Sunday, December 30, 2012

welcome in the new

Look what I found, hiding in my front yard. I will admire it as I say goodbye to the past year and welcome in the new.  May you all dream of daisies, whether you gaze upon snow, sand or dead leaves, as we do here in Georgia.  Happy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Do you have Laura Ingalls books around?  I shall quote from On the Banks of Plum Creek:

"Ma" (Laura) cried. "There is a Santa Claus, isn't there?"
"Of course there's a Santa Claus," said Ma. She set the iron on the stove...
"The older you are, the more you know about Santa Claus" she said. "You are so big now, you know he can't be just one man, don't you? You know he is everywhere on Christmas Eve. He is in the Big Woods.... and here. He comes down all the chimneys at the same time. You know that, don't you?"
"Yes Ma"...
"I guess he is like angels" Mary said....
Then Ma told them something else about Santa Claus. He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time.
Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus.
Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy. And in the morning you saw what that had done.
"If everybody wanted everybody else to be happy, all the time, then would it be Christmas all the time?" Laura asked, and Ma said, "Yes, Laura."

So, this is my take on Santa. At our house we all fill everyone's stockings. Even when the kids were tots, they contributed "some pieces of money" to buy something to put in the stocking of each person who would be there Christmas morning. They get all excited about planning and executing this, which matters to me more than what they give. Bug likes to give mixed whole nuts, Pook goes for lifesavers candy often. One year Bug picked dried fruit to put in them.

We take turns Christmas eve just before we go to bed, each person in the room alone to fill them privately. After taking a turn as Santa, each person gets to ring the sleigh bells before heading up to bed.  We usually go by age, but I get to go last, which is good since by then things sometimes spill out onto nearby chairs.

Since all of us have been Santa for all of their lives I have hoped for a smooth transition. Last year the boys were still adamant that the big guy in a red suit living at the North Pole would be leaving gifts. This year we seem to have fewer gifts (perhaps each is bigger?) and I don't have anything easily left to be "from Santa."  And so, I'm not going to leave any out, unwrapped, on the hearth.  I have lots of fun gifts to cram into stockings but I think the big guy is leaving the room.  Metaphorically!  I'll keep all the unselfishness.

Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good  night.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

let's bake

Fruitcake cookie time!  Let's pretend we are reading a fancy cooking blog and it is going to introduce you to an amazing new cookie, invented at the House of Pook and Bug. You can follow along with the wonderful photos taken on the bloggers (husband's) new camera while your mouth waters and you decide when you'll have time to make them yourself.

You know you want to. I mean, look what's in them.  Relax at the word "fruitcake" in the label. These are no ordinary fruitcakes. First of all, notice that this is dried fruit, not that day-glo candied fruit, which is probably the reason no one likes fruitcakes.
Technically, this was three cups of dried fruit. I used dried sour cherries, apricots, pineapple and raisins. The first three are important. Raisins are a bit boring, but that's what I had.

Dried pineapple is just candy. You can't call this fruit anymore. Yum. Chop the fruit, but not too small; we love biting into chunks of fruit.

Now zing it up with some candied ginger. Your love of the taste should determine the chunk size here. It can be pretty intense to bite into large bits. If I measured (which I don't) I'd suggest using about two tablespoons, chopped.

You've got to put nuts in a fruitcake-ish dessert. Add in a half cup of chopped pecans.Toss the fruit, ginger and pecans together with 1/2 c. flour and a teaspoon of lemon zest. (If you have it, which I didn't. I faked it by putting some sprinkles of lemon juice on the fruit and nuts before tossing on the flour. I fake my way through a lot of recipes. But hey, I made this one up so I have all the license I need to alter it as I go.)
Time for the rest of the cast. I shop at Kroger. Can you tell? I'm a food snob in many ways. I grow my own herbs and I buy nice vanilla, but yeah, my spices are probably in need of replacing. My friends L and P toss out all their spices on January first and replace them with a set of basics, only buying weird ones when needed during the next year.

I left out some of the cast members. Let's take this from the top:
Cream a cup of butter. Real butter, two sticks at room temperature. (Or put frozen butter in the microwave on the power of one for one minute. It works here.) Add 1 1/2 cups brown sugar. None of the white stuff today. Get that all blended. Then add in two eggs, 1 teaspoon each vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and a half teaspoon each of cloves, allspice and ginger. 

Once you have all that good stuff mixed together, take a taste. Oh, yeah. mmmm. I trust my source for eggs. His name is Keith.

Get out a cup of oatmeal and a half cup of apple juice. We always have apple juice around, but improvise if you must. You also need two cups of flour. Don't get all healthy now; use white flour.

The stuff is thick, so alternate dribbles of apple juice with the oatmeal so you can incorporate it all. Then, just when you don't think you can do anything else with the batter, add in all the fruit and nuts. Let your mixer do the work. It can handle it. Take all the tastes you want. The kids are at school and you get to lick the beaters yourself. (I might be talking about myself.)

Smear it into TWO pans (13x9") or drop them by the spoonful on cookie sheets. I have mixed feelings about these methods. Cookies are a pain in my tiny oven (I could only cook one of these at a time!) but I think they look better. The squares don't cut very neatly and get a bit crumbly in the cookie tin. Whichever.  Individual cookies should bake for 8-10 minutes and the bars take 25-30. Put the oven at 350° for either.
Do these look good or what? (I skip the booze part of the fruitcake. If you like it, I think that pouring something over the pan, hot out of the oven, would work well. Another option would be macerating the fruit in it.) When out of the oven, cut them into bars.

They're good. They're really good. They will convince you that fruitcake isn't a bad word. You will use them to convince others that fruitcake is alright after all. And then we will all eat.

Monday, December 17, 2012

music edition

There are angels harking and heralding here. The boys' piano teacher asks each student to learn a carol to share at a party together. Since they need lots of time to learn new pieces, this means that the holiday music started immediately after Thanksgiving. I am grateful to her for waiting that long.

Bug has come on a midnight clear. It is less than glorious without his forgotten B flat.

Pook has been the one harking. ("Hark!" Harold the Angel sings, "I have lost my purple crayon. I have fed a deserving moose. And a hungry porcupine. I have fallen off a mountain. Cuz I forgot to draw the other side.")

But, they don't want to be recorded and posted here, so to comply with A-L's blog chain, I must discuss a different piece of holiday music.

Once I was in a crowded school cafeteria which was suddenly transformed as a parade of white clad kindergarteners surrounded the room, singing Silent Night in their tiny five-year-old voices. I can barely write about it without tearing up.  But everyone loves Silent Night, so today I will choose The Grinch.

Someday I'd like to memorize all the lyrics; they're so wonderful. Dr. Seuss freed me to sing with my kids. He taught me that if I forget the words, I can make up new. If I don't have a rhyme, I can make one up.

You're a mean one, Mr Grinch
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus
You're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch
Your Hearts an empty hole
Your brain is full of spiders
You’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch
I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty nine and a half foot pole

You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch
You have termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch
Given the choice between the two of you I’d take the a seasick crocodile

You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch
You’re a nasty wasty skunk
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch
The three words that best describe you, are as follows, and I quote: Stink, Stank, Stunk

You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch
You’re the king of sinful sots
Your hearts a dead tomato
Splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch
Your sole is an appalling dump heap
Overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super naus
You’re a crooked jerky jockey and you drive a crooked horse Mr. Grinch
You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toad stool sandwich
With arsenic sauce! 
Each year, as a kid, I'd look forward to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas when it was on TV. We own it,  so our kids could potentially watch it anytime, but they keep it a once-a-year tradition too.  My favorite character isn't the Grinch; it's Cindy Lou Who, (who was no more than two) who is the only one to catch the guy in action and question him.

During this happy, festive, put-a-smile-on-your-face season, I can't help but like the Grinch. Charles Dickens personified the feeling in Ebenezer Scrooge, but we can't identify with him without really putting ourselves down. Scrooge is as financially stingy as emotionally stingy perhaps. The Grinch made being crabby during the holidays funny.  This weekend I will attend three different holiday parties on three different nights and I will smile. I will push down any inner Grinchiness and get into the spirit.

The blog chain is as follows. Come visit the rest of the list as they tell about their favorite holiday music too.

Harriet at spynotes
Hugh at Permanent qui vive
Jeanne at Necromancy never pays
Cranky at It’s My Blog!
Dr. Geek at Dr. Geek’s Laboratory
Lemming at Lemming’s Progress
Readersguide at Reader’s Guide to…
Freshhell at Life in Scribbletown
edj3 at kitties kitties kitties
My Kids’ Mom at Pook and Bug
joyhowie at The Crooked Line
Magpie at Magpie Musing
Dave at The Ideal Dave
and back to Harriet at spynotes

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Yep, it is getting all Kringly over here.  Halls are decked. Rudolph night light is in the kids' bathroom. Front yard Christmasy looking tree is strung with as many lights as we had. Santa placemats are on the table. A little town has sprung up onto the mantle.

Although stockings are not yet hung with care and there is no tree yet, that will be taken care of this weekend.  We often wait a bit so the tree won't be quite so dry by New Year's  when we take it down traditionally. I'm not sure why I didn't get out the stockings, but it seemed wrong to hang them before getting a tree.

Holiday baking has begun. I neglected to send a gift to the piano teacher on the day she hosted a party for her students. I will remedy that as soon as I'm able. I've been Hershey's kissing lots of pretzels and topping them with M&M's in my traditional teacher/neighbor/oh-I-should-reciprocate-with-a-gift manner.  I'm not intending to go too crazy with the cooking this year. I want to make two types as well as some sugared pecans. I'll be giving much of it away as gifts.

Dear old was given two very large orders, and as per the usual, is sending it in a dozen different shipments. I do, I truly do believe in buying from independent stores, from Mom and Pop places, from individual crafts-people, I really do. But dang if December doesn't beat my butt every year and I just can't make it happen.  That big old Amazon in the internet sky calls to me.

This year, as I was looking at Lego, books and other-such-things, I multi-tasked, folding laundry. I tossed several holey socks in the trash and wondered if I'd have time to fit in a Target run to buy new. Then I remembered Mir and a Hanes sale she once gave me a tip to, and I impulsively checked out the website. $7 for 6 pairs of socks. Not bad maybe, but the shipping was annoyingly high. I went back to my Amazon tab, with the Very Large Order still in my cart. The price was slightly higher but there would be no shipping costs. Into the cart went socks. I probably won't wrap them up with the Christmas gifts... but you never know.

So, I'm in good shape. Most gifts are purchased. Halls are decked. Baked goods are planned. Stocking stuffers are not, but I can handle them. Both kids have shopped for each other. Oh, and I even wrote, printed and mailed a Christmas letter this year.  I'll post some photos of baked goods later perhaps.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

media mania

New Stuff!

The House of Pook and Bug is usually pretty behind the curve in technology. CD may work in the field all day, but when he comes home he doesn't use it much.

And Yet!  New Stuff!  I finally followed through on the camera promised to CD last summer for his birthday. On Want Not I found a fabulous deal for the Canon Rebel T3 and within minutes had added it to my cart, emailed him to see if it was suitable, received his response and ordered it. We'll see if the photos on this blog improve. (What? You thought I bought him a camera for his birthday for him to use it?)

And Yet More! The Tivo died on us. We discussed all our options and couldn't find any one solution. We'd love to use Netflix, Hulu etc. and dump the cable company, but we still can't figure out how to really do it. We may not watch much, but we're picky about what we do watch and, for matter, what we don't watch too. We haven't involuntarily watched a commercial in years. We finally gave in and replaced the Tivo.  This Tivo can hold about 400 hours of television, so if in the next four years some new viewing option comes along that will work, we might have enough left to not even need it.

And More Still!  CD's flip phone must have started annoying him because he broached the idea of getting each other new phones for Christmas. My phone, technically, was fine. My cell service was a bit of a problem. In that I had none. Or rather, I had no reception in the house and only randomly elsewhere. Yes, this should have been a no-brainer, but, it was cheap and so I had kept it and manipulated phones in various ways to avoid missing calls. It wasn't elegant but it did work. Mostly. (Ok, really, I was cheap and lazy.)

But! New phones! CD went with the iFamily and is developing a relationship with Siri. I'm continuing in the android mode with a Motorola Razr. It has a great big screen so I don't have to put on my glasses every time I receive a text. So far, so good. We might not have to hang out a window for reception any more.

So, fun shiny new things. Time to decorate the house for Christmas and spread some of that shiny around.

Monday, December 3, 2012

braving it again

This year it was not Christmas, not haunted, and not eaten by critters.  This year I did not design it and our family did not eat it alone.

This year Pook designed a fancy, three room gingerbread house in order to share it at Grandma's house for Thanksgiving.  Although Bug, his Nana and I had made three pies, the gingerbread  house was nibbled upon by cousins, an uncle and Grandad (who nibbled off a whole row of candycorn when he didn't know anyone was looking!)  I've posted the recipe before but I'll include it at the bottom for you again.

I should send a thank you to Alpha for introducing us to this tradition.  The first years we made one house per family, all at his home. Each family brought candy to share. The big gingerbread men were decorated and eaten immediately, allowing the families to bring the houses home as decor for a few days before consumption.

Gingerbread through the years:

The first gingerbread house, 2006

Gingerbread house, 2007

Our haunted gingerbread house, 2008
Santa in the chimney 2009
Haunted again in 2010
The ill-fated gingerbread house of 2011

The recipe (in text) and traditional house patterns (pdf) are at thanks to Alpha!

The dough is easy to make and it tastes great.  I use store bought icing in a tube because it sets up so fast.  The pick-a-mix candies vary, and the items made in the "yard" vary depending on what candies we have.  (Tootsie rolls make good woodpiles.)

1c. butter
1c. sugar
1/2c. molasses
2 eggs
1/4t nutmeg
1/2t salt
1/2t baking soda
1/2t cloves
2t ginger
2t cinnamon
5c. flour

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and molasses, mix in dry ingredients.  I chill it overnight but I'm not convinced it is necessary.  I roll it thin 1/8"? onto parchment paper, cut the shapes and remove the excess so I don't have to lift the house pieces.  It makes one house plus 24 large gingerbread cookies.  I lowered the oven temp to 300 this year and baked them about 10  minutes.  Keep a close eye on them b/c you don't want them to get dark but if the pieces are still soft they'll be more fragile. We use two tubes of white frosting to assemble and decorate.