Archive for December, 2009

Chilly Night, Warm House, and the Muffin Batter is in the Freezer, Ready to Bake

December 25, 2009

The kids are tucked in, rain mixed with sleet is pelting the windows, and the Christmas music is playing softly in the background.  It has been a busy – but not too hectic – week as we finished a few gifts, wrapped up work for a few days and did a little baking.

Several years ago, an acquaintance who happens to be in the catering business told me that you can mix up muffin batter, stick it in the freezer, and then when you are ready to use it, simply take it out to sit for a minute while the oven is preheating. The batter tends to be somewhat stiff, but it is still easy to scoop out with a spoon and then into a greased muffin tin.  I have used this method with several favorite muffin recipes, including banana and blueberry. It takes a little longer for the muffins to bake and it seems that they do not rise quite as much (although no one else in the family thinks this), but they still taste great. A couple of side notes: I mix up the batter in a glass mixing bowl with a tight-fitting lid and place this in the freezer. I often substitute applesauce for about half of the oil/butter (to reduce the fat content) in the recipes and the batter still freezes just fine.  While I always use the batter the next morning, it would probably be fine in the freezer for several days.

So with the muffin batter mixed up, the coffeemaker all set up, I am good to go when the kids wake us up before dawn!

A Picture for Santa

As I wrap up this day, I am most grateful for the laughter that rang out this afternoon as the kids were sledding down the small hill in the backyard (icy rain on top of snow always makes sledding faster and, therefore, more fun), for a warm house tonight, and for family that will sit down to eat with us tomorrow.

Busy Life, Busy Hands

December 17, 2009

Regarding my lack of posts these past several weeks, I can explain: sinus infection, pink eye, my other day job (the one that pays), and ushering kids through that last heap of homework and school projects before the holiday break.  Oh, and one other thing, I have been making quite a few gifts with several more still in the works.

For the teachers this year, I have been using some of those cute holiday fabrics and leftover pieces of batting from various quilting projects to make coaster sets.  When combined with some favorite baking and hot chocolate mixes, it makes for a practical, but yummy gift.  I also like the fact that the coasters are simple enough that kids can help make them.  To make, cut out two 4-1/2″ squares of fabric and one 4″ square of batting for each coaster.  Lay the two fabric pieces right sides together and then lay the batting on top, centering it on the fabric squares.  Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, stitch around the coaster through all three layers, but leave a 2″ gap for turning right side out.   Turn right side out, press, whip-stitch the opening closed, and quilt.  I quilted these coasters by stitching just about 1/4″ from the edge so as not to interfere with the fabric’s design.  I used the walking foot attachment on my Bernina sewing machine to prevent the layers of fabric from shifting when sewing.

Several friends are getting knitted scarves — each one is different  in terms of its design, color, and length.  The scarf below, knit in all garter stitch on size 15 needles, uses two different yarns.  It measures 35 inches, a length that I really like wearing with certain coats and sweaters.  (I am becoming more and more like my grandmother who always had a cold neck — now I, too, like a scarf tucked around my neck in the house and out on these cold winter days.  At least I’m not wearing one in August yet!)  Scarves are great way to use up lone skeins, play with novelty yarns, or mix and match yarns to create an interesting pattern.

Well, back to being an elf … happy sewing!

Make It or Bake It Party Theme

December 3, 2009

Last year it was my turn to host the big family Christmas party:  A sit down dinner for around thirty people.  Let me just say my home is not that big nor is it set up to do this easily.  In the days leading up to the big party, we were busy bees cleaning, re-arranging furniture and decorating.  One of the many challenges was to find just the right size tree – bigger than Charlie Brown’s, but small enough so that thirty people could safely move around it!

A friend’s architect husband once gave us some very good advice when we were buying this house, “Don’t choose a house based on the one big party you throw each year.”  We certainly did not as everyone who came can surely attest to!

We always do a grab bag gift exchange where a person can choose an unopened gift from the box or take an opened gift from someone else.  As the hostess, I kept the game in place, but changed the rules a bit:  The gift had to be something they either made or baked.

As the game got underway, there was the usual laughter and joking around, but there was also a lot of “I didn’t know you made …”  I was amazed at the talent in my family – a cousin and his girlfriend make wine, an uncle makes wonderful bread and marmalade, an aunt makes great fudge … Needless to say, many of these gifts were taken from one another as we played the game.

If people ran out of time, I did allow a store-bought gift, but it had to be something that could be used up.  Someone brought the really expensive dish soap in a pretty bottle that I love to smell in the store, but can never justify purchasing.  That gift exchanged hands a lot – I was not the only one who wanted the dish soap!

At the end of the day, it was a great party – there was much laughter and conversation, great food, and a wonderful family with whom to share it all.

I’m not hosting the party this year, so I don’t know if the Make It or Bake It rule will stay in place and become a tradition, but I do know it was great fun and an idea I will use again.