Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Santa Mojo

Santa Mojo wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

(Please DON'T sit in his lap!!!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fudge: It's a Family Tradition

Have you ever noticed that many of the things we feel passionate about in life often have roots in our childhood? Fudge is one of those things for me, and for my brother. We'd listen endlessly to my mother talk about the great fudge her mother, my Nana, made. Fudge even became my aunt's favorite food, though she manages to pace herself and still has a gorgeous figure. Since my mother is not a cook, she'd stop at almost any place that made fudge to see if she could recreate that experience from her own childhood.

But my siblings and I all love to cook. So every year at Christmas, my brother and I make pounds and pounds of fudge, giving most of it away. We've researched the recipes, tried dozens, and always come back to the recipe that's on the back of the Kraft Jet Puff Marshmallow (pictured). It's simple, and I've never, ever had a failure in all the years I've made this. The photo above includes the Santas I blogged about earlier in the week, and the first pieces of the creamy heaven from this morning.

And here's the recipe in case you can't find Kraft Jet Puff Marshmallow:

Fantasy Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine (or 1-1/2 sticks)
1 small can (5 oz) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
1-1/2 pkg. (12 squares) BAKER’s semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped (I ALWAYS use a 12 oz bag of Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate chips instead)
1 jar(7 oz) JET PUFFED marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped walnuts (I like Pecans)
1 tsp vanilla

Heat sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3 quart heavy saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil on medium heat until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in chocolate and marshmallow creme until melted; stir in vanilla and walnuts.

Spread immediately in foil-lined 9 inch square pan. Cool at room temperature at least 4 hours; cut into 1 inch squares. Store in airtight container.

Makes 3 lbs. or 40 2 square servings

Happy Birthday Dear Sparky Girl!

Here's my darling girl in her custom-made Armani sweater (shhhhh! It's really a clearance item from Target). Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Goodbye, Gourmet Magazine

My dear friend, Novel Woman, posted today about the demise of Gourmet Magazine. I commented that I am positively DEVASTATED over the news. I have been a devoted foodie for eons, and have at times subscribed to many different food magazines. I got tired of every one of them. Then I found Gourmet. It wasn't simply a magazine chock-full of excellent recipes, which in of itself would work for me.

What made Gourmet unique was the spectacular writing. I loved opening the magazine and reading the words of Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief. I even liked seeing her photo, because she looked so happy to be there, like someone who enjoyed her job. Really, how many times do you read the editorial?

Gourmet always managed to tell the reader a great story. For example, in the Southern Cooking edition of January, 2008, Gourmet told us a story of one Miss Lewis, a great Southern cook. She's someone I would have loved to have met, and reminded me a bit of my Southern granny, Mamo.

Novel Woman requested that I post Miss Lewis' Featherlight Potato Roll recipe. Don't flip out when you see how long this recipe takes. You simply make up the dough in the morning, then pop it in the oven before dinner. I think that's actually much easier, because you can then tend to the other dishes in the evening.

I start making these in the morning and let them sit during the day. If I have time to chill them for the 8-12 hours, fine; but if I don't, I go ahead and let them rise without the chilling and they are still divine. I always make rolls in one of those 9x13 glass pans, setting out three rows of five rolls for a total of 15 rolls. Reason? Because that's the way my Mamo did it, and clearly, if Mamo did it that way, it must be best.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Santas Say Merry Christmas From Around the World

I used to live in Dallas, Texas, where there was a wonderful needlepoint shop in an old section of town. Not only did the shop feature gorgeous canvases, but they also had classes taught by the incredible Patsy, a charming Southern Belle, and her daughter Julia.

Each year when I get out the Santa dolls that I made in their classes, I remember how much fun we all had. If you are thinking of picking up a craft, I highly recommend taking a class, not just for the knowledge imparted, but also for the fellowship.

Santa Claus:

The American Santa:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DAM! It's My Painting!

No, I didn't paint this stunning painting, but I have decided that it belongs to me. Sort of. Let me explain.

It's entitled Ghost Orchard, by Langford Monroe, and was painted in the year 2000. I'm a big museum buff and was at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) this past Saturday. On my way to a traveling exhibit, I encountered this painting, a painting I cannot recall seeing before, even though I've visited the DAM many times. How on earth did I miss this? (Click on the painting so you can appreciate it better)

I have been watching a Teaching Company course on the Louvre. The professor, Dr. Richard Brettell, gives practical advice on how to get more out of your museum visits. One of the things he encourages people to do is to choose a painting in a museum as your own, the painting you will always come back and visit each trip to see if you notice anything new, or if you feel differently about it.

This painting is the one for me, the one I want to know well and see again and again. It evokes the land of my childhood, filled with orchards, although my orchards were filled with pecan trees. As a teenager, I used to drive out to the Rio Grande by myself at twilight, and watch the day's end, or ride my bike out to watch the sunrise, and though the bank was not covered in grass the way this one is, the feeling of complete serenity is the same.

And what about the white horses? What do they mean? Am I supposed to understand these animals as being real? Or are they spirits? I'll have to go back and take another looksey.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often

My dear friend, The Novel Woman, is an incredible writer and has entered a contest. SHE'S MADE THE FINAL ROUND!!! While NW is so gifted that she's won most every writing contest I've heard of her entering, we need to make sure she wins another. So hie thyself over pronto and vote for her hilarious poem, Poem #2, by Pamela, because it is clearly the best. Click here to vote before Wednesday.

I Miss Nana

I love Christmas, as many of us do. Right now, I'm very footed in the present, making sure all the frippery gets frappered and the Big Event goes off smoothly. It's only natural that when I am alone in the car heading out for Christmas shopping and the miles fly by, I am transported to Christmases of old, and I remember those who are no longer with me to celebrate.

One person I have been thinking of lately is my Nana. I adored both of my grannies, who were and continue to be my role models. They both have been gone for many years, but never forgotten. Rather than pine, which Nana would find absurd, I do something for my kids that my Nana did for me: I make chop-chop eggs and toast and serve them up on Nana's bridge china. How can soft-boiled eggs chopped up with butter and salt and pepper and served with buttery toast be so good? Because Nana made them with love.

One of her many talents was playing duplicate bridge and smiting all her opponents, but always with a smile. I have the dainty plates and cups she used at her bridge parties, and I use them and enjoy the heck out of them, just as Nana always enjoyed life. Nana is still with me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Writing Tip #723: Weird *ss Trail Mix

Geez, I hate giving out writing tips. I don't mind reading them, but I feel a bit pretentious giving them out, as if I know what I am talking about. But this time I actually do know, and this one is too yummy to keep to myself.

So this is me, getting ready to write: I grab my pad of extra-heavy paper, the kind that doesn't allow the ink from any one of my three sacred fountain pens to leak through.

Then I call up a friend, because I like writing on a team, and I've got one terrific team mate in the form of Biker Chick. She's inspiring, the way she blasts away at the poor laptop without even stopping to breathe. I have to sneak a peek over at her now and again to make sure she's not turned blue, and then at her keyboard, because I expect to see it bloodied or bruised, especially the space bar.

Sometimes we write at coffee shops; sometimes we stay at home, which could be boring except that we know how to spice it up. You see, we always make a small dish of Weird Ass Trail Mix, which was borne of leftover Halloween candy that was no longer appealing. The mix consists of whatever you've got hanging, like cashews, Lime and Chili Almonds, Good and Plenty, Sugar Babies, Reese's Pieces, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, and even some old chocolate chips that have been "curing" (a bonafide Julia Child term) in the fridge too long.

This particular combo is quite conducive to writing Sci-Fi**. Are you clueless as to how you're going to write that scene where your human main character has sex with an alien to save the Universe? You know you gotta throw out all your preconceptions to get that one figured out. And then it hits you:
Must be something like the way your entire being gets all scrambled when eating a Junior Mint and some Good and Plenty together.

Go ahead, Try this at home.

**Too bad I'm not writing Sci-Fi.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What's Your Favorite Bed Time Story?

More snow is on its way. Time to settle in for a good read.

Sparky requests her favorite story, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, one of the greatest stories around about being lost, and then being found by those who love you best.

She always has happy dreams afterwards.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Knitted Hats

It's snowing outside, and Christmas is nearly here. Time to knit one of the easiest and best-loved projects of all, the hat. One hat generally takes 200 yards of yarn, or about 1 1/2 skeins. I hate wasting that 1/2 skein that's leftover, so I almost always buy three skeins, and make two hats. Here are the two hats I made out of three skeins of Noro, a yarn from Japan renowned for intense color:

Here's a closeup of the first hat, knit in the round on double-pointed needles:

The top of the hat:

The second hat took longer to make, as it features a slip-stitch pattern. Even though it is the same yarn, the pattern makes the hat feel thicker:

I love the crown of the hat, which shapes itself into a hexagon simply from decreasing:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger's Tale, Taiwanese Style

In case you didn't get the news, or didn't understand what you did hear, this video explains everything you need to know in less than two minutes, with awesome animation:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One of Life's Mysteries

The other day I opened my post office box and found the latest Victoria's Secret Christmas Catalog. As I began looking through it, I wondered how my ordering something from this catalog is a way of celebrating Baby Jesus' birthday. I thought about it some more. If placing an order will deepen my spirituality, why didn't I get a Vicki's catalog for Yom Kippur? Nor did I receive one to help me celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 30. How about you?

Do you get it?