Monday, December 24, 2012

Last-Minute Details

5518 poinsettia 

Today's to-do list:
-cut out and count Box Tops that expire this month.
-work on that one last gift, even though it will never get done in time.
-don't eat all the chocolate cookies; after all, I told the boys they still need sprinkles!
-watch some Poirot while working on the previous three items. 
-iron blouse for church tonight.  It's red, of course! 

Merry Christmas to all my friends and loved ones, near and far!

IMG_5512

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vanilla Sugar

No, that's not dirty snow!
5348 vanilla sugar 

After pouring some little jars of vanilla extract, we had some vanilla beans ready for re-purposing.   I threw them in the food processor with a cup of sugar and blended it up.  The big chunks of vanilla were sifted out and processed with a second cup of sugar, and then repeated this with a third cup of sugar.  You can see in the picture how the sugar on the right has more brown bits than the middle, and the sugar on the left has the least.  We actually did a fourth pass with just a half a cup of sugar because I didn't know how much more would fit in the jar.  We mixed it all together and put it back in one of the quart jars that we used to make the vanilla extract.  Vanilla sugar!  Time to make some cookies...!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 : 12 : 12

IMG_4861 

More than halfway through the day, I realized it was 12-12-12, and that was on my list of things to shoot for the 112 in 2012 photo group.  I didn't have anything 12-12-12-worthy to shoot and it was almost dark.  Then I realized, it's just like any other day:  the magic is there, I just have to stop and look for it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmastime is Here

Personally, I enjoyed the cool morning, with my newly finished, hand knit sweater, and a stack of packages waiting to be sifted through, presents waiting to be wrapped. 

IMG_4159

We usually make some of our preserves into smaller jars to give as gifts at Christmastime.  It is the perfect gift for a teacher or neighbor - consumable, not expensive enough to warrant any strong obligations, and yet very personal; not something we just ran out and got.  In addition to the preserves, this year I was inspired by this post to try my hand with vanilla extract.  In May, I purchased a pound of organic vanilla beans and split them with a friend (I think they came out to about fifty cents a piece), and bought some vodka.  Then some more, then some more.  I filled up five quart jars with Fleischmann's Royal Vodka, chopped the ends off of eight beans (per jar), split them lengthwise, and put them in the jars.  We gave the jars a little tip or shake every day for a month, and then continued to do so every now and then as the thought occurred. I read you're supposed to put extract in amber jars but we didn't have any amber quart jars; we did keep them in a very dark pantry.  I also used a few beans here and there in some of our preserves and other recipes!

Day 1
1546  vanilla extract, day 1

After a few months, I decided I should try this vanilla, make sure it tastes like the store-bought vanilla (that's the standard, isn't it?).  I tried the store-bought vanilla - just a sip, almost choked!  So I figured if that's what I've been putting in my cookies all these years, I don't have a very high standard to meet!  Anyway, when we ran out of our store-bought vanilla, it had been the recommended six months of steeping, so we've been using the "homemade" stuff ever since.  Is it better?  I don't know, but I sure put a lot of thought into it.  I mean, of course it is! Tastes as great as ever.

I purchased two dozen two-ounce amber bottles from Specialty Bottle, and poured the liquid through a clean cloth to sift out the debris, and filled up my little brown bottles.  Now we have lots of little gifts to give!

By my calculations, this is Day 191. 

4131 vanilla extract, day... 191?


Thank goodness I do a little planning ahead every now and then, so I don't have to do everything at the last minute!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Dawns

December dawns.

We began this month with the anticipation of many great things, including the hunt for the perfect tree.  After a good night's sleep, my parents, my brother's family, and my own family headed out.  Despite the lack of snowy, or really any wintry weather, in northern Colorado, and being surrounded on all sides by beetle kill and evidence of the fire, we all found perfect trees.  I'll post a picture of ours soon.

Many more good things to come.  One that I relish, real mail:  hand addressed envelopes with notes from people I know!