And So This is Christmas….

We have hit that “quiet time” in our yearly festivities.  It lasts a few hours and most members of our families try to take this time to nap to prepare for the last of the family shenanigans, or in my case, write a blog post.  After all, I managed to write 24 days in a row, why break it on this most special of days?  Besides, no matter how tired I am, I am afraid if I do nap, tonight’s sleep will be slow in coming.  And now I am feeling nostalgic.

Time moves forward; we can’t stop it.  Families grow, decline, grow again.  Children are born, grandparents (and parents) pass away, children grow up, fall in love, boyfriends and girlfriends come in and out of the picture; before long, those children are getting married (or hooking up), having children and the cycle continues.

Some things are lost along the way.  Things like the music.  As the older folk start dying off, so do their songs.  The next generation remembers some of the tunes completely, or parts of the lyrics of others and we sing what we know, faking the rest, then repeat the same verses.  We are now at the point where there are so few left from the singing generation and the songs have all but been silenced.  I still want to sing!  Rare are the occasions now where we do.  I am aggrieved by that.  My generation still has the memories of those family gatherings but the ones following us, don’t.  Is it our fault?  I don’t think so.  Times change.

Back when, before most of us had kids, we would assemble at my grandmother’s for New Year’s and spoons would come out and, if one of the old uncles was around, there’d be a fiddle, plus there was always at least one guitar… but didn’t matter if there was nary an instrument.  Because suddenly either Mémère or Matante Lucette would start the song and we’d all join in.

New traditions needed to be created when my parents divorced. Now we had to adapt to the new reality and spread ourselves to please everyone.  The Saturday before Christmas, Dad would make his bird and have us all over for his celebration, then Christmas Eve, over to my sister, Tracy’s, for a major party with both sides of the families.  Ugh… when I think of those smoke-filled rooms…  Next day, after each of us did our individual family thing, we’d schlep our stuff up north to Mom’s for Christmas dinner and a sleep-over.  Some years we’d make it to Mémère’s for New Years but that meant two two-hour drives up north within a week.  That quickly became old.

Traditions changed once again and, for the past, shoot, I don’t know how many years, our formula has remained the same.  Up until Dad’s death in 2013, we did the Saturday before Christmas at his place, then the Christmas Eve at Tracy’s – no more smoke and much more reasonable by being immediate families only – which still implies 25 people or more!

Mick started a tradition of making Christmas brunch for family and friends – I can’t even remember when it started!  It was like a rotating door:  some would arrive, stay awhile, eat, chat, leave and more would come in.  This, too, changed over the years and became smaller with mostly family with a few friends who pop over.  After Mick died in 2014, Iain took up the mantle.  So very cool to watch him do what needs to be done to keep this tradition going.  And he won’t admit it but he is so proud to do so.

Then supper at Lisa’s for the classic turkey dinner.

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We interrupt this post because the internet decided to go wonky on me and I had to leave for turkey dinner at my sister, Lisa’s.  So much for posting for a 25th day in a row!  It is now very early December 26th…

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So how was Christmas 2018?  It was a wonderful time!

Differences were set aside to embrace the spirit of the season.  Food was shared, drinks flowed, laughter was heard.  Three gatherings in the three sisters’ houses with the same core people in two days and we wouldn’t change a thing.  Well, except I would have liked to have won at Texas Hold ‘Em but at least didn’t lose my money!

Our new traditions having been holding strong and we’re enjoying them, knowing that there will be changes in the future as that is the nature of life.  New people shall arrive, others shall leave and so it goes.

I still wish we would sing, though.

My all-time, never to be excluded Christmas song is Mahalia Jackson’s “Silent Night”.  Thank you Dad, for bringing her into my life.

Favourite Holiday Memory

Tuesday, November 4

What is your favorite holiday memory? (And yes, you can pick any holiday, including your birthday.)

OK… so D’OH! I signed up for the NaBloPoMo for November and I couldn’t figure out how to link my blog to their site so I was blogging directly on theirs… See November 1, November 2 and November 3… Not all that user-friendly when one wants to add photos as I am wont to do.  The whole hooking up to Flickr and connecting the html code… all gibberish to me though I did manage to actually do it. (Yay, me!)

Imagine what crossed my mind when I clicked on another link on the BlogHer site and found exactly where to link my blog?  Feeling stupid much?  OK… that is a little harsh.  Let’s call it ignorance but now I am enlightened!

So, where was I?  Oh, yes.  Today’s prompt has made me really think.  There have been many grand memories of various holidays over the years and feel blessed as a result.

Christmas in Florida last year was such a fun thing to do and made me realize that I will definitely be a future Snowbird!

Turning 25, 30, 40 and 50 were all special as, being as gullible/naïve/insert adjective here, as I can be, I was surprised each and every time.  I guess I am an easy mark…

My favourite holiday memory is also bittersweet.  It was Christmas 2012.  Dad was pretty sick and we decided to cancel our camping trip to Florida for Christmas because we just felt it more important to stick around home.  It is a good thing we did too as it ended up being our last one with him.

Every year Mick makes his special Christmas brunch and family and friends are invited.  This particular year we felt that it would be best to keep it to just family – which, frankly, is a big enough group as we are 18 in all!  Dad was pretty frail at this point and we didn’t want him exposed to more germs than necessary.  Well doesn’t he come in, with Susan (his love), big smile as usual, loaded down with three pretty boxes (as well as smaller ones for the kids).  Hmmm… what did he have up his sleeve this time?  Dad always ensured that his gifts were “even” between his girls!  One year it was the water fountain, each getting a different one; another it was the artisanal salad bowl, etc.  This time would be what?

(I had to cheat and include two pictures as on Christmas Day, I did not have a nice non-fuzzy one of him with his usual smile… The second one was taken at his house not two months later when he had US over for brunch.)

 

Well this one was very different.  Not only was this Christmas special as it was our last one with him, it was so because his gifts were a part of him.  (I am trying to hold it together typing this and not succeeding overly well.)  When I opened mine I just started sobbing – as did my sisters, my husband and brothers-in-law – not a dry eye in the house.   You see, what he gave me was his tea set.  My sisters each got sculptures that he had collected over the years.  Things that just said “Larry”.  He truly tried to give each one of us something of his that he knew we loved.  I suppose mine was the easiest of his decisions as I relentlessly teased him that he should truly give me the tea set one day as I would actually use it instead of letting it collect dust in a china cabinet.  I don’t think there is a member of the family that didn’t know that I coveted this set!  He later told me that he had planned on giving it to me for my fiftieth birthday but was worried he wouldn’t make it.  Sadly, he was right.

Ironically this beautiful tea set still sits in the box I received it in and shall remain there until I have place to set it out properly.  And use it.  To think of him every time I use it.  And try not to come undone.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season

Hello all!

This will probably be my last post for 2013 – unless of course there is Wi-Fi in Bahia Honda, Florida! But that is doubtful. I don’t see myself dragging my laptop or tablet to the beach (sand damage and all that!)

I haven’t so enjoyed making my edible gift baskets in such a long time. I think the last time that I spur-of-the-moment (with some preparation!) decided to do so was B.K. (Before Kids!) when time was something that was available in spades!

In the past couple of months I’ve been feeling ridiculously happy (not even Grumpelstiltskin’s freak-out episodes as we pack and prepare for our imminent departure has managed to sway me – and that’s saying A LOT!) Mind you, he is at this very moment out for a Big FIVE-OH-MY-GOD birthday with his buddies so he should be mellow upon his return…

So now that I’ve gone to New York by way of Miami, I’ll get back to my subject.

I just did two episodes of “DalesDelectables” now called “Dalectables” so I had some goodies to share – actually that is WHY I did my two episodes, to tell the truth…

I had a few people I wanted to say “Thank You” to and another just for love (yeah, that’s you, Patricia!) so I set to work creating my baskets.

They included Cranberry-rum sauce, Quick fruit cake, biscotti and sweet and spicy mixed nuts.

I then went off to deliver the goods and meet Pattie for our monthly dinner together, this time in the Gay Village, a fabulous BYOB Italian Restaurant Mozza. The whole menu is table d’hôte, including Caesar Salad, choice of entrée (appetizer) and choice main course pasta (all sorts of wonderfully interesting combinations – such as brie and green apple, chèvre and porto, to name but a couple. Of course they have the more standard à la vodka or arrabiata for the less adventurous.) And, as if the great food, super wait staff and ambiance were not enough, check out the bathroom!

Boogie in the Bathroom

Boogie in the Bathroom

As this was our Christmas get-together, my friend brought bubbles! Woot!

A most gentle snow was falling, the brutal cold had lifted (though by no means warm!) and all was well. A perfect end to a perfect evening.

Scccccrrrrreeeeeaaaaaccccchhhhh! WTF? I got a bloody parking ticket! Dammit! $52 poorer for the holidays…..

Oh well, not one to waste my energies on the negative, I turn the page and really, must get back to my packing if we are to leave at 2:00 A.M.

Too all of you, I wish you the most wonderful Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) and may 2014 bring you all the love, happiness, fun, excitement, good health, and prosperity to you and yours.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

How to Make Quick Fruit Cake

As part of my participation (though tardy) to The Canadian Food Experience Project Challenge Seven: A Christmas Tradition the following is my story.

I have bought Victoria Magazine since April 1989.  I was working in Westmount at the time and, during my lunch hour, I took a walk on Sherbrooke Street West and ended up in Cumberland’s Drug Store (now a PJC).  Whilst browsing the magasine aisle, my eye was drawn to Victoria and I had to look inside.  Oh, the beautiful photos, the recipes, the quotes: “Oh, to be in England Now that April’s here…”, Robert Browning. – I was totally hooked!

Victoria, April 1989

Victoria, April 1989

So beautiful and so worth the three bucks! (It’s now $6.99).  It was a bi-monthly magazine at the time.  Oh! To have to wait a whole two months for the next one!!!  I couldn’t stand it!  It then became available monthly.  Yea!!! It then changed ownership and they made it look just like another Martha Stewart-type of magazine (not that I don’t enjoy Martha, I just didn’t want Victoria to look like it).  That did them in and they disappeared for a few years and then… Hark!  An obvious fan of the original re-started it just like it was – bi-monthly (but I’ve faith….) Happy Days!

The December 1991 issue had a recipe for a “Quick Fruit Cake”.  Hmm… I was sceptical but it looked really nice and the ingredients did not contain any of that yucky fluorescent cherry crap so I decided to try it.  It just so happened that my father’s new girlfriend was introduced to us on Christmas Eve.  Poor thing, she was overwhelmed by Larry’s tall, exuberant daughters!  Hmmm… let me taste that fruit cake.  She must have eaten about half the plate!

Well, since then, it has now become an expected yearly Christmas offering.  And, I always ensure Susan gets at least half a cake to her (she is a tiny thing!)

This year is the first Christmas without Dad and Susan was definitely invited to our early Christmas dinner on Sunday.  Of course I had to make sure I had some to give her!  The smile was worth what little effort was required.

The ingredients are easily found and making it is a piece of cake (sorry, couldn’t help myself!)

Fruitcake ingredients

Fruitcake ingredients

What you will need:
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut up
3/4 cup milk
6 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 Tbsp molasses
1 cup currants
34 cup pitted dates, chopped
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped mixed candied peel
1 cup walnut pieces
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 Tbsp brandy

Marzipan topping
1 7-oz roll almond paste (marzipan)
Apricot jam
Confectioner’s sugar for garnish

How to:

1. Butter 8″ baking dish, line bottom and sides with double layer of waxed paper. Butter waxed paper. Preheat oven to 300 F
2. In heavy large saucepan, combine first 10 ingredients. Heat slowly until butter melts, stirring occasionally
3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cool 10 minutes.
4. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add cooled fruit mixture and eggs. Mix with wooden spoon until blended. Pour into pan.
5. Bake at 300 F for 1 1/2 hours until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean.
6. Cool in pan sent on rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on rack. Cut a thin slice from top of cake to make cake even. Prick top of cake all over with skewer, then spoon brandy over cake.

To make marzipan topping:
1. On surface lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar, roll out marzipan to 8″ square. Invert cake on serving plate. Brush uncut top surface with apricot jam (or honey), then press on marzipan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar
(Here’s where I differ. I prefer to spoon jam onto cut side which leaves the bottom nice and smooth.
2. If desired, heat 2 or 3 metal skewers until red hot. Press into marzipan to make a caramelised lattice pattern. Repeat until pattern is complete.

Quick Fruit Cake

Quick Fruit Cake

You can watch the how to right here!

How to Make Christmas Biscotti

Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re looking for something easy-peasy to make and delicious to boot, try these out!

Now that you’ve seen how they’re done, here’s the recipe and “how-to”

Christmas Biscotti
Biscotti
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups pistachios (shelled)
1 cup dried cranberries

1. Heat oven to 350ºF.

2. In a stand mixer (or using a hand one, just a bit more difficult) fitted with the paddle attachment combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

3. In a bowl, beat eggs, yolks, vanilla and zest. Add to dry ingredients, mix on medium low until crumbly.

4. Add pistachios and cranberries and mix until sticky dough is formed (longer than I did in the video!!!)

5. Turn dough out onto well-floured counter; sprinkle with flour and knead slightly. Shape into 2 9-by-3 1/2-inch logs. Flatten a bit. Transfer to parchement-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

6. Reduce oven to 275ºF.

7. On cutting board, cut logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Return pieces, cut side down to baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, 10 minutes (20 if you prefer them hard) Turn over. Bake until slightly dry, about 10 minutes (20 if you prefer them hard). Cool on wire rack.

Store in air-tight container.

Enjoy!