The paper for my UK class is finally starting to take shape… and by that, I mean a shape that doesn’t make me want to throw the laptop out the window. It’s quite normal for me to hate my research papers, because I can’t get them to say what I want them to say. Until about 24 hours after I’ve written them, I decide they weren’t so bad, after all. So, now that I know I have all day tomorrow to finish it, and I’m well into the fourth page, I can breathe more easily. So, before I go see how the Christmas tree decorating is going, I thought the least I could do is share a few of my latest pictures. Mostly taken at Thanksgiving, I can assure you that we dined most deliciously on all the food that you could desire. Oh, right, the cake pictures were taken before Thanksgiving, because my mom tends to bake cakes for parties at work. They’re addicted to her cooking and baking (as are we). And I was feeling all artistic after taking some of these. : )Most of my brothers made it to town, along with my youngest bro’s dog. Bullet has been part of the family for almost a year now, I think, and we occasionally get “custody” of him when my brother has to go do military stuff. Now that my brother is MARRIED, then Bullet stays with my sister-in-law instead. However, Bullet’s a really nice dog, and we love having him to visit, too. This picture I included was taken after he realized that he WAS going home with Joe and Amanda, instead of staying with us. Or rather, he leaped into his bed in the car, and couldn’t be shifted, as if he was afraid he might get left behind after all. So, for a rescue dog that lucked into being adopted by a young man in the Air Force… life is good for him, and he just LOVES my brother and his wife.And now, away I go, and by tomorrow, I should be ONE research paper closer to being done with this semester! Hooray!
When I woke up this morning, I discovered that the large number of views from Australia mean there was another State of Origin game happening (or actually, had already happened). So, I skipped over to FB and discovered my one Aussie friend that cheers for the NSW Blues… well, she was yelling her head off, let’s say. And googling the subject confirmed my suspicions. So, congratulations to New South Wales for ending the Queensland Maroons’ 8 year winning streak! It must have been quite a game, and I’m sure a few of my friends screamed themselves hoarse over that game. Yes, I can be generous because I wasn’t there watching, even I’ll always cheer for the Maroons. ; ) But honestly, from what little of rugby league and State of Origin that I saw… those players are ALL just phenomenal, so all props to the winners, and I know that QLD will be just as determined to take back the title, next year.
On a totally different note, for anyone keeping up with my book posts, I promise I’ve been working on the other half of my “best of books” list, and should have that up in another day or so. And now, I better go sit down and relax after that meal I just ate. I had some curry fried rice at the Thai-ger Cafe in Clemson, and it was pretty yummy. And filling.
I’m so behind on sharing photos and recent happenings! But with several birthdays within the last month and a few other holidays or office shindigs that require baking, as well as having one brother come home from being based in England… we’ve been in food heaven! So, here I am, trying to share some of the wonderfulness of all the food, while I run away for the weekend. Let’s see if I can pull it together in time.
This all started back in April, but what with all my school papers and things, I just took the pictures and kept going with school. Soon, all the pictures of deliciousness began to pile up… I took the time to make my FB and Instagram friends drool, but I can’t make myself just post a million pictures of cake on here without saying at least something, you know.So, for Easter, my mom wanted to try out a new cake recipe… I can’t remember the exact name of it, but she bought special black cherry and black raspberry preserves to put between the layers and I think there’s some kind of cordial or liqueur in the icing… I’ll remember the more recent ones better, I promise! So, along with our wonderful Easter lunch of ham and all the trimmings (including pretzel jello), we finished off with that wonderful cake.And then, with the onset of May, not only did my brother arrive home from England, but several birthdays hit (including mine), followed by Mother’s Day, and we were just eating, eating, eating! At that point, I forgot to take pictures of our dinner meals because there were just too many amazing meals. And I know I have a picture of Joe’s birthday cake somewhere, but I seem to have misplaced it. It was our favorite chocolate birthday cake, though. With the arrival of summer, a work shindig was arranged at my mom’s workplace, and she decided to make several cakes from new recipes. There was a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, a lemon blackberry, and a chocolate one. Each was in layers, and at least one had a special compote/jam to go in the middle. Actually, she had to simmer blackberries and lemon zest on the stove for a long time, in order to turn it into that jam layer. I tried very hard to be around for all the icing procedures, etc.., but I missed the carrot cake going together. So, seeing them after they were cut sometimes had to suffice.In the midst of this, she managed to make some no-bake chocolate cookies for church, and the rest of us waited hopefully to see if leftovers would come home from work. They did, and we went on sugar overload.On the heels of all that baking, my birthday arrived. I knew that we had just had a whole chocolate cake for Joe’s birthday, plus leftovers from all the cakes for the work party. So, just like last year, I decided to make my own cake…. an Aussie pavlova. I don’t remember if I’ve made it since last year, so it was a little bit like starting from scratch. But it came together, though I was certain it was on the soft side, and I still mustn’t have baked it long enough. The whipped cream really weighed down the soft center, but it was still lovely.Because I was already on a roll and because I had one or two places I might possibly take that pavlova to get help eating it, I decided to make another one, the following day. Good to get some practice in, before I forgot what I’d done before. So, this time, I whipped the egg whites much better and I could tell the batch was better. Not sure to explain how, but it looked right. It baked beautifully, and I baked it much longer than before… the whole 1.5 hours. Different recipes call for different times, so I’ve been experimenting. The goal of an Aussie pavlova is to get it crunchy on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside. Thus far, the outside edge was always extremely sticky and soft… it never cut well and was difficult to get off the knife or spatula.I took the second pavlova to a graduation party for someone at church that Saturday, and it was a hit. When I cut it, it cut so easily that I was stunned and went shrieking to my mom about it. It was definitely crispy on the outside, and I got some really nice compliments on it.From there, it was the day before Mother’s Day, and I was planning to make my mom a pound cake to eat with strawberries. So, that evening, I followed that recipe and double-checked with her to make sure I didn’t pull it out too soon. I’m not as experienced with cake as I am with baking cookies, so I was being careful. But it came out really well (if a bit dry, to my taste). And with that, and very few details in between, I have finally caught you up on all the baking that our family has done over the last month or two. Hope you enjoy the pics, and yes, I probably can find links to recipes or at least tell you what books we got the recipes out of, if necessary. : )
Now that I have finished my paper for History 299 (hooray!), I should finally be able to download the rest of my latest pictures onto the computer. Not from my camera, of course, but from my phone. Somehow, when I was in PA during spring break, I took most of my pictures with the phone. I’ll doublecheck to make sure I don’t post any duplicates. But here are a few from that trip and from recently, until the next downloads come through.
And yes, I did see a lot of babies over Spring Break, why do you ask? ; ) My trip was a hodge-podge of visits with friends and their babies, eating, snow, and lots of other things… and there aren’t even any snow pictures here! Yes, all on the phone, with no time or energy to get them. Later, later. Also, still having issues with the new WordPress photo editing tools, which makes this the second time I’ve attempted to put this post together. Frustrating. But I hope you enjoy the pictures just the same, and maybe I’ll have time to do some real blogging, soon!
Some time ago, my mom saw a particular recipe in Southern Living, called Rum-Glazed Sweet Potato Cakes, and not only did they sound delicious, she loved the little bundt shapes they came in. So, somebody got her the bundt pans for Christmas. And since we always have sweet potato for Christmas dinner, she was able to put some aside for the cakes, for a later date.
That day came a day or two after Christmas, since my brothers were still in town and my aunt and uncle were coming to visit. I don’t have the recipe here for you, just the pictures. But I can tell you that pureed sweet potato was added to the mixture, and there were golden raisins soaked in rum, also. After the raisins were removed from the rum, the leftover rum was used to make the glaze.
Of course, if you’ve been keeping up with this blog, then you’ll know my family has made their own vanilla, some time back. We have several varieties, made from two different types of vanilla beans and three types of alcohol (bourbon, rum, vodka). So, our recipes are all even yummier than ever, with homemade vanilla to add to the mixtures. Obviously, since these were rum-glazed cakes, we used the Tahitian Rum Vanilla.
Since we’re familiar with making pumpkin bread or banana bread, most of our family were expecting these cakes to be heavier, but they were really quite light and moist. They were a big hit with the entire family. Deliciousness!
This time around, Jon and I both gave a hand in holding the dough and occasionally threading it through the machine, but mostly, Dad’s in charge of this process. But when you have a loooonnng piece of flat dough that you’ve just run through the machine, you don’t always have a free hand to switch to the pasta cutter machine. And no, I don’t know if there’s a snazzier name for the attachments.
When we were growing up, my parents cranked the noodles through by hand, with a different attachment, but Kitchen Aid makes a great set to attach right to the mixer. But the pasta drying tree is from the old set. We either need a taller one or another one, though, because we ran out of space to hang the pasta, this time around!
So, we cooked up all the fresh pasta, and it was awesome! In case you’re wondering, we make egg noodles, but I don’t really know much about the recipe used to make it. If anyone wants to know more about it, though, I can find out.
With Christmas vacation officially begun, I had a license to goof off. But there are other things still need going, like making Christmas baking, so my mom mixed up the dough, over the weekend, and got started. By the time she had made several types of dough, I had joined in the process, if only getting cookies in and out of the oven, for a time.
When the pecan tassies had finally come out of the oven (they take the longest to bake, it was time to make the press cookies. A week or so before this, I had attempted a batch, and for the first time since Australia, it was a failure. You see, press cookie dough has to be pretty stiff, but if it’s too dry, it won’t press into the shapes you want, or stick to the tray. I’m still not certain what happened, because my measurements were right. And for the record, I am a cookie pro, and this had only ever happened once before.
I finally decided that it might have been like when I was in Australia, it was too warm and humid at the time. Usually, when we make Christmas cookies, it’s rather cool out and the heat is on, just enough to keep things comfortable. That day, it was unseasonably warm, too warm to have the heat on, but not quite warm enough to have the windows open. And it was rather humid. So, with no way of proving it, I blame the weather.
This time, all the dough came out perfectly (it wouldn’t dare do anything else, when my mom’s in charge), and I took charge of most of the pressing, for as long as my hands held out. While not quite a science, you have to keep twisting the handle on the press, press out the dough, and then… well, sort of jerk the press to the side, in order to get the dough to “cut” off from the rest. A couple seconds too little, and you don’t have enough cookie to stick to the tray, a second too much, and you have a fat cookie with a print on it, but not an actual shape to the dough.
I whipped out several trays worth, and then my hands got tired. I blamed it on all the writing from my exams, but it occurs to me that I twist with my left hand (and have a bruise on my palm to prove it), so I guess that didn’t really make sense, after all. Mom and Matt each took a turn, and then I finished off. But people can say what they like about modern cookie presses, with buttons to push. I wouldn’t give up using our Mirro presses for anything, and I even have several I’ve picked up at yard sales and antique shops, waiting for when my brothers are ready to bake their own, in their own homes. : )
We finished the peanut blossoms earlier in the day, so that the Hershey kisses would cool off enough to be put away. When you first put them on a smoking hot cookie, they melt, so if you try and store them immediately, you’ll get chocolate smeared all over everything.
The following day, for similar reasons, we began icing the cookies in the early afternoon. You want to give them several hours for the icing to dry, so you can store them without getting the icing everywhere. I remember some years when we waited until too late, and I did storage duty, somewhere around midnight, because the cookies hadn’t been dry earlier.
While we continued to debate whether the icing was too runny (me) or too thick (my dad), we managed to ice them all, with all four of us working away at them. The press cookies are dipped into a bowl of thinner icing, and then you put sprinkles on them, while you use thicker icing to spread on the cut-out cookies, using a knife.
Looking at that table, it looks like a lot of cookies, but I think this is a smaller batch than some years. But maybe not. They really look like a lot of cookies, once you put them away in the cans and boxes.
The snowballs (Russian tea cookies) and Scandinavian cookies were put away last. If you’re not familiar with the look of the nutty Scandinavian cookies, with the hole in the middle, when we fill up a tray with those, we load them with raspberry or blackberry jam. So yummy!
I hope you are enjoying the Christmas activities in your own home, with your family, whether it involves baking or not. I will probably say this again, but in case you forget to check back, I do with you and your family a most wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year!
It is so nice to see that people are still dropping by my blog to read older posts, especially since I haven’t put up a new one in at least two weeks. My life, lately, has been full of constant literature papers and military research papers and studying for German tests and such. Tonight, my final research paper, which I spent most of my Thanksgiving break working on, will be turned in. No more papers.
The upside of that, in a way, is that after the paper is that I can relax a little bit and just study. Sure, studying is time-consuming, but at least I don’t have to write anymore until the day of the exams. I just have to work on cramming lots of review into my head. Oh, and brush up on the subject of my group chemistry paper, because we’re doing a presentation on that, tomorrow. I couldn’t do it on Tuesday, because I “called in” sick.
Well, to be exact, I e-mailed in sick, even though I didn’t need to. But I didn’t want my chemistry teacher thinking I was cutting class and abandoning my partner, and I did want my English Lit professor to know that I watched the movie we were assigned for Thanksgiving break. That assignment was to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I really, really liked it. I would have enjoyed being there for the class discussion about it, even if I didn’t need the extra credit from the little quiz he gave. When you’ve gotten A’s on all your English papers, and you’re exempting the exam, you don’t worry too much about extra credit.
If you’re wondering about me being sick, I’m finally pulling through, after going to the doctor and being diagnosed as having an upper respiratory infection and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Of course, everyone in my household caught a cold, within the last week or two, and some of them turned it into bronchitis and sinusitis, but I decided those were lame, and switched it up. But most of us have caught pink eye, by now, and we’re waiting for the last members of the household to give in and get it, too.
For those that are keeping up with me, in any form or fashion over the last months, I do have numerous photos of autumn leaves in the surrounding area, that I hope to share, once the Christmas break begins. I also spent a weekend at my Seabrook conference, and have beach photos, and doesn’t everyone have pictures of Thanksgiving dinner? And our Christmas trees are up, with plenty of photo opportunities for closeups of ornaments, and lights and the wonderful home-iness of it all.
So, I hope this will be a tasty sampler (sorry, food pics got to me) of the photos I hope to put up soon, and don’t think that I’ve abandoned you! But finishing all my papers and studying for my exams… that is definitely the priority, at the moment. : )
My brothers and I pulled off the ultimate surprise. The weekend of my cousin’s wedding, my youngest brother arrived on leave from the Air Force. My parents didn’t know he was coming, so when he pulled into the driveway, I quietly let him in, so he could go back and bang on my parents’ door. The surprise was total.
This meant that all seven of us were going to be at my cousin’s wedding in Alabama. One brother had come from England (though he had the tickets BEFORE he knew about the wedding), one flew from New Hampshire, and one flew from Florida. We’re getting very spread out, recently.
The wedding was in the evening, so I played hermit and stayed in my hotel room for most of the day, studying and doing German homework. I had just started at Clemson, that week, if you remember. More on that another time.
When it was time to get ready, I was thrilled to wear my (ok, maybe they’re still my mom’s) “Atari” shoes, which went well with my dress. That particular dress has been waiting to be worn, ever since I bought it back around my birthday in May. I’ve worn both of the other two birthday dresses, but this one was for a dressy occasion. We all looked pretty “schnazzy”, if I do say so, myself.
The reception, also, was beautiful, and full of good food and memories. I say memories, because the mantel shelves were loaded down with framed photos of the bride and groom, while the tables were full of the people that knew all about those memories.
If you hadn’t realized, my mom’s maiden name is Funk, so that’s why this was a “funky wedding”. Erica was thrilled to become one of the Funk granddaughters, and we were pleased to take her into our family. My Grandpa and Grandma Funk would have been very happy with their grandson’s choice of a wife, I know.
After the dinner and dancing, our family met up at my Alabama cousins’ house, and enjoyed lots of family “catch-up” time, as well as way too many cookies and a splendid lunch. My aunt is a wonderful cook, so we ate very well. I’m afraid the brunch part of things really included eating cookies BEFORE lunch, though. Our family is big on those. My mom got multiple thumbs’ up from her brothers, over the snicker-doodles (made with homemade Tahitian vanilla), molasses-oatmeal cookies, and peanut blossoms.
The trip back was uneventful, and we didn’t dawdle, as all of us need to be at school, whether to work, teach, or attend as a student. Since I had done most of my homework on the trip down, or on Saturday, I was ahead of the game for the week.