Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Making things · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 23 The Christmas Elves are busy

cookies-christmas-xmas-bakingHello my little sugar cookies.

It is all on here at Hedgehog Hill. There is baking and cleaning and wrapping going on in every room. Right after Christmas last year I picked up a really cute cake pan. I have never attempted a traditional gingerbread house as I am afraid of the construction. But I though even I could do these cute cottages.

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So I have been waiting about a year to make these. Now that I think about it I could have made them anytime…with any kind of cake, but I get stuck on the rules you know?

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So I had also made a great ginger cake last year from a British cookbook and instead of the recipe on the Nordicware package I used that. What I had not taken into consideration was that the amount of batter would not be the same and I was not sure how full to make the pan….so I’ll be cleaning the oven tomorrow, had a bit of a flow over.

But I just cut the excess off and no one will ever know.

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I’ll have to post the decorated pictures on the last day of blogmas.

But those last gifts I was going to wrap the other day? Still not wrapped.  I need to get the turkey out to thaw, More baking, no more shopping, It is almost here.

I do have to say that I am amazed at how fast this month has gone. Blogmas is almost over and I have not missed a day. The next 3 days are crazy. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

 

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · The Great Outdoors

Blogmas day 22 the solstice

 

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Hello my little pine trees

Now if I had been thinking ahead about this I would have posted this topic yesterday. But it really didn’t occur to me until I saw a bunch of posts on Facebook that it would make a good topic.

Personally I like to mark the solstices as a special day. My reasoning is that both the longest and the shortest day of the year are something that is real and tangible, and the same all over the world (yes given that they occur on opposite days based on if you are in the Northern or Southern hemisphere). So on this day it was either the longest or shortest day no matter where you are, or what religion you are, or what language you speak. We all experience the completion of the season cycle and the return towards the other extreme. So why not celebrate that? Something all humans, indeed all life forms on earth experience?

I’m not suggesting we ditch all other holidays or celebrations. But if you think about it even though Valentines Day has roots deep in Christianity (St Valentine)  it is really something encouraged by greeting card makers and then florists and chocolate makers got onto a good thing and now it is a multi million dollar day. Except for the very devout, no one is really celebrating St Valentine.

The same can be said of Mother day and Father day which are not even the same calendar day in all countries. Halloween which has become a huge marketing scheme is actually the Celtic/Pagen holiday of  Samhain. Thanksgiving is celebrated in October in Canada and late November in the USA.

Again these are all fine holidays and I’m not suggesting we stop celebrating any of them if we choose. But none of them are experienced by everyone in the world the way the solstices are. They are fact and science and humans have recognized the significance of this change to the worlds axis at least since the building of Stonehenge. So why have we lost touch with the significance of these 2 days?

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If you are expecting an answer here you won’t find one because I don’t know. But I will continue to take some time to be quiet and thankful on these days that the earth still turns towards and away from the sun. I will be grateful for the changing of the seasons and respectful of Mother Earth.

And tomorrow the days will start to grow longer and we approach a weekend of family and food and fun and I’ll raise a toast to that.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts

Blogmas Day 21 Christmas Stockings

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Hello my little cranberries

It is only 4 more sleeps until Christmas! Who is getting excited?

One of the things I still have to do is wrap the stocking presents. Over the years I have been surprised at how different families do the stocking thing. Of course as a kid you think that everyone has the same traditions.

In our house we didn’t hang our stocking by the chimney with care  they just turned up Christmas morning on the end of the bed filled with goodies. I used the be amazed at all the stuff in there. I still have my childhood stocking and I am amazed at how small it is. Maybe it was magic, but I always thought it was a mountain of goodies. And in the toe was a mandarin orange.

We opened the stockings in bed and one of the gifts was always a chocolate letter. This is a Dutch tradition that we adopted in our family likely because there are a lot of Dutch families in the area and well it is a good policy to adopt all traditions that include chocolate.

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Somewhere along the line a magazine was included in there as well. This gave you something to read as you munched your chocolate letter waiting until it was late enough to hit the living room for the tree presents.

I still like getting a magazine and I look forward to taking a break sometime during the day and having a few quiet minutes flipping pages.

The rest of our presents were usually little things, socks, notebooks, toiletries and more chocolate. they were always wrapped which is what I should be doing right now.

I followed those same traditions with my own kids. Now that they are grown we tend to open the stockings around the breakfast table while having a juice or tea before moving on to the bigger tree presents. I love it when I see the whole family with their noses in the magazines and reaching for another chocolate.

Some families pass on the stockings and have moved on to Santa sacs that does allow for some bulkier gifts. I have to admit I get carried away and sometimes have to have an overflow bag for the things that won’t fit in. Or rather Santa gets carried away….

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · out and about · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 20 – Gingerbread house contest

Hello sugarplums

I was doing a bit of last minute shopping today at the mall and came across the finalists in a ginger bread competition. This was not individual people entering but businesses and office groups creating local landmarks in gingerbread (and other edibles) on a big scale. I did not even know it was happening so I’m glad I just stumbled across it.

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The closest town to us is Goderich Ontario and has about 8000 people living there. Not very big really, but it is the largest town in the County. Our mall is only about 11 or 12 stores and businesses – welcome to living in the country. But we have everything you actually need. It was nice to see that so many people had put so much effort into the contest.

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These pictures may not be the best as I only had my phone to snap pictures. The building above is the mall itself, well at least the Food Basics store.

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The public works department did a full scene including white icing snow (lots of it) chocolate roads, Oreo crumb “dirt”. leggo workers and trucks and diggers. There is a battery pack in the middle…I bet the little digger can actually move the “dirt”. The building looks like a log cabin made from those rolled cookies. I don’t think the real works shed is a log cabin! Maybe that is wishful thinking.

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The Air Cadets did a great airport (we do have a small airfield just north of town) They made their own planes from cookie dough. I think they should get extra points for that! And a graham cracker runway. The one issue might be that the plane is too big to fit through the door of the hanger….

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But the grand prize winner was the amazing town square made by the folks at the local radio station “The Beach”. Goderich is based around a circle road surrounding a big square County building. A few years ago we had a horrible tornado and the solid court house was one of the few buildings still standing (the windows were gone, but the building was OK) All of the trees in the park surrounding it were lost. But the town has now recovered and the park is just as beautiful as ever. This is a great candy model of it. Very impressive.

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The three dimensional trees are amazing. And I notice that Santa is on the roof! He’s a little early I think.

Well done to all. It was a very festive thing to come across the week before Christmas and made me feel all Christmassy.

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Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 19 – Christmas TV

Hello my little Gingerbread.

Do you have specific Christmas TV memories from when you were young? Of course that is going to differ depending on your age, though most people would mention watching A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Grinch.

But since I am a bit weird (and was a weird kid) mine was the Andy Williams Christmas Special. Not only did they often featured the Osmond brothers, they were a visual fantasy of the perfect Christmas. The elaborate sets, people lounging about enjoying an eggnog who suddenly broke into orchestrated Christmas songs – what’s not to love?

To a girl from small town Canada in the 70’s they seemed sophisticated. This was what my adult Christmas would look like – Including the Osmonds of course.  Oddly that didn’t happen.

TV was very different then, thirteen Channels, a printed TV guide or the listings in the paper, no DVR or even VCR to tape shows. Shows with the word special in the title actually were special and if you missed them at the time they were scheduled, you couldn’t go google it and watch it later. So Sunday nights were Walt Disney night, the only cartoons were on for a half an hour at lunch and were the best part of a sick day, and the time and date of the Christmas shows was a hot topic on the school yard.

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Christmas TV is different than watching Christmas movies on TV.  Most sitcoms or TV dramas have done the Christmas themed episode over the years, some more memorable than others. There are a number of ranking lists about this subject. I remember a few that stick out. But for the life of me I can’t remember anything memorable enough to write about at the moment. It seemed to be the one time when the people on the shows were doing the same things we were at the same time.

 

As I write this I am watching Victorian Farm Christmas. It is a 3 part special filmed the the Acton Scott Estate. The history geek in me loves to see how the season was prepared and celebrated in Victorian times. I expect it is also why I enjoy reading Washington Irving’s Christmas stories.

I also love all the Christmas food and cooking specials. Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver making roasts and sprouts. Kirstie Allsopp has made a crafty show for several years celebrating her love of all things craft and Christmas. Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas has tree decorating, present wrapping, and baking competions and an epic hand knit jumper/sweater runway show. Christmas and crafts!

It is odd how in just a few days now all of this will end and we will go back to regular TV. After we watch the Queens Christmas message of course.

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The common theme above is that they are all British shows. I find the Brits just do Christmas better than anyone else. The seem to enjoy it, and revel in it. They raise Christmas to a whole other level.

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Most of my Christmas entertainment this year is not on TV at all. In fact it is the inspiration for my whole Blogmas idea and that is Vlogs on You tube. Zoella and many other You Tube Vlogers are posting every day with festive ideas or just a daily vlog of their activities and Christmas preparations. I watch them shop for a party or go and select their tree. I’m not sure what it says about wht I consider entertainment, but it is a much more real version of Christmas than the completely fake world of Andy William’s chalet in a TV studio.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 18 – Christmas meat pies

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Hello my little pie crusts

So as I was making the annual Christmas meat pies today I realized that they are not really all that photogenic. Nor is there an exact recipe. My Dad was a chef. A few years before he passed away I asked him for the recipe. He wrote it out for me with no actual amounts, and no times or temperatures for baking.  But I figured it out, as he knew I would, and I even made some changes to make it mine, as he knew I would.

So to begin you need to make pastry. I make mine in the food processor – and I have to say that is the only way to make pie crust.

3 c flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup of both cold butter and shortening cubed, 1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons of vinegar – to this add ice water until it makes 2/3 cup.

In a food processor mix flour and salt, add the butter and shortening and pulse until mix becomes crumbs. With machine running add the liquid until it forms a ball. Form into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Then roll out on floured surface and shape/cut as needed.

I make the Christmas meat pies in muffin pans so they are single serving size, but it also works as a full pie.

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For the filling I finely chop about 1 cup each of onion, celery, and carrot and saute until soft. Remove to a bowl. in the same pot saute 3 or 4 lbs of  ground beef. Add some salt pepper and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. After the beef is browned stir in 1/4 cup of flour to absorb the excess fat, stir to cook.

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Put the vegetables back into the pot and add a carton of beef stock. stir and cook over medium heat util it starts to thicken. Add several glugs of Worcestershire sauce and two finely diced potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender.

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Fill your pie crusts, top with rounds of pastry cut holes to vent, and bake at 400 F …well until they look done. I guess I write recipes about as well as my Dad.

I won’t claim they are pretty, but they do taste great.

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Now I will freeze them until needed at Christmas. Warm and serve with gravy.