This is likely my longest post ever, so I won’t mind if you don’t read it all (or if you don’t listen to all the music) Music is such an individual thing and not many share my tastes, so no worries . . . it’s a great joy to me and I’ve been playing my old favourintes while I’ve been typing this, so I thought I’d share a bit of my soundtrack. However, that said, you may want to listen to the first one, as it’s really a New Year’s Eve song:
One of my brothers-in-law sent me this link and I thought some of you would enjoy the song, the photos and the wishes, which I echo for you. The singer is Sissel Kyrkjebø, the well-known Norwegian soprano:
I’ve noticed how many of you have summed up your past year and shared some of your plans, wishes and hopes for the coming year; reading your posts has caused me to think about my own past year and the year to come.
I began this blog in November of 2012 and originally it was meant to complement my Etsy store (still not open). I’m planning to start another blog for publicizing the store. Like many of you, I rarely look at my stats, as I don’t have a goal of acquiring followers or whatever. My main interest, stat-wise, has been seeing where people come from.
The view early this afternoon facing West from Mum’s place. We’ve had frequent snow over the past few days, but now too deep at any one time.
As I said, I have an Etsy store, which I began working on before I was laid off in May of 2012. But I chose to focus on family this past summer, so didn’t make any progress toward creating actual stock. That’s still on the cards, though. Seeing Pauline open her store has inspired me to get focused again, as for now I’m not staying with my Aunty (her son is home for an indefinite period). I’ve run through a lot of ideas, but it hasn’t been easy to decide on what I might create and sell successfully. Hence the name of the store and this blog. 🙂
During the run-up to Christmas, the only Christmassy thing I did was some baking and cooking. I have to share what happened, it’s so typical of me and my ‘random’ approach to nearly everything: After I’d made the shortbread, I made two pound cakes, one with halved green and red cherries, the other with sultanas and coconut. In both cases, the fruit sank to the bottom, which isn’t quite what I’m used to. Nothing deterred, though, I pushed onward . . . to the Apricot Slice that was posted by Wendy of All the fruit chopped and ready, I opened the can of condensed milk that I found in the cupboard a while ago. The lid was half off when I realized it was not white, but brown! What I had was the new flavour, “Dulce et Leche” . . . oh, well, that’ll teach me to read before opening (you’d think . . .), so, since it wasn’t going to be a white slice, I put in half white chocolate chips and half semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate. That part worked fine. I think I have a photo of the results here:
There was more, but I sent some with Mum for the Christmas dinner and of course I had to test a few pieces to make sure it really was ok . . .
So the slice done (sort of), I moved on to Stacy Allbritton’s Christmas Divinity I had all the ingredients in my big old pot that I used to use to make popcorn, soup, stews and more for my family. I love that pot. Not as much as I love Mr. 23Thorns and his wife Tracy 😉 but quite a lot. See?
Then I took the bowl with the egg whites and got ready to beat them . . . I found the beaters, but no power handle. I guess it’s been MIA since we packed everything up for the bug spraying a couple of years back. We have no idea which box it’s in, either. Oh, well . . . I got out the stick blender, the old one that’s quieter. It did its best, but no go. I tried the new, and noisy, one. Same result. I tried the various whisks we have, but they aren’t very big and didn’t do it, either. So I gave up . . . I planned to get a new handheld beater at the mall the next day. But I had a lot to do that day, didn’t write it on my list, got home and oh, no! I didn’t have it. That was Christmas Eve and everything was closed. So I packed up what I did have for the dinner and let it all go, sort of. On that Friday (the 27th) when I was downtown, I checked the dollar store and they didn’t have an electric beater, but they did have a decent sized whisk, which I promptly acquired. The next day, I added a couple more egg whites to the bowl, to make up for any evaporation, also a pinch of cream of tartar and a squirt of lemon juice, both of which help egg whites turn into lovely stiff peaks. Then I proceeded to whip . . . and just over ten minutes later, voila!
See that lovely peak? Yes!!
Back to my favourite
For a while, all went well; the pot bubbled in a most satisfactory way and I stirred without stopping. Then it was time to add the syrup to the egg whites. Well, my ancient electric mixer is languishing in the storage units in Vernon (BC), but the new whisk would do nicely. I placed the bowl on a folded tea towel so it wouldn’t skitter off the counter while I was whipping the mix into some sort of submission. But I’d misjudged one thing: the bowl wasn’t quite large enough. The bigger bowls were in the fridge already, so I figured if I held my mouth just so and hoped . . . but no, not quite. A wee bit of egg white made its escape to the counter, the rest simply rose over an inch above the edge of the bowl and threatened to follow suit. I hastily dumped the remaining syrup in, put down the pot and commenced to stir as best I could. Note I said ‘stir’, not ‘whip’. It does make a difference and I do know that, since I made candy similar to this aeons ago for our family Christmas feasts.
But I couldn’t whip; so I did the best I could, then managed to transfer the mixture into the greased baking pan I had waiting. As I still had plans for giving it away the next day, and it was pretty hot, I popped the lid on the dish and put it out on the balcony in the snow:
Later I brought it in, to find that the mix had separated and the bottom layer was still very syrupy. Oh, well . . . I got out the old, smaller, wire whisk and mixed it up well; back outside, but this time onto the table right next to the doors. Next morning, I went to bring it in, hoping the dish held something approaching edible (I’d given up on divine Divinity by then); oh, no! the doors are frozen shut . . . so the divinity or whatever approximates it is still outside enjoying an Edmonton winter . . .
Some days I think my whole life can be summed up thus: “It seemed like a good idea at the time . . .” And sometimes you just have to laugh and move on . . .
So, my apologies to Wendy and Stacy. I’d hoped to include those treats as a way of including some of my followers in my Christmas, but it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped . . . maybe next year. I do have ingredients to make one more Apricot Slice and this time I have the proper version of condensed milk. I’ll let you know how that works out . . .
I hadn’t mentioned, and might as well, that in that week before Christmas I set up the bread machine that my crafty friend gave me last summer. Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone then, either (this was before the candy catastrophes) . . . I forget now exactly what I changed, but it was more than one ingredient (my recipes aren’t up to my hand-made bread healthy standards, so I tend to ‘doctor’ them up a bit . . . worst of all, I didn’t measure properly. I know I’m supposed to be exact and all that, but I sort of fly by the seat of my pants when doing most things . . . you may have noticed 😉 Having gotten the machine started, off I went to Mum’s room to check my FeedReader, emails and probably post something or other. Not to mention play a couple of games of Blitz on FB, for the soothing results it produces. A couple of hours later, I went to the kitchen for water and noticed that white smoke was curling up from the vents of the bread machine. Oh, no! I flung open the lid and guess what? The dough was lovely and very, very lush . . . so lush, it had expanded upwards and outwards and then, slowly, downwards . . . onto the heating element (I knew there was a reason I preferred wood stoves), where it stuck and began to do a credible imitation of charcoal. Oh well . . . I turned it off, got the basket out and dumped the dough into a large bowl (the one that would have been perfect for the divinity later, only by then it was in the fridge holding jellied salad or something. I set the pan to soak in the sink, scooped as much of the dough as possible off the walls of the machine, added flour (quite a lot, as it turned out) and began kneading.
The inside of the machine after I scraped it down . . .
I had the electric stove oven heating by then and a couple of bread pans greased and waiting. When the dough felt right (just like a baby’s bottom, as my Mum taught me when I first learned to make bread; I was 12 or 13 then) I divided it in two and set it in the pans to rise. A while later, I popped them in the oven and this was the result:
YUMMY!! Lucky me!
Last Friday (the 27th), looking from the bus stop across the street south toward downtown. Enough snow so the skyline has disappeared . . . but at the time, it was only -6C, so I was a happy camper. I had a nice afternoon; posted a Little Christmas box to my older son, his partner and their five kids (and it didn’t break the bank, either; last time I sent a box, it was much larger and had not only books, but cookies and other baking and it cost over $50 in postage. Since then, I’ve just sent cash when I could, but it isn’t the same . . . This year I stuck to books.) The bad news, though, was that even if I had paid extra, there was no guarantee that it would arrive by the 6th, so I sent it regular post and we’ll see . . . I was told maybe it wouldn’t arrive ’til the 17th or 18th . . . oh, well . . . if I’d known Christmas was coming, I would have been ready 😉
For those of you who love Scots Gaelic, here’s two links to what I’m listening to right now:
This one is “An Sabhal aig Neill (Over by Neill’s Barn)”, if you are interested.
A toe-tapping tune . . .
and this is “An Abhal ad Airde (The Highest Apple)”, live at the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow.
This one is on my playlist for my funeral one day (not too soon, I hope). I really love it! My heartfelt apologies to Mr. 23Thorns, whose great post on the word ‘Love.’ (and Bacon.) is here:
http://23thorns.com/2012/08/31/love-and-bacon/ I have to say, I love his blog, too . . .
After I posted the box, I went to the library, returned three quarters of a rolly cart’s worth of books plus a few DVDs, then promptly filled up again. I’d ordered everything they have by Lian Hearn, whose work I’ve been in love with for a couple of years now. Plus a couple of Fair Isle knitting books. Plus some DVDs. So Mum’s card is full (40 limit per card) and the rest are on mine. I had planned to meet a friend, but the roads were so icy, she decided not to come out (good idea, too; I saw a police car going through the main intersection downtown and skidding quite a lot; and those guys can drive!); so I decided to treat myself and took myself off to the Second Cup coffee shop that’s attached to the downtown library for a Mocha Mint Icepresso (yep, a blended iced coffee!) and a yummy Nanaimo bar (huge, I have to say!). I sat there reading the first of the Tales of the Otori, “Heaven’s Net is Wide” and falling in love all over again. Lian Hearn is from New Zealand (think I mentioned her in a recent post, didn’t I?)
I took this after I left the coffee shop three hours later. You can just see it on the corner towards me. By this time the temperature was nearly -30C with the windchill and the snow was blowing and biting. It was still worth it, though, just sitting, reading, thining and looking out through the big window as the snow came heavier and heavier . . . if there had been a hammock handy, I’d be there yet . . . So that was my 27th of December and a good day it was . . .
Here’s another Gaelic song, “Tillidh Mi (I will Return)” with photos that will touch your heart, all those of you who are working to create this sort of life for yourselves:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDc1vit8roI&list=PL4150FCD007BB03D3 Makes me homesick . . . and happy.
There was a lot of good for me this year, including knitting over two thirds of a Fair Isle style cardi that is likely to be wearable once done. I’m finishing up the bottom now (sorry, no photos yet), then it’s on to the sleeves and the button bands (and maybe a hood). I did a bunch of other knitting, too, and earlier in the year quite a bit of hand-sewing. No further progress on those projects, yet.
I made new online friends, too; it’s such a delight for me to find so many kindred souls and see my ‘virtual village’ come to life. The best of the ‘net . . . I hope to go on reading about your lives, learning from you, sharing some of my own stories and much more . . . We are a diverse bunch who share similar hearts and spirits; checking your blogs is a highlight for me every day.
And for you greenies, here is “Our Earth Was Once Green”:
This song “South Australia” makes me think not only of my Aussie friends, but also the kiwis and others from the bright side of the earth . . .
And last, but certainly not least (in case anyone is still with me . . . ) my favourite Canadian group, no longer together, but I did see them in person once and it only increased my already deep regard for them: Kashtin:
Have a wonderful year, everyone! We are building the world we want to live in and that’s the best thing ever.