tested, we were ALL negative, we then locked the doors, stayed home, away from ANYONE and thus stayed negative. PH and I did take a daily walk but we were alone, saw no one and that was allowed. There would be no overnight visit this year, everyone would wear a mask at all times unless you were putting food into your mouth, air purifiers were going in all rooms, windows open a few inches on both sides of the house for air flow, two dining tables were set up for spacing,  food was set out buffet style and ONE person from each family would fill all plates for that family. This meant we all could be safely together for a day. We all agreed, we all did it, we had a wonderful day and PH and I are still basking in the glow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Walking Granny

      For Michigan in mid-December our weather has been darn right balmy. By that I mean the high 40's F and just right for a walk.  We are isolating/quarantining ourselves so our negative covid test stays that way in hopes of seeing our grands for a few hours for Christmas.  We are all being diligent, careful, solitary and practically tip toeing to stay well.  But one thing PH and I can do and we Do do is go for a daily walk.    

     I have a broken toe that I'm nursing myself with tape and tight shoes and socks so "going for a walk" has a different meaning right now. Not far. Not fast.  But you don't let December days like this go by without getting out into them.

     This is where we like the best.  This new bridge is, I discovered after reading the sign board, over 550 feet long and is the longest timber framed bridge in North America.  It's pedestrian, nothing faster than a bicycle is allowed, and it's truly beautiful and it's OURS, right here in lil' ol' Lowell.
     We've been walking it almost every day because these December days are perfect right now.  So perfect the pickle ball courts at one end of the bridge are full and busy and in the thin cool air you can hear the thwack of the ball being hit as you walk all the way across the bridge.
     It's a favorite walk with Friend Laurie winter snow or not.  No matter when, spanning the river and watching the wildlife and visiting with a friend or PH is beautiful.  The other day PH and I just stood quietly and watched a family of muskrats building their winter home.

Today I finished the granny square quilt top.  I have to say this was more fun than I figured on having, loved the bright colors against that traditional black, loved pairing them up to make something bright and traditional looking. With just a couple of exceptions they all have a piece of gingham in them.  Now I have a quandry on how to quilt it.  I don't want to use black thread on the grannies and I don't want to use white thread on the black, so right now I'm thinking I'll use both.  Still haven't dug into the stash for a backing possibility, I finished the sewing (yes, on the machine) took it outside for the picture, folded it up and put it in the closet with the two tops from the previous post. There's time to think.  Besides I pinned five quilts to get me through this winter so all of my pins are spoken for.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020



I've been tinkering with a few things lately.  It's amazing when you're stuck at home but don't feel like dusting what you can fill your time with. Truly, I am not a prolific quilter.  I don't use the machine if I can help it but sometimes I just have to do like I do when I fix the toaster.  Shut myself in a room, put in the earplugs and go it alone.  Maybe, just maybe, what I want a project to look like in the end actually will.

I saw a picture of a quilt made with strawberries done this way and thought it was a fun thing to do so I rummaged around my scraps, again bigger pieces saved for who knows what.  I knew I wouldn't want a whole quilt from this but if I liked it then I'd get a useable piece.  I downloaded a strawberry clip art I liked the shape of, took it to the library to enlarge it, laid the pattern out and cut.  Now I'm really anxious for strawberry season.  This really was easy peasy.
Years ago I bought this piece because I loved it.  Thank goodness I bought yardage of the houses and the blue flower print.  Everytime I looked at it I smiled but I just couldn't cut into it.  So yesterday I decided not to.  Again I rummaged around for something to put between the houses and the blue to break it up and found enough sweet green.  Now it's a panel top. 
I think to quilt it I'm going to outline the houses.  I can't wait to get my hands on this one.
 I finally got the squares cut for the granny square quilt.  I'm surprised at how fussy these little buggers are  to piece.  One down,
Twenty nine more to go!  These are all paired up ready to go.

In the evening I'm quilting the sheepbunny quilt.  Have I told you about the sheepbunny quilt?  I'm a blue person and when I saw this online I was very excited to do this quilt.  I got the pattern and cut them out and appliqued them, another easy peasy.  Well, one day I was describing the quilt to friends Barb, Sally and Marilyn at retreat and I described the critters as sheep.  But it wasn't until I got in the car and was describing them in detail to Marilyn and got to the ears that I realize, "OH!  They aren't sheep, they're bunnies!"  So I started calling it the sheepbunny quilt.  As I was going through my stash what did I find for sashing?  Sheep!  It was meant to be.
This one is upside down but you get the idea, I'm doing the cross hatch in the white, marking one row at a time and working on it in the evening while we watch TV.  

Someday I'll get the  house dusted.