Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009


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Happy New Year!

With everything else going on in our lives (trips, illness, the husband’s crazy work schedule), we decided that a quiet New Years Eve celebration was just what the doctor ordered.  The five of us at home.  Groceries’ chosen meal.  Simple.  Quiet.

Ok, maybe not quiet.  When is anything quiet around here?

Right now I have the inevitable post-holiday clean up to do.  Dishes.  Counters.  Random bits of things that made it down to my cutting table in the office.  Laundry for the week ahead and the return to school for 2/3 of my children.  Hmmm…procrastinate with me, will you?

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I made bread to go with our feast.  The recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s “Artisan Breads Every Day.”  It’s a lean dough (flour, yeast, salt, and water) and I followed the alternate instructions for the blistered crust.  Reader?  It was the best bread I have ever made.  Irregular shaped crumb.  Crispy crust.  Chewy.  Oh my, oh my, oh my.  This is bread you could live on.

I added about a cup and half (or so) of King Arthur Flour’s Sir Lancelot Unbleached Hi-Gluten Flour to the mix.  I have no idea if this was the deciding factor because I have made a decent loaf or two in the past few years.  I’m just wishing they sold it in larger quantities.

IMG_0919Brownies.  I don’t know how much longer I should have cooked this sorry pan of brownies.  We were more than 30 minutes past what the directions said and the were still gooey like they were half-baked.  Tasty, but half-baked.  These were much better the last time we had them.

We finished off the night with the kids’ usual bedtime, a movie for the parents, and my usual bedtime as well.  No ringing in the New Year, toasting, or grand partying, but it was perfect.

Perfect.


Quotables – Anne Lamott

A reblog from last year and a good thing to think about today.

Under the Maple Canopy

…I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong.  But now I think we sometimes buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality.  I don’t think anything is the opposite of love.  Reality is unforgivingly complex.

– Anne Lamott, “Bird by Bird

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Merry Solstice

IMG_0611This year has been…different.  Our usual Solstice celebrations have been cancelled in favor of preserving our energy for an upcoming trip with kids and dog and all of the usual away from home stuff.  Add to that the stress of an epic bout of gastroenteritis in my youngest and I’m not exactly in the holiday mood.  I had plans, dear reader, they just aren’t happening.

The good news is that  plans don’t expire and as long as Pinterest doesn’t go belly up before next year all of my ideas are safe and sound until then.  Oh, and next year there won’t be an traveling anywhere near the holiday which will simplify things quite a bit.  No guarantees on the illness part, though, but two out of three isn’t bad.

Since things are less than exciting over here as of late, I thought I’d share some of the many wonderful posts out there on my favorite blogs for extra Solstice goodness.

Metal Gaia shares a Yule Blessing Poem.

Works of Literata shares her Yule Blessing.

The Druid in the Swamp shares a super secret Druid tip.  Ok, it’s really not all the super secret, but it’s a wonderfully simple way to celebrate the Solstice and honor the reason for the season.

Winterviews begins over at Humanistic Paganism which also shared a Winter (Summer) Solstice specific post.

Naturalistic Pantheist Musings shares a post on Celebrating Yule in follow up to yesterday’s post.

Not to be out done, The Wild Hunt gives a great synopsis of the many traditions regarding this time of year including several quotes about the significance of our wintertime observances.

Still looking for a special libation to celebrate the return of the sun?  Frugal Feeding has a wonderful recipe for Traditional Glühwein.

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The husband had to work late again last night so I watched the traditional White Christmas (trailer) with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye on my own before hanging up the glittered pine cones we made last month and putting out the kids’ Yule gifts.  We went with simple this year since we wanted to save up enough money to buy them an outside playset.  Each of my children got a book and a movie.  It’s probably not all the surprising that there were complaints because they didn’t get any toys.  *sigh*  It was intentional, dear reader.  All I have to do is point to their bedrooms as proof for why they did not need more toys today.

I’m sure you’re even less surprised to learn that they gave up on that pretty quickly once the first disc hit the Blu-Ray player.  We also had donuts from the apple orchard that I had put in the freezer and reheated, a tasty lunch at Noodles and Company (at the request of the youngest), and lots of fun out in the snow.

Tonight we’re going to venture into new Yuletide territory and have breakfast for dinner.  I’m starting with the waffle recipe from our Strawberry Shortcake Waffles minus the strawberries and whipped cream.  We’ll cap off our evening with the last of the three movies and some popcorn with King Arthur Flour’s Vermont Cheese Powder. I will miss the bonfire this year (and sun bread and yule log, etc, etc), but sometimes quiet works just as well.

solsticeAnd now, to echo last year’s Yule Blessing:

As the Wheel of the Year spins again, may you and your family be filled with the wonder and magic of Yule.  Most of all, may your new year be filled with light and love. Blessed be!


Cookies for Yule – #5 Grandma’s Sugar Cookies

I may have jinxed myself with Sunday’s post.  In my defense, I didn’t know the kid was going to become ill.  On the other hand?  I probably should have known.  My mom always said that it wasn’t really the holidays (or a trip of some sort) unless someone was sick.  Double bonus points if you spent some portion of said event in Urgent Care.  I may end up struggling to get in seven.

All of this is par for the course these days as I try not to drown in stress (self-imposed and otherwise).  Remembering to breathe helps even if you think that sounds impossible.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply, maybe even with sound as a Yoga teacher once taught me see if you can feel the difference.  Better?  Me too.

What happens…happens.  It’ll be grand either way.

IMG_0478These are my grandmother’s sugar cookies.  When she went into the care facility I received all of her church cookbooks.  This was apparently a very popular recipe in her social circles because the recipe appears in multiple cookbooks and was wrinkled and covered in her notes in each instance.  My apologies to the folks who submitted the recipe to the cookbooks and whomever created the recipe first, but I’ll call this my grandma’s sugar cookies as long as I’m breathing because it will forever more be hers in my mind.

They tasted just like I remembered them, full of all of the good things about her and absent of all the hurt she caused others even before Alzheimer’s took so much of her away.  This is how I’ll choose to remember her when what remains is no longer – plates of cookies for the holidays with these tender bites in the center.

Grandma’s Sugar Cookies

Yield:  about 7 dozen small cookies

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups flour

Directions (see notes below)

  1. Cream in two separate bowls – granulated sugar and butter; vegetable oil and powdered sugar.
  2. Mix both together and add eggs, vanilla and salt.
  3. Sift together flour and baking soda.  Blend flour into mixture until incorporated.
  4. Chill well.
  5. Form one-inch balls and flatten with sugared glass.
  6. Bake at 350° until golden brown.

 
Notes:

  • I did not cream the ingredients separately.  I started with the butter and granulated sugar in the mixer and creamed them well before drizzling in the vegetable oil, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically.  Once the mixture was mostly emulsified, I added in the powdered sugar, eggs one at a time, vanilla, salt, and baking soda.
  • I did not sift my flour, but added about 2 cups at a time so that it wouldn’t fly everywhere.
  • We used regular granulated sugar when we were flattening our cookies because it’s canonical, but you could always use colored sugars for a seasonal flair.
  • Another variation would be to roll the balls into a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg before flattening with the glass.  Yum!
  • We baked ours for 14 minutes, but your oven may vary.  I’d start at 10 minutes fully expecting that increase the time by 2 minute intervals until they are browned to your taste.
  • These are very tender cookies and are not well suited for icing or decorating and will break easily if bumped about.
  • Feel free to cut the recipe in half – believe me when I say that it makes A LOT.  :0)


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Cookies for Yule – #4 Shimmer Cookies

Earlier this week I had a feeling that I might not get to all seven cookies in time for the holiday, but with this one finished I think it’s pretty much assured that I will have time to spare.  More logical (methodical?) folks would have spread them out a few at a time instead of in rapid succession, but, perhaps as far as cookies are concerned perhaps later is better.

At least if you want cookies left for the holiday in question.

Or maybe that’s just true for my house?

IMG_0465When I saw the picture of these Shimmer Cookies in the King Arthur Flour catalog I was smitten.  There was something rather simple about them in spite of their dramatic presentation.  I am happy to report that they were very simple to make.  I did cut the sugar just a tad as is often the case when frosting and sprinkles are involved.  I suspect that I could have cut it even further and had a similarly successful result.

The key to this recipe is the Fiori di Sicilia.  I purchased mine from King Arthur Flour directly, but you could certainly try locating it elsewhere.  It’s a tad on the expensive side, though if it makes you feel any better you use precious little of it in the recipe.  On the bright side, I think I’ve found something that will work equally well in the Pan de Muerto recipe I’ve always put off making.  My only concern was that the bottle tells you not to let it get into direct contact with plastic.  Why is that?

This one’s definitely returning next year whether any of the rest of the family likes it or not.  I suppose that’s what you call a baker’s prerogative.