Friday, December 21, 2007

Handcrafters' Holiday Meme, part deux

But, before that, a few words from our idle hands:

The first word, stitchmarkers. (I'm making it a compound word today, though I know better.)

My first stitch markers

I was messing around in my bead stash yesterday and came up with my first ever stitch markers. They're prettier than twist ties, but not as elegant as some you'll find on etsy.

The next word, Fetching.

Purple Fetching

These are mine, for typing in the middle of the night in the cold office/spare bedroom. First time I've knit on DPNs. First time I've knit cables. The cable needle dropped to the front was easier than dropped to the back. I'd make these mitts again if both had the dropped front cables.

Now, back to our meme.


* What is your favorite family holiday tradition?
Well, honestly, when I was growing up my favorite holiday was Memorial Day because my parents and grandmother would take a couple days and drive around eastern Kansas to visit cemeteries you can get to only via country roads. And my dad drove a smidge too fast, so that part at least was thrilling.

As for Christmas, I miss the great, sprawling gathering at this same grandmother's house. (I know 'sprawling gathering' sounds oxymoronish, but that's what it was.) My mom came from a large family, and the farmhouse was always overflowing on Christmas Day. The kids didn't have their own table; they had their own *room*. It was a potluck dinner, and my mom usually made deviled eggs and Knox Blocks. And, oh! All the other desserts. Mmmm.

* Have you started any new traditions with your family that you didn’t practice growing up?
The baking is new to us. But due to deaths and illnesses in the family this year, my husband and I have foregone this new habit. Even thinking about it is too much work. We felt accomplished just to get the small tree decorated this year. I haven't done any shopping, except for the supplies to make the few gifts we're giving this year.

* What do you love most about the holiday season?
The opportunity to stay home and create things, without the duty of yard work hanging over my head.

* What do you like least about the holiday season?
Traffic: rude divers, no place to park when I finally try to venture out. I do not live in a town with great public transportation.

* Anyone close to your heart that you’ll be missing this year?
My father. He always came over for Christmas Dinner. It'll be just the two of us this year.

* What is your favorite holiday food?
Deviled Eggs. Or home-popped cranberry sauce. You know what I mean about popping cranberries if you've ever made the sauce from scratch.

* Do you have a great recipe to share?
My husband's birthday cake this year: Cocoa Mint Cake with Cocoa Peppermint Icing (also known a Mint Fiasco Frosting. See photo below.)

Brian's Birthday Cake 2007

So not Martha Stewart. It's a good thing nonetheless. Here are the recipes...

2/3 cup butter
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar (I used 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup Xylitol)
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups milk
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

Cream butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy, and beat vigorously 3 mintues (high speed of mixer). In another bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; add alternately with milk to the creamed mixture. Bleand in crushed candy. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350-degrees F for 35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 2/3 cups (1 pound) confectioner's sugar
7 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Melt butter in a saucepan; add the cocoa and heat 1 minute or until smooth, stirring constantly. Alternately add sugar and milk, beathing to spreading consistency*. Blend in vanilla and peppermint extracts. Yield: About 2 1/4 cups, or enough for a 9-inch layer cake.

*Okay, this is where I messed up. "Spreading consistency" is what you get when the icing is finally cooled. It looks too runny while it's still hot. I learned this the hard way. I kept adding powdered sugar (about a half pound more than recommended) until it looked spreadable while it was still on the burner. So, when it cooled, it became majorly clumpy. Moral of the story: Trust the recipes. And don't drag "majorly" out of its '80s mothballs; you'll sound like you should have tall bangs.

In case I don't post again until the middle of next week, Merry Christmas.

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