Christmas Is A-comin’

Christmas is a-comin’ and you have just 5 more days to get horse hair to me for custom pieces. December 10 is the last day I will accept horse hair to be transformed into jewelry and delivered in time for Christmas. At this point a $20 rush fee is added to all orders.

In other financial news, I’ll be raising my prices in January. Sad but true. I haven’t raised my prices in quite a long time, but the price of gold and silver have skyrocketed in the last year. To keep up with the times, I need to raise my prices. So get those orders in before the end of the year to take advantage of this year’s prices.

We cut down our Christmas tree today in the wet, blinding snow. It was definitely the snowiest tree-gettin’ we’ve ever had. Makes it all the more festive. As per tradition, we headed over to Pearly Baker’s for some Boulder Style French Onion Soup afterward. Warms you up fast! The Kahlua in my hot chocolate warmed me up even faster!

I hope you all have a joyous holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.

Products of a Snow Day

About 6 inches on the ground. A day off from school. Here’s what we made of the snow day Monday.

Left to her own devices my daughter comes up with the cutest stuff, like this spring chick. I’m encouraging more glue useage instead of taping everything. “Look, the beak opens and the wings move,” she said.snday1

A few artist books done. Experimenting with pencil pockets of different shapes. The red flowers on white background  (journal at bottom of photo) were snipped from a shirt my daughter outgrew years ago, but the shirt was to worn out to pass on to cousins.

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Steamy cups of homemade hot chocolate after throwing snow balls, shoveling sidewalks and playing with snowy dogs.

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Books read when we piled into bed for an afternoon snuggle. The kids were given a one time only offer: eat Smarties in mom’s bed while she read to them. I was sipping a vanilla chai.

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“Asparagus Eggs” (as we call it), our favorite Martha Stewart recipe. Delicious, nutritious dinner in a flash.

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Snow days are such a pleasant treat!

*****UPDATE******

For those of you who couldn’t see the link to the Martha Stewart recipe, here it is, from the May/June 2003 Everyday Food magazine

Egg and Toast Ideas

Serves 4

  • 1/2 tablespoon softened butter
  • 4 slices (1 inch thick) hearty white bread
  • 4 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • TOPPING IDEAS
  • Asparagus, Fontina, and Dijon Mustard: Divide 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 8 stalks blanched asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths, and 1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese among toasts.
  • Ham and Gruyere: Divide 4 ounces thinly sliced ham and 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese among toasts.
  • Tomato, Cheddar, and Canadian Bacon: Divide 2 chopped plum tomatoes, 4 ounces diced Canadian bacon, and 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese among toasts.
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 1/2 tablespoon softened butter over one side of each of 4 slices (1 inch thick) hearty white bread. Place each piece of bread, buttered side down, on a baking sheet.
  2. Using your fingers, create a well in the center of the bread, being careful not to tear it.
  3. Break 1 large egg into each well, keeping the yolk intact; cover bread with desired topping, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake until the cheese has melted and the egg is set but slightly runny when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Check the toasts frequently because eggs set quickly.

Hot Chocolate

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

We interrupt the tutorial on making handwarmers to bring you a recipe for hot chocolate mix.

It was a must today.

Snow, yes S-N-O-W fell on us today at the busstop. Not just flakes either, actual snowballs. It’s still 2 days ’til Halloween!

While this isn’t unheard of here in eastern Pennsylvania, we like to keep our snowfalls around the holidays and into the New Year. We were surprised, to say the least.

So in honor of the snow I needed hot chocolate and low and behold we had none. So I whipped up 2 more batched of hot chocolate mix.

This recipe is based on Tyler Florcence’s hot cocoa and homemade marshmallow recipe. The flaws with his recipe are 1) My kids think the cinnamon makes the hot chocolate “taste funny.” That really is for the adult palate. 2) Four ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate. Really. If there’s 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in bar form in my house, it’s likely in my mouth. I use chocolate chips, which end up half melted on the bottom of the cup. Bonus! At the end of the drink you eat them with a spoon.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

3/4 cup vanilla sugar* or granulated white sugar

3/4 cup powdered milk

1/2 cup best unsweetened cocoa powder you can afford

1/4-1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Stir all ingredients together in a big bowl. Store in an airtight container.

To make the hot chocolate: heat 1 cup of milk (always use milk unless the cow ain’t givin’, then water is okay) and stir in 3 to 4 heaping teaspoons of mix.

*Vanilla sugar is plain white sugar that’s been sitting in an airtight dish with vanilla beans. It gives the sugar a nice vanilla note.

The hot chocolate mix makes a nice gift around the holidays. This winter I intend to try Tyler’s marshmallow recipe, too.

Enjoy!

Sugar On Snow

Sugar On Snow Opener

I just returned from the north, visiting my sister-in-law Kris and her family in New Hampshire.

As a fellow stay-at-home who is nursing babies and fledging business, we spent a lot of time talking about balancing family life and trying to be an adult with goals and accomplishments. The conclusion from the weekend can be summed up rather simply. Raising babies and raising a business are very similar: both are hard but rewarding, and with both you never seem to have the time to do everything you want to do.

It snowed about 10 inches while we were in New Hampshire. This is real snow, not the snow-sleet-rain stuff (affectionately referred to as a “wintry mix” by the Weather Channel) we so often get here in Pennsylvania. Nothing worse than having a “snow day” only to find no snow on the ground but an awful lot of slush or ice.

All this snow inspired a Little House on the Prairie moment as I decided to try my hand at making Sugar on Snow. This ultra-simple yumminess entails pouring boiling maple syrup over fresh snow so it hardens quickly into a taffy-like candy. If you like maple syrup as much as I do, you have to try this. The only thing better than this is slurping the syrup right out of the jug (please note: not something I’ve done, but something I’ve contemplated when clearing the table after pancakes).

I searched the Internet and found many Vermonters happy to share directions, not that you really need a recipe for this. Vermont Living provides specifics about the best temperature for optimum candy-making.

With only a meat thermometer reading to temps of 220°F at my disposal (above 230°F is the best boiling temp for the syrup), I winged it. Here are Sue’s direction for making Sugar On Snow.

Sugar on Snow Scoops 1. Pack some fresh snow into a bowl. Salad tongs make good snow scoopers

 

 

 

 

Sugar on Snow Good Boil
2. Bring the maple syrup to a rolling boil, to the point where you fear it’s going to boil over. Sugar on Snow Bad BoilI began with about 1 inch of syrup in the bottom of the pot and it boiled all the way up the sides. The picture to the left shows a good boil. The picture on the right shows the syrup that hasn’t reach a good boil yet. But never fear: if you don’t let it boil enough it just melts the snow instead of hardening and you end up with a maple syrup snow cone, which is darn good, too. You’ll know it’s not hot enough when it looks like some animal did its business in your snow.

 

Sugar on Snow Spoon

3. Without stirring, pour maple syrup over the snow directly from the pot. I scooped out the last dregs with a wooden spoon.

 

 

 

Sugar On Snow Closeup 4.Wait a few seconds for it to harden, then dig in. Yuuuuuummy!Sugar on Snow Yum Eat it right off the snow. Don’t serve it on a plate like I did here (right), because it melts onto the plate into a gooey mess if you don’t eat it fast enough.

I did try the Vermont tradition of eating a sour pickle after eating some maple taffy. Although this tastes much better than it sounds, it’s not something I need to do again.

There’s no reason we folks here in Pennsylvania can’t make sugar on snow. In fact, you can use shaved ice rather than snow. Pollution is an issue for me, however. I live in the city so the rock salt seems to get everywhere. It pains me to tell my kids not to eat the snow here, but alas, they eat the vast snowcones that are grandparents’ backyards.

In addition to satisfying a sweet tooth, I also got to satisfy a long-standing Little House on the Prairie fantasy. Laura Ingalls Wilder details the sugar on snow party in Little House in the Big Woods book. As a young girl with long braids, I too, wanted to be Laura Ingalls, or more specifically, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls on the TV show. I wished for the bonnet and petticoats and lace-up boots. I wanted to tumble down a hill of wildflowers like Carrie in the TV show introduction. So finally my wish has come true to live like Laura and experience a little colonial life. And I didn’t even have to put up with Nellie to do it.