Some folks like their brownies chewy. Some folks like their brownies fudgy. Some people like them cakey and others claim that if they’re cakey then they are not brownies. Then there is the PN crowd (pro-nuts) and the other sort of people. Brownies bring out loyalties. Now, I’m PN and fairly AC (anti-cakey), but one thing is for sure – my mouth never met a brownie that it did not like. (more…)
As is my wont, your Aunty is going to completely skip over the rest of the holiday season and land squarely on January 1, 2014 . Feet first. I figure that you have the rest of this month firmly set up with open houses, family breakfasts, brunches and dinners, right up to 11:59 p.m. on December 31st and are ready to sink into oblivion and hope to wake up sometime on January 1st to toddle around the house in your jammies and bunny slippers, nursing headaches, nausea and a very large mug of tea (or perhaps something stronger).
You are going to want to treat your tummy with tenderness. In the US, the digestive assault began in late November (end of October if you count Hallowe’en) with fats, sugar, alcohol, grain-based carbs and meat, meat, meat right up through and including New Year’s Eve. If your colon has not already started howling, it’s not for lack of trying. At the moment, mine is behaving like that section of the Gulf which is being coyly referred to as ‘a dead zone.’ Blech. (more…)
So, here is how the script goes: You get the call. Or someone at work invites you to come over or whatever and there you are with ‘Oh, Jeeze – I need a ‘take along gift’. Should I do the obvious and drop by the liquor store on the way or ?
Well, your old Aunty is here to tell you this: You know this is going to happen because it always happens. And you know that dealing with the whole ‘take along gift’ thing is always stressful, so why not get it out of the way right now. If you are not prepared with holiday cookies or the odd bottles of wine (and the concomitant holiday box with metallic embellishment), where else to look? Well, if you have one of the sorts of things pictured at the top of the page, you look there. (more…)
Wednesday morning. Your old Aunty was sent an IM this morning (and for anyone outside these here Semi-United States today is the day before what is probably the biggest non-religious family get togethers in the country) from a friend. In a complete panic. He’d just been informed by his partner that they were expected to transport a complete (other than a turkey) Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow to his parents’ home, which is several hours away.
If you face something like this, I’m going to give you the same exact advice that I gave to him:
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You only have so much time between today and tomorrow morning and some of that is sleep time. If you are the sort of person who does NOT ‘go with the flow’ then you have to think through the following:
What makes me the most stressed out?
What can I make either with an axe in my head or half-asleep?
How do I use what time I have to best advantage?
For most of us, it’s the turkey that makes us the most stressed out and he didn’t have to do that, so Job One is done.
For the ‘asleep at the switch’ cooking, I’d choose mashed potatoes and broccoli. Those are two items that you can do some prep today and then finish them up on-site: Cut up the potatoes, put them into cold water in the fridge and cook them ‘on site’ tomorrow. Or, if you feel you have the time, I’d make the mashed potatoes today, refrigerate them, put them into a covered bowl and reheat in the oven tomorrow. If you are feeling fancy when you get ‘on site’ you can always bring along some grated cheddar cheese in a plastic bag and mix the cheese into the potatoes, put big plops on a greased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for as long as it takes for the potatoes to cook through and the cheese to melt. The broccoli, I’d chop up, put into a plastic bag and then steam at the last moment just before everything goes out on the table.
For the ‘best use of time’ item, I’d put my time (given that I don’t need to do a turkey) into the dessert; because in the end, that is what people remember. If pie crust is NOT your strong suit, you might want to try one of the recipes out there for apple cake (you’ll need eggs, so check the fridge now; some of the recipes call for a spring form pan, so check for that). Here is one that is really pie: apple cake that is really pie
Here is one that is really cake: apple cake
Something else that I’d put my time into is the cranberry sauce – just opening up a can is boring and that stuff is filled with high fructose corn syrup. If you have frozen or fresh blueberries available to you, here is my take on low sugar cranberry sauce which is extremely tasty and though it’s a surprising color, everyone likes it a LOT. blue-cran sauce
Anything else, like stuffing or rolls or anything like that, I’d jettison like so much excess baggage. You’ve already got mashed potatoes; if you feel the crushing need for rolls or bread, you can run through your local store bakery and pick some up.
What else? Well, I think a nice floral arrangement covers a multitude of sins; something long and low works best and looks different and you can call that in and perhaps get it made in enough time tonight to pick it up on your swing through the store for the aforementioned rolls or whipped cream for the apple cake or a side trip to the florist – just call right away to make sure of operating hours today. Just in case the person you are doing this for does NOT have have linens or placemats (and you do), then whip those out right now and take a look. If they need washing and drying, throw those in now and take care of that. While you are doing other things, you can press them (or pat them down to dry as neatly as possible). If you do NOT own linens or place mats, I have two words for you for later: estate sales. And you deserve a nice table cloth and napkins, anyway, or good placemats and some nifty fabric napkins.
And at that point, just have a Zen moment, with or without a glass of wine. Because Thanksgiving is supposed to be about being with friends and family, right?
One of the reasons (rationalizations might be a better word) for buying Chez Siberia in the first place is that there was enough property to put in fruit trees. We’ve always wanted to have fruit trees. So, one year, in a fit of end of the summer stuff, we dug a massive number of holes and planted something like 20 different types of apples up on the hill next to the barn on the north side (don’t ask me why we chose that particular spot – it’s lost in the mists of time), at the end of what was, frankly, a rather dry summer. And being total beginners (and being in a hurry), even though there was water in the bottom of the holes, we planted the trees anyway. (more…)
There are a couple of issues when you are creating a zip-out lining for a raincoat.
1. How are you going to be using this garment? Going to work? A child’s garment for going to school or play? Casual wear?
2. How much movement is involved? (more…)
We all have connections with food that we ate when we were young (shoot, Proust wrote a 900+ page novel based on his scent memory of what is actually a rather small vanilla cookie). Whether it’s some sort of soup or mac and cheese or a cookie or pie only made at holiday time, we all have these memories and feelings associated with food from his period. Of course, there are always the emotional ties involved with who was making them, how we felt about that person, the circumstances associated with them (were you standing on a stool with a huge apron hiked up around your armpits helping, covered in flour from head to heels?) and so on.
But sometimes, whether it’s due to the weather (more…)
Here is a way to create an even better gift (if only for yourself): Make vanilla extract. Actually, you can use the same technique to make other extracts as well.
For vanilla extract, all you need is liquor of some sort (whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila), fresh (not dried) vanilla beans, and some agave syrup (we’re using organic for this). To get fresh vanilla beans, search on ‘fresh vanilla beans’; don’t use dried. It works but it’s not as good. Ours came in a vaccuum-sealed bag. You will want to have at least 5 beans for a big bottle; preferably 10-12.
Why bother? You can buy vanilla extract (more…)
This week was, to certain extent, the ‘last hurrah’ for the garden here at Chez Siberia. We had several ‘killing frosts’ here – this is the sort of frost where basically it coats all the grass in whiteness and crunches when you walk on it. It also will literally melt everything that is not hardy to a certain extent — it explodes the water in the plant cells of plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squashes, non-hardy greens and so on. (more…)
Once upon a time, back in June, I did a post on rooting succulents and I cut up and planted some orchid cacti cuttings that I’d gotten out west when the DH and I did a trip and visited an arboretum. Rooting Succulents And, at this point in the season, I always figure that I may as well transplant cuttings into something bigger and most hospitable before it really gets cold, so I rooted (heh) around the greenhouse to find these again (your Aunty is really quite negligent and we grow and root so many things out there that sometimes things get pushed to the side, out of the way, under something else and so on). Now, just looking at this photo at the top (and this is only one of the big cuttings I cut up and rooted), you can see that one of the cuttings did really really well and the other two look sort of ‘meh’. But, you never know with succulents. The other two big leaves that I cut up and planted actually looked much worse and when I dug them out of their little pots, they had all sorts of little roots on them, even there there was no top growth and the cuttings themselves looked pretty ‘peely-wally’ (as my deal old Mum used to say). But in this case, if you guessed that the other two cuttings did not root, you would be correct. Too much water? Not enough water at the right time? No way to tell. But I’ve got one rooted cutting out of it, which is a very good thing and when it gets bigger, I can root other parts of it. For the moment, to let them settle in, I have just put them into potting mix and will let them sit there for a day or two before I water them a little bit. Again, with succulents, too much water is actually worse than not enough.
On to the next bit of negligence:
One of the members of the plant kingdom that I really adore are ferns, which are, from a plant perspective, one of our connections with the ancient world of the dinosaurs since they have been around since literally that time and have not changed one iota since then. The major difference between ferns and gymnosperms (that is, plants that make actual seeds) is that they don’t make seeds per se – they develop structures on the undersides of their leaves which create spore structures underneath a membrane on the leaf called an indusium, which basically lifts up when the spores are fully developed and ripe. Then, through wind and rain action, the spores get out on the wind or fall to the ground, where a gametophyte forms and the sperm and eggs do their reproductive thing, forms a zygote and grows into what we think of a typical ‘fern’.
Earlier this summer, I found some fern fronds with brown sori (spore bodies) on the backs and just for the heck of it, I put one of the fronds on a piece of dry paper, waited a few days and gathered up the spores that had fallen on the paper. I then scattered them on top of some potting medium that I had in one of the many former salad mix containers that come with a lid and put it aside in a not very sunny spot in the greenhouse. When a green haze formed (and I can’t describe it in any other terms but that), I gave it a good spray with a spray bottle. This gives the sperms a medium to travel to the eggs so that they can get together.
Today, in rooting around, I found that salad container again and I dug it out and look what I found:
The surface was covered with structures that looked like this. How exciting!!! So I dug out a few to transplant into other little containers and I’ll give them a good spritz so that they can continue to develop into more ferns.
This really is not too difficult. And the structures are very interesting to look at.
If you want to grow ferns yourself, you can use fronds that you find in your own garden, or even fronds from flower arrangements. Also fern societies offer ‘spore exchanges’ and so on that you can participate in. Lots of fun. And you can see what’s going on close up.