Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Christmas Cookie Prep – Done!

There was a time when I worked AND I was a mother, and I was a wife (still am) and I had other roles, all of which seemed to require at least a plate of cookies at every occasion, and often some kind of hors d’oeuvres as well. There was only one answer – be prepared! Like a good girl scout, I developed a strategy – do one or two cookies every day for about a week, then store them in storage containers and dig them out when you need them. The good thing is, you can buy these containers and pull them out once a year for a month for many, many years.

One of my earliest memories of Christmas cookies are of my mother and her best friend from university getting together once a year and making rosettes. I made my first rosettes when I graduated from college, sitting over pan on a stove burner, turning it up and then down, trying to get it to hold the perfect temperature, which it never did. Sometime around the 80’s there was a great fad for Fry Babies and Fry Daddies, and the Fry Daddy is just the perfect size for making rosettes, holding the perfect temperature.

This year, I did a hands-on seminar for a family group who wanted to learn how to make these. I am not sure it was a huge success. Everyone succeeded, but one said “I have learned how to appreciate YOU making them in the years to come.” A couple parodied my teaching technique (I am not such a great teacher) and I just figured it means they no longer have to be polite to me; I really am family, that’s what sisters do.

So I made them this week for my friend who hosts a big party every year for the ballet performers. I think of them as ballerina cookies, light as air, mostly made of air – wrapped in fat and sugar:

Rosettes – DONE.

Meringues, too, have that light-as-air feeling, and I am hoping the weather will stay crisp enough that they will not get chewy:

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Still light, and melt-in-your-mouth, are the Russian Teacakes, snowy in powdered sugar:

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Last, but necessary for color, are the stalwart sugar cookies, time-consuming and fiddly, but so good and so colorful:

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Cookie prep – DONE!

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December 13, 2012 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Cooking, Cultural, Food | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Comfort Food: Corn Bread and Chili

While I was cleaning the kitchen and waiting for the last batch of cookies to bake, I whipped up a batch of corn bread for AdventureMan – no use in wasting a hot oven! It is a perfect, cold day in Pensacola. Perfect I say, because it really really is NOT fun baking Christmas cookies – or anything else – in a hot, humid kitchen. How did our grandmother’s and great great’s do it, especially in those voluminous dresses and no air conditioning??

The secret to truly great cornbread is to cook it in a cast iron skillet. You put the skillet in the oven until it is very hot, you take it out (using a pot holder, of course), melt a little butter in the pan, then pour the batter in. It will sizzle, and form a delicious crust. Pop the skillet back into the oven and in 22 minutes (at 425°F) your cornbread will be finished, with a toasty crust. If you want to guild the lily, you can swirl a pat of butter over the top, too.

AdventureMan dunks his corn bread in a glass of milk, which I find totally disgusting, but reminds him of when he was a little boy. It’s just a custom, I know, but I can’t look.

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We have a pot of chili brewing, with the last of our home grown tomatoes:

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The Qatari Cat is following AdventureMan around, telling him to lie down so they can take a snooze together . . . I think it worked. I can hear them both sleeping . . .

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December 13, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatteri Cat | 8 Comments

Christmas House Prep . . . Done!

No, no, not the CELEBRATION of Christmas . . . That’s just beginning. But the craziness of getting ready for Christmas, after which you can sit back and enjoy some time for reflection.

A lot of the pain is self-inflicted. Before I even went to Seattle, I got out the garland and threaded it up the stairs. Found some glittering stars, and worked it so they would twirl and send twinkles of light throughout the entry. I sighed and puffed up and down the stairs . . . putting on lights is hard work, especially if, like me, you like LOTS of lights, it is hard work . . . but so, so worth it in the end. We had a little Christmas lighting up the house!

Stairway: DONE!

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Years and years ago, like thirty years ago, I took a lot of time embroidering this Christmas wreath, so up it goes, every year: DONE

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Life was on the fast track when I got back from Seattle, so I did a little bit every day, like “on the first day of Christmas prep, I hung the reindeer . . . ”

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Then, it’s counter-intuitive, but I needed to get the outside lights up. Like how can it be Christmas if you don’t share? I’m annoyed that the icicle lights don’t match the tree lights; I’ll have to deal with that . . . next year 🙂

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Done!

Now, to drag out all the boxes for the Christmas tree inside, and oh, what an adventure, always, to find forgotten treasures and to remember where we got the ornaments. I find all the pieces of the tree and set it up. I hate using an artificial tree, but the real trees get SO dry, especially when Pensacola experiences an unseasonal warm spell. It’s like you end up with large branches empty of needles, and you find needles strewn on our carpets for months to come.

Tree: done!

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We saved a few ornaments for Q to “help” and three was just the right number, four was one too many, LOL!

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The camel my friend in Doha made me – a Wise Man’s camel, following the great star, laden with gifts for the new baby:

00CDohaCamel

Brass Christmas ornaments from the Women’s Cooperative in Damascus, along with a manger scene from Germany, and a cross – another cross – from Kuwait. Yes, yes, if you knew where to look, there were Christmas ornaments all over Qatar and Kuwait:

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An Italian Creche and a tiny French Santon Creche, jumbled with collected camels and wise men . . . who says there can be only three wise men? I like LOTS of wise men come to greet the new baby Jesus 🙂

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A Nurnberg angel from our first year of marriage and a Damascus tablecloth from our last trip to Damascus:

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Rosenthal angels; I think I might have had these even before I married AdventureMan:

00RosenthalAngels

Have to have a nutcracker – or two, or three . . .

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Some antique German glass ornaments, too fragile to be hung on the tree:

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A total mishmash of all the places we have been, so much fun. Hard work, yes, pulling it all out every year, but every year we grin when we see our old friends and think of all the good times we have had in so many different countries!

Welcome, Jesus! Welcome, all who celebrate the season of your birth!

00CEntry

Done!

December 13, 2012 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Home Improvements, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , , , | 1 Comment

Gemenid Meteor Showers Peak Tonight!

I found this on BBC News; if where you live is as cold – or colder – that Pensacola, you will need to bundle up in a heavy down sleeping bag while you “relax and enjoy the view.”

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The annual Geminids meteor shower will reach its peak late on Thursday night and into early Friday morning.

The meteors will appear to radiate from a point near the star Castor, in the constellation Gemini.

In the Northern hemisphere, that will be westward and nearly overhead in the early hours of Friday.

Sky watchers can expect an average of dozens of “shooting stars” per hour, made easier to see by darkness provided by the “new moon” phase.

The shower comes about each year as the Earth passes through the path of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.

The asteroid leaves behind a trail of rocky debris that the Earth ploughs into each year – debris moving at 35km per second that burns up in the atmosphere in what can be spectacular displays.

According to the International Meteor Organization, the “radiant” – the apparent point from which the meteors seem to come – will be visible from sunset in high northern latitudes, rising at about midnight local time in the southern hemisphere.

“For those old enough or tough enough to stay up until two in the morning, then the radiant point [in the Northern hemisphere] is almost overhead so you could basically look anywhere and see them,” Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society told BBC News. “Go outside, wrap up well, get yourself into a comfortable chair, relax, and enjoy the view.

“It could be 30 [meteors] an hour, it could be 100 an hour. But those are only average figures there maybe a period of 10 minutes that you don’t see anything but equally there may be a period of 10 minutes when you see 30.”

The Geminids are less well-known relative to other annual meteoric performances such as the Perseids, in part because December weather often threatens a clear view of the show.

For the UK that may again be case; BBC Weather reports that southern Scotland and the North of England will have clearest conditions into Friday morning but conditions will tend toward cloudy and windy across the UK through the night.

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December 13, 2012 Posted by | Beauty, Entertainment, Environment, Pensacola, Technical Issue, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment