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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now I will freeze them until needed at Christmas. Warm and serve with gravy.
Hello my little satsumas
I was pondering what to write about today. I thought I should stay current with how my own preparations for Christmas are going. Today I did a huge grocery shop. It was so big partly because we have been stormed in for a couple of days and there is more snow forecast for tonight, and partly because Christmas is one week away. It got me thinking about how much food is a part of all Christmas celebrations. So I went to my trusty friend Google and typed in Christmas foods. Turns out there is a nifty list on Wikipedia of 42 countries and the national dishes served at Christmas. No surprise that I recognized and agreed with those served in Canada. There maybe a few things missing but it is pretty accurate. Same with the list for the United Kingdom, since my heritage is British it is again no surprise that many of the dishes feature in my own holiday meals. I smiled that Australia’s list mentions cold turkey and ham, as well as seafood dishes.
I think we all look forward to the feasts at this time of year. And also to the quiet times when we stop and reflect on how grateful we are for all we have. My family’s traditional meal usually features the turkey with all the trimmings, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and vegetables. There will also be meat pies. I am not sure when that started but usually my parents would make them prior to the big day and freeze them. My Mom was on pastry duty and my Dad made the filling. They were individual sized and served re-heated with lashings of hot gravy. Since I believe any food can be improved by the addition of pastry, these have long been a highlight of my Christmas. I’ll be making them tomorrow and sharing the process with you.
Another tradition I remember from childhood was the addition of a satsuma or mandarin orange in the toe of my stocking. I was also very fond of the bowl of nuts in the shell. These item were a treat only seen at one time of the year. But now we are so spoiled with foods available all year long (I saw fresh asparagus at the store today) that not many feel special the way they did for me as a child.
Some of the best Christmas meals for me are the leftovers. Re-warming a plate of turkey dinner on Christmas day or Boxing day is almost better than the first eating. Freezing the remains of the turkey to thaw mid winter to enjoy the festive flavours all over again is worth all of the work in late December.
mmmm can’t wait.
Photos today from http://www.pexels.com