Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back to The Bog :: Cooking and Crafting

The care packages are boxed and labeled. I will be at the P.O. first thing Monday morning.

And now, while Geoff and the kids build a robotic arm float for the holiday parade, I am going to get things started in the kitchen. It is very much a multi-tasking day, as I give some robotics' club members sewing tips, prepare them snacks, and dinner, and also cook a thing or too for Thanksgiving. The kitchen smells wonderful, and I can hear power tools and rain fall... bliss.

Well, I am doing it again! I love Martha Stewart's cranberry relish, but since I am the only one that loves it, this time I cut the recipe in half. Maybe it will gain popularity this year, which will give me a good excuse to make more.

The flavors of ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, citrus, and cranberries... they all cook and ooze together, and I think it tastes delicious.

We plan on constructing gingerbread houses this year. It's a favorite family tradition. But what about little gingerbread houses... a perfect size to accompany your hot drink? "Not Martha" has an amazing cooking~craft you will want to see, and make. I think they look irresistible.

"Eat~Drink~Chic" is sharing a little bird... a graphic to download for Amy Moss's candy in a cup craft.

Over at Heather Bailey's blog, Heather has whipped up a great craft and tutorial. Download her free PDF pattern and directions. And those felts she sells are very nice.

Everything in to the pot, and slowly simmering until the cranberries POP! I love that part!

1 + 1 = 2: Two great projects from "Cart Before the Horse," like a clever little display shelf. And to fuel my obsession with little houses, Jo also shares a tutorial for her little houses.

Which reminds me... next week, when I am definitely not shopping at a mall, I will be visiting "32˚ North!" Amanda will be having a promotion and Etsy sale on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And, if you have a shop on Etsy Avenue, stop by 32˚North Blog and pick up a free banner and avatar from Amanda.

Okay. One more blog link just to keep the fun rolling: Hop over to Monica Solorio-Snow's place, because she is the "Happy Zombie" and she is having a giveaway! She calls it 5 or So Days of Holiday Happy in honor of her Gnome~tastic fabric line: Holiday Happy. I already know what a winterland of whimsy these prints are because I was one of the lucky winners of her first Holiday Happy Giveaways. Thank you Monica!

My relish is calling!

Happy Weekend Before Thanksgiving everyone!


Lady Betty Orpington asked me to announce the winners of her Holiday Preparedness Care Package Giveaway. (She's busy doing chica things at the moment. After she pulled two names from the hat, she looked me square in the eye, and asked me to give a chica some privacy!)

First name pecked, and winner of Care Package #2: Beverly, of Tea Time and Roses. Congratulations Beverly!

Betty pecked a second winner, Rois, of Hrafinstaad. Rois Care Package #1 is all yours!

I read and enjoyed every comment. Betty was clucking happily all day... I know she liked the flattery, the sensible tips, the good humor. And I liked sharing a bit of fun with old friends and new friends. Thank you everyone for playing, and do come back... I am going to share blog-link-holiday love, later today!

Zoltar kept attacking my rain boots while I was consulting with Lady Betty. I am less concerned about his attempts to bring me down, than the chance that I may accidentally crush the little twerp.

I scoop him up, and give him regular doses of tough love. He actually likes the attention. But as he was particularly cocky this morning, I told him the story of Thanksgiving... turkey and all. I added that "our oven is broken, and I have no room for a big turkey on our grill, but that I could fit a smaller fowl..."

That settled him down.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Elves On Our Shelf

It is not too late to flatter, bribe, blackmail to enter
Lady Betty Orpington's Holiday Preparedness Care Package Giveaway!

In other news... The elves on the shelf are packing for their trip east. They are moving to Tennessee, where they will join the band of merry elves living with Aunt Jane. Apparently Jane's band has no drummers.

The elves told me they want to get an early start. Their flight doesn't leave til Saturday morning, but they are going to decline the TSA full body scan. And I overheard them practicing "Don't touch my junk." More power to you guys!

I was going to send them without luggage. Everything is such a hassle, but they don't carry cash, and it could be a long day, so I better send along something with them...

(I hope one box is enough. Sometimes they eye each other hungrily, and it makes me a little concerned.)

Have a safe journey elves! Write! Thanks for spending your summer with us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lady Betty Orpington Asks:

Are you prepared?

Betty's asking. And in case you need help jump starting your holidays, Betty has scratched up a few favors for a holiday giveaway! She's hosting this giveaway to help two lucky Chickenblog readers prepare for the holidays.

Me: So, Betty,
what did you find to share with our friends? Anything corny?

Betty: Bok-bok-bok-bokkk-bop

Me: Okay then. Let's just have a look...

Care Package One
Betty, these look great. I see you included cranberries. Betty, do you like Bog Spread too? A wine opener... classy. Dark chocolate... very classy. And All Natural Fruit Flavored Yogurt Candy? Betty, you are a smart shopper. I see you've been to Trader Joe's. And the mouse? Nice touch including a homemade treat for the kitties.

Care Package Two
The Art of Chocolate, yes very thoughtful. Those pretty little Belgian chocolates are a welcome luxury. Betty, is that the new Sharpie that writes in a festive silver sparkle? And I see tape and a Post-it note pad. Who can get from here to the New Year without tape and lists? Not me. Oh, and another homemade gift... it smells so good!

On Saturday, bright and early, Chicken time, Betty is going to draw two names. First name gets their first choice of the two care packages, and the second name drawn gets the remaining care package. So, leave Betty a comment, be sure to let her know your first choice, and share a favorite tip: How do you stay cool, calm, collected, and connected during the holidays?

Here is an incentive to spread the word about Lady Betty Orpington's Holiday Giveaway: Share a link back to this post in your blog, let us know in the comments, and we will put your name in the grain sack twice!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making Bog Spread

Breakfast. Tea. Light dinner. Satisfying snack. Bog Spread: Whipped cream cheese, crammed full of cranberries and walnuts. Do try this at home.

And before I share how it's done, I must remind everyone: Chickenblog is making no money. Unfortunately. Not one cent of ad revenue has found its way to our piggy bank, and so if I go on and on about a place, one particular shop, a favored Trader, please understand it is just my personal bias and affection for those marvelous purveyors of culinary delights.

We call our concoction Bog Spread, because of the cranberries. Cranberries, true story, are grown in bogs, and bogs we know from our visits to Oregon. We have a fondness for Oregon, bogs, cranberries, and Grandma and Grandpa... especially Grandma and Grandpa, who taught us all things marvelous about Oregon, bogs, and cranberries.

So to make the spread we get some cranberries, whipped cream cheese, and walnuts.


Whipped Cream Cheese.

This is not the kind of recipe that calls for measurements, or precision. This is about instincts, and flavor favors. Which flavors do you favor?

Alex and I favor the flavor of the cranberries, and we chop them up a bit before adding them to the cheese. All the cranberry bits wake-up and spread out in the spread.

The walnuts add good flavor as well, and we favor the crunch of all those walnut bits, so we toss in quite a few nuts too.

Whipped cream cheese, chopped cranberries, walnut bits... all mixed together in a ratio that you favor. This tastes delicious right away, and even better when the dried fruit and cheese have kind of melded together.

I take mine on a slice of toasted honey wheat berry. But... after Thanksgiving, when the dishes are done, and the pie is almost gone... Alex and I will be in the kitchen making Bogwiches. Bogwiches are turkey sandwiches on the grainiest-seediest-toastiest-tastiest bread you can track down, topped with Bog Spread, and some leafy greens. Oh my.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do You Have a Fish?

Friducha, I call her. Mi Flor.

She is still having whooping fits. Of course very little ever actually slows her down. She still wants to sing and dance, color, cook, be a good farmer to her chicas and garden. She still gets incredibly silly. And even more incredibly affectionate. She speaks in endearments.

Yesterday I saw game cards at the market. I brought home "Go Fish!" I remember "Go Fish" and "Old Maid." The cards my mom bought me and my brothers were jumbo size, and I loved the comical illustrations on them.

Both Max and Maria were very curious and enthused to learn this new game.

A nice thing about Max: He likes games. Another nice thing about Max: He likes playing anything from chess, which he is very good at, to Go Fish. He is a patient, diplomatic, and intelligent game player... he reasons every angle, and readily offers critical analysis, concise descriptions of rules, and probable outcomes. This is especially true when we play poker. Max loves poker.

My flower girl caught on quickly. We've all played many rounds since yesterday.

The screen... (insert laughter here) That's the screen we built last spring and tried to enjoy all summer, but the mosquitoes sent our outdoorscreen indoors. It dominates an entire wall of our living room, but it is so super awesome we cannot bear to pack it away! In fact, I could be persuaded to host another movie night soon... very soon.

Maybe a poker night too. Or an autumn potluck. It's just that time of year when playing inside is extra enjoyable.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Playing in the Kitchen

Last year, after the holidays, my friend, Jennifer, and I agreed that we wanted to hold on to our holiday-creative-energetic spirit and get a jump on next year! Well, I hope she agrees that it isn't too late to get that jump. For the last ten months I have been planning, hoping, dreaming, and wanting to make things for Christmas... gifts, decorations, crafts, but you know... stuff happens, and the days pass, and suddenly: November!

All right. So this isn't exactly early planning. But there is still time to enjoy some crafts, and leisurely preparing. Alex, Maria, and I had the glue and glitter out today, and we made some ornaments... mostly acquainting ourselves with some lovely supplies I have been collecting and the beautiful things from 32˚North that arrived. We had a grand time... the carpet is sparkling!

I cleaned up all of the paper-glue-glitter fun, and then decided to try stamping on some little muslin bags I had on hand, and then I remembered the can of mulling spices I brought home from Trader Joe's.

These smell wonderful! Look at all those bits of spice and orange rinds... the cloves, cinnamon. It even sounds lovely. Maria asked if she could stir them, to hear them tumble around in the can. Following the directions on the can, I measured two heaping tablespoons, and centered that in a square of cheese cloth.

With a long section, about sixteen inches, of cotton cooking twine, I cinched the cheese cloth around the spices. I tied it close to one end of the string, leaving a long end to make a loop with.

The big loop is for convenience. It can hang over a wooden spoon when steeping the spices in cider or wine, making it easier to remove when you are ready to serve your spiced beverage.

I chose a chickadee and a simple star to stamp my bags, and love how they came out. A little rustic charm s'il vous plait? I put the cheesecloth wrapped spices in the stamped muslin bag, then added a tag.

One more little stamp, another bird. Bird... Bird House... get it? I thought it was a sweet touch.

I need more muslin bags! I want to share these with everyone. I want the house to fill up with the aroma of spice and fruit! I like the idea of giving them alone, as a token of kindness, or with a jug of cider... maybe a hostess gift? Coupled with a nice red wine, and it could be a very classy gift.

If you have a friend with an eclectic collection of stemware, like me, who loves to mix up her styles, like me... then the mulling spices would go beautifully with a pretty wine glass, or a thrift-shop goblet, like mine!

These aromatic gift bags are ready to go.
That was fun.

Ugly Delicious!

Simply Delicious!

I believe there is sufficient evidence that my cake "decorating" skills suggest I should take early retirement from being the resident baker!

William, Alex, and Maria came to me and announced, with comical force: "We are making a cake. That's how it is."

And they did. A real beauty. Maria helped mix the frosting. William was there melting the butter. Alex prepared the pans...

I missed the key shot... the one that shows the cakes dropping out of the pans, clean and whole... nary a crumb out of place! Nothing like my last attempt. And by "last" I mean "most recent," and last effort. I do retire from cake making. I already placed an order from them for Maria's birthday cake.

Imagine the awesomeness factor of a day that includes building a robotic arm for a holiday parade (more on this later!), a simply delicious and beautiful chocolate cake (mixes from our favorite purveyor of eatable goods), and new books!

There's a new blogger in town. She's keeping "a little family journal:" Dottie and Mae!" Not only did I have the good fortune of discovering her blog, but I also happened to arrive in time for her giveaway! Karla has two beautiful children, she's creative, and she is making happy reflections, and preserving special memories... all such good reasons to be a blogger.

It's not easy to introduce me to a new children's book, let alone one about Christmas! My book collection is pretty big already. But Karla surprised with some ones I didn't even know about. Lucky us! Night Tree is wonderful... peaceful and genuine, a family story about our place in the natural world, told with imagination and a loving Christmas spirit.

And Bear Stays Up has already moved his way in to Maria's heart and imagination. Why else would the dining table be covered in drawings of bears in caves? Both of these books are living on the nightstand, for guaranteed bedtime reading and enjoyment.

Thank you Karla.
Thank you William, Alex, and Maria.
Any weekend with chocolate cake, new friends, robotic arm plans, and good reads, is a weekend to savor and enjoy.