Monthly Archives: December 2008

Recipe Sharing!

Since Schnookie is very much the cook in our family, when recipes get shared they’re usually shared with her. But every once in a while, a recipe is passed along to Maple Hoo with the intention of me trying it out. Such was the scene last month when Sue from Liv ‘n Laf emailed me with several delicious spritz cookie recipes! Woo-hoo! My intention had been to try all three recipes out this Christmas season but then one thing led to another (i.e. I was lazy, everyone got cookie-ed out, and I got sucked into a new craft [more about that soon]) and in the end I can only report on one of them. But that one? Was awesome! (Well, sort of.)

One of the three recipes Sue sent was for “Christmas Trees”, almond-flavored spritz cookies using the tree shapes. What drew me in was the addition of green food coloring. How is one supposed to resist?!

Green Christmas Trees

Sue’s recipe was fabulous, and having had a bit of practice with the cookie press, I knew exactly how to attack the problem of pressing the cookies onto trays. Into the oven they went, and out of the oven they came perfectly baked and delicious. (Well, sort of.)

Schnookie's Perfect Cookie

The other day, Patty (in Dallas) complained in an email sent about recipe sharing, about when you give someone a recipe and then they go and change out ingredients and then complain that it didn’t taste good. I was like, “Yeah, that’s awful! Who would do that?!” Uh… Turns out, I would. You see, for some reason, I considered green Christmas cookies and thought, “They should be mint flavored!” So instead of using the almond extract that Sue’s recipe called for, I substituted some peppermint extract.

Finished Christmas Tree Cookies

You know what shouldn’t go in these cookies? Peppermint extract. Boomer and I both agreed they were edible but Schnookie declared them to be like eating toothpaste and wouldn’t go near them. Obviously, the almond extract was the way to go. Oops. Serves me right for substituting ingredients in a recipe that was sent to me! Next time, I will not be straying from the printed recipe, I promise! Sorry, Sue! (The dough, other than the wrong flavoring, was perfect. So I know this recipe, when done correctly, will be a keeper! Thanks for sending it along, and I promise not to screw up the others when I try them!)

Sue gave me permission to write up all three recipes here, so go forth and press cookies, Gentle Reader! And remember — follow the instructions! Or at the very least, don’t use peppermint!

Christmas Trees

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2 1/4c. sifted flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 c. shortening
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
green food coloring

Sift together the dry ingredients. Cream the shortening, and add the sugar gradually. Add the egg, sifted dry ingredients, almond extract and food coloring and beat until combined.

Fill cookie press. Form on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes

Chocolate Cookies for the Cookie Press

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

3/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened melted chocolate
2 tblsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 c. flour

Cream shortening; gradually add sugar and beat well. Beat in egg, chocolate, milk, vanilla and salt. Gently, but thoroughly stir in flour. Put through cookie press. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Norwegian Crowns
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/4c. sifted flour

Cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, then egg and almond extract. Add sifted flour.
Fill cookie press. Form cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

(Side note from Sue: “Beside the wreath form, I use this one for the ribbon attachment and press each cookie to about 3 inches long.”)

Thanks again, Sue, for passing your spritz cookies along!

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25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 25

Christmas day at Maple Hoo is all about taking it easy, kicking back, and hanging out in our pajamas while we enjoy good company and play with all our new toys. (That’s the spirit of Christmas, right? Playing with new toys?) This year we didn’t even bother with a fancy dinner, because that would mean Schnookie would have to spend all day in the kitchen while Pookie and Boomer played with the new Wii game (De Blob is awesome, in case you’re wondering). No, that just would not do. So instead, we took a suggestion from Kristin and had easy, munchie snack food to nibble on all day.

December 25 2008

The day started with mimosas and cranberry-vanilla coffee cake. Then we graduated to champagne-and-Grand-Marnier cocktails to go with our high-end pigs in blankets (the “high-end” part being that we used nice breakfast sausages from Whole Foods instead of hot dogs. Yeah, we were living large) and mac & cheese bites (baked in mini muffin pans). Then, during the second half of our bad Bond movie marathon (we watched Moonraker on Christmas Eve and Octopussy on Christmas), we enjoyed a warm leek and goat cheese dip with crusty bread and crackers (there was talk of making crackers ourselves, but that petered out), and then we chased everything with peppermint hot chocolate. It may not have been the peak of gourmet, but it was sure delicious and fun. All in, it was a perfect holiday!

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25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 24

No, we’re not very religious here at Maple Hoo, but we do have at least a little Christ in our Christmas.

Creche Nativity

When we were kids we had two creches that were the funnest part of putting out all our decorations on Christmas Eve. It was like playing with a dollhouse, arranging all the little figures around their respective mangers.

Creche Visitors

Now, one of the creches was a gift from friends of our father’s family; they were the kind of people who collect creches from all over the world, and gave us one from some Polynesian locale. It was made of bamboo. It did not artfully survive being manhandled by four children, and is in no shape to be put out every Christmas.

Our other creche was from Boomer’s family, and is adorably like a 3-D version of the illustrations in a children’s Bible.

Creche

This creche is also in bad shape, with every figure spiderwebbed with repair lines from where they have been dropped and broken, but it’s at least not just a heap of unrecognizable pieces of bamboo. Also, the packaging we keep it in is pretty remarkable. First, there’s the newspaper the individual pieces are wrapped in for storage:

Creche Newspaper

Yup. That’s the New York Times from Thursday, January 5, 1989.

And then there’s the tattered old box everything gets put in for its 11-month stay in the attic:

Creche Box

Last year Favre discovered he could just wedge himself into the box, and slept in it all December. One evening, while laughing at the big, fluffy cat curled up in the little, beat-up box, Boomer exclaimed with no small surprise, “That’s my father’s handwriting!” Her father passed away when she was 16. The box, clearly marked “CRESHE”, is dated December 1962. We might not spend our holidays in person with our extended family, but they’re certainly here in spirit.

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25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 23

Ahh, Bucilla. The cornerstone of all our Christmas aesthetic. Where would we be without their felt-and-sequin ornaments? All of our childhood memories of decorating Christmas trees revolve around hanging up the ones that Boomer stitched either before we were born or while we were still young. Our memories of our tween years’ Christmases revolve around raiding the boxes of old Bucilla kits stockpiled in the attic and following in Boomer’s footsteps to make our own ornaments. I don’t even have the words to describe the swirl of happy nostalgia that comes with running my fingers over the little glass beads that hold the sequins in place, or the way colored Christmas lights reflect off the metallic sequins with their overlaying beads, or thinking about carefully following the lines printed on the felt as I stabbed through with those sharp, sharp needles as I sat cross-legged on the shag carpet in my 12-year-old self’s bedroom while making the ornaments in July. Nope, Bucilla ornaments are where it starts and ends for us. They are the alpha and omega of a Maple Hoo Christmas.

Tin Man

They still make Bucilla ornament kits, of course, but they’re not old school. They beads are color-coordinated to the sequins, instead of all of them being either clear or black. The designs are less theme-y, and are instead things like Christmas mice, or elves, or — heaven forbid — licensed Mikey Mouses. *Shudder* No, the Bucilla we believe in is all about a story set, like this Tin Woodsman who goes with a Wizard of Oz theme, or the Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf that the two of us stitched ourselves. Most of the ornaments we have left are missing their compatriots, or maybe never had them, but isn’t that the way a Christmas tree is supposed to be? Covered with figures that make up just about a quarter of what should have been a matching set?

Of course, not all of them are well-known characters. One orphaned ornament that’s been around as long as we have is this reindeer:

Reindeer

As long as he’s smiling at us with that jaunty green bow and not a single other member of his team in sight, we know it’s truly Maple Hoo Christmas.

Post by Schnookie

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25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 22

You know those clip-on bird Christmas tree ornaments?

Glass Peacock

We love those. Boomer likes to say they look like farting birds, with their little stiff sprays of “feathers” sticking out of their derrieres. Because we’re classy that way.

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25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 21

Our Christmas traditions have been through a lot of reinventions since our father died 15 years ago. For a few years we didn’t do anything, then we spent a few years trying to make our trees as fancy as possible, in response to our entirely-too-handmade-and/or-threadbare childhood ornaments, and then we swung back into heavy nostalgia for the tattered favorites of our youth. Now we think we’ve struck a pretty good balance. Our ornament collection (which is a lot vaster than what got hung up this year) runs the gamut from the ’70s-tacular and pretty well battered…

Patchwork House

It’s a gingham gingerbread house made of out cloth-covered styrofoam and yarn, of course. And no, it wasn’t made by one of us. This bad boy was purchased. Nice work, Boomer and Dad!

…to the very, very pretty and modern-day.

Cardinals in Snow

After decades of providing all the felt-and-sequin ornaments a tree could ever hope for, Boomer has settled on this decidedly not handmade one as her favorite. Can you blame her?

No, we’re never going to be invited to put Maple Hoo on some themed-Christmas house tour, but that’s okay with us.

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25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 20

We’re getting closer! It’s almost time to open the stack of loot! But “almost” isn’t close enough, so we still have to bide our time basking in the glory of the tree, and wishing for a white Christmas. Sure, most of our friends on the interwebs are reporting all kinds of big snow events, but the best we’ve got is this:

Fuzzy Snowman

I dunno. Does that count?

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25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 19

We’ve been falling terribly behind here in our countdown to Christmas, but that’s because we’ve been justifiably distracted by a new craft hobby (more on that after the holiday). We’d had visions of lovingly photographing and documenting every one of our favorite ornaments, but that’s been totally derailed. For starters, our tree actually looks really good mostly bare:

Ornaments on Tree

But we’ve still managed to dig out a bunch of our faves. Today, let’s take a look at the Arizona specials:

Gourd Hummingbird

This is made out of a gourd of some kind, and Boomer got one for each household between us, KtG, and herself back when she was still in Scottsdale. Now, of course, we have two of them, but we kind of think they’re ugly (don’t tell her), so we only put one up each year.

The other ornament tradition to come from our time in the desert is the handmade ones from The Attic.

Mouse with Candle

This little crewelwork mouse is one of about six hand-crafted, embroidered ornaments we’ve acquired from The Attic’s annual ornament silent auction to benefit breast cancer research. When we were still living there we’d head down to Mesa on the late November night of the affair and enjoy snacks and drinks with our fellow needlewomen, but now we have to just call in our bids ahead of time. We didn’t win any this year, but the auction still raised thousands of dollars, so we consider it a success. (If you’re at all interested in participating in next year’s event, by the way, as either a contributor or just to bid on some of the lovely items up for auction, check out The Attic’s website. Or you can sign up for Jean’s awesome newsletter [which is basically just a regular hit of cross-stitch crack in your email inbox] to get all the latest news and notes from the center of the stitching universe.)

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25 Days of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 18

For all that we love making and eating Christmas cookies, the sweet that gets consumed most at stately Maple Hoo during the holidays is candy from Williams-Sonoma. It started with the Peppermint Bark and turned into a full-fledged obsession a few years ago. Now we have an annual tradition of cashing out our credit card rewards points in November, redeeming them in the form of Williams-Sonoma gift cards. We then take the stack of gift cards to our local W-S and embarrass ourselves by buying tons of candy. Delicious, delicious candy.

December 22 2008

Among the delicacies are:

Peppermint Bark — white and dark chocolate layered with bits of candy cane

Peppermint Cremes — high-class Peppermint Patties with nice, crisp Guittard chocolate

Caramel-Covered Marshmallows — these are the solid gold nuggets of W-S Christmas candy; they cost an arm-and-a-leg a marshmallow, but they are soooo worth it

Beehives — a new addition to the pantheon, these treats let us in on what our Buffalo friends have known all along, sponge candy is awesome

Nut Creams — chocolate-peanut-butter globs are also new this year and had better be back next year; nothing’s worse than having your favorite candy discontinued

We’re almost at the end of the candy supply, carefully divvying up the final marshmallow and peppermint cremes, but it’s definitely a good thing. W-S candy is like strawberries, the season is that much sweeter for how short it is.

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25 Days of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 17

Ever since Favre the cat became part of the Maple Hoo family, we’ve had the Christmas tradition of hoping he doesn’t break anything, knock the tree over, or hurt anyone (including himself). Favre was, from Day 1, an ornament chaser. And, last year, an ornament breaker. He’s been especially dogged about getting those pesky ornaments off our tree this year…

December 21 2008

… which prompted a short discussion about whether we should be attempting to train him to leave it alone…

Favre Lurks in the Tree

… but when he looks at us like that, we just melt and say, “Just don’t break any of the ones we really like.”

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