Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

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Sun Bread

A reader asked me what Sun Bread was today and I remembered that I have yet to write about it on the blog before haven’t posted a picture of it on the blog just yet.  I can’t claim ownership of the idea because I got my idea from Elisa Kleven’s picture book, “Sun Bread.”  It just dawned on me that I’ve been searching the blog under the name of the bread trying to find a post and coming up empty, but I haven’t searched for the author’s name.  Silly me!

Sun Bread began as a Candlemas/Imbloc/Groundhog’s Day ritual back in 2010 and has morphed since then.  The first time I made it I used the recipe in Kleven’s book, but it bombed spectacularly.  I have since replaced the recipe with one called “Mary’s Challah Bread Recipe” and then shape it as the book describes.  I’ve never met Mary, but if I ever get the chance I’d gladly wax poetically on the wonders of her recipe.  There isn’t a single person that has shared the ritual of eating this bread with us that hasn’t fallen in love with it immediately.


Sun Bread, Winter Solstice 2011

Over the years I have made it for Groceries’ birthday and a few family gatherings, but mostly it’s something that appears in our home on the Solstice and reappears a few times in the winter months up until Imbloc even though I never really consciously made that choice.  It was one of those accidental traditions that found a life of its own.  The last time I made it for a non-solstice-y, sun related event it felt kind of off to me.  I mentioned it to the husband and he pointed out the attachments we had made with it and gently suggested that there would be nothing wrong with honoring its sacred form and function in our lives.  So, while I will gladly make bread for any gathering, even Mary’s Challah Bread, I save this particular shape for sun related holidays.

This year I never made Sun Bread for the Winter Solstice and it felt…wrong.  Seeing as it’s been cloudy and rather gloomy lately, it seemed right to make it today.  Solstice part two?  I’ll make it again for Imbloc for sure and maybe for the Summer Solstice.  I’m also going to take the base recipe and make a loaf in the shape of a sheaf of wheat for Lammas.


Cookies for Yule – #6 Chocolate Pillow Cookies

A few weeks back the family and I got together with my mom and dad to make some tasty holiday cookies.

Even Remus got to make the trip and had a grand time playing with Sadie’s toys.  We were rather pleased with their ability to get along which unfortunately did not extend to our trip away.  Sadie’s your typical small dog and seemed uncertain about the big dog so far away from her home turf.  At home?  No problem.  She’s the queen of the castle and as long as she can hide Remus’ bully stick in her kennel, it’s all good.  Poor Sadie, he’s only going to get bigger.  Perhaps we just needed more bully sticks?  Who would have though bull pizzle would have been so important?

Or that we would be talking about bull pizzle in a post about cookies?



These chocolate pillow cookies (recipe over on my mom’s blog) were so spectacular that they broke the cookie press.  I’m thinking a little extra moisture was in order.  Not pictured were the red ones which went through the back-up cookie press with no problems.  Not to worry, we bought a good old aluminum Mirro cookie press for next year.  If you’re planning on making this recipe I would highly suggest picking a vintage one up yourself (or the one Williams and Sonoma used to sell) because the plastic ones just aren’t the same.

I haven’t made any more progress in my seven kinds of cookies for Yule challenge.  I’m still hopeful that I’ll work in number seven before the year is finished seeing as that’s the point at which I consider the Yuletide season over.  Honestly?  It’s looking doubtful.  I may just have to make this a six kind of cookie holiday and shoot for the proper odd number next year.


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.


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!

Puppy Approved

Today was Remus’ first real snow fall.  This to him seemed like the perfect time to race around like Sir Crazy Dog.

When the three-year-old let him in, he spent the entire time sitting and staring at me in the kitchen.  Can I go out now?


To quote my dad, it’s like the world’s largest ice-cube tray.

IMG_0590So much snow, so little time.


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Will they? Won’t they? Would someone invent a button already?

I hate it when the kids are sick.

I always find myself in that limbo wondering when the next shoe will drop. I find myself looking up average incubation periods for various gastrointestinal viruses (Is it Noro? Rota? Some other nasty bit) and counting off the hours on my fingers and wondering, “Will I get sick? Are the other kids next? When will we be in the clear? Friday? Saturday? A week from now?”

That one year when I mused about a hazmat suit? Yeah, totally only half-joking (and no, I have no idea where you can get one for children – you wouldn’t believe the number of hits that posts gets with people looking for hazmat suits for children). And let’s not even talk about that inevitable embarrassment and regret where you take your allegedly healthy child out to something and expose bystanders to their germs.

I get paranoid as I try to diagnose every twinge. Is that a fever or is it just the fleece pajamas? Nerves or the signs of impending gastrointestinal doom. I’ve already gone through this once this fall…do we really need to go through this again? And that cough…is that just a cough, cough or should I be running for the kid’s bedroom?

You know that I want? A button or some sort of display screen that reads “Healthy” or “Not going to vomit in the next 24 hours” or “Get this child to the bathroom ASAP!” Sadly, no such thing will ever happen, but my job as a mother would be a whole lot simpler if I could check my children’s health status regularly like blog statistics or online banking. We’d know when to stay home, when to keep a child under close watch, and when we can go about enjoying our winter merrily enjoying all that the season has to offer.

Lately, I fantasize about moving to Florida or somewhere in the Caribbean where I can set up my beach chair, open up a good book, and not return home until spring. I could pretend I had no sick children and let the husband take care of it all. Sure, I get that folks in warmer climates still get sick. I’m not entirely irrational here. Try not to ruin my fantasy, though, ok? It’s the only thing that’s getting me through all this laundry.

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


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.


  • 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)