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    • CommentTimeDec 18th 2009
    My banana nut bread didn't turn out so great. It tastes good, but it's a bit undone in the center near the top, and very dark on the sides and bottom, almost burnt but not quite. I actually like my crust like that, but I was making this bread for neighbors. I used a new recipe that claims to be very moist, and when your banana isn't cooked all the way, then I guess that is indeed moist.

    This failure could be due to the fact that I was using a multi-small loaf pan, which means it makes four small loaves of bread at once, instead of one standard size. But my oven is also not the absolute best perhaps. It doesn't have convection, which may have helped prevent uneven cooking. I'm not sure.

    Then I also made apple spice bread, and it looks like it came out okay, but I should cut into one of the loaves to test the level of moisture. I wanted to give my neighbors small gifts in the form of mini loaves of fruit breads, but I might have to try something else.

    I also plan on making peanut butter cups, chocolate shortbread cookies, and fudge to give as presents to family, including Charles' extended family. The pb cups are contingent upon my ability to temper chocolate. I'm confident that I can do it, but on my first try ever at tempering? Chocolate is expensive, so I don't want to mess it up.

    I'm finished Christmas shopping. My fervor for decorating petered out though. I guess I could have the energy to do more of that before Christmas since I won't be at work. But then, you have to take it all down before too long! We have a tree, some garland hanging from the ceiling in the entryway area, and a few other little things sitting out in the living room. I can't put out anything that the cats would want to chew on though, like flora or fake flora, ribbon, paper, etc. So I went with metal and glass, like snow globes and candle holders.

    However, the cats have left the tree alone about 99.999%. I mean, not a single little swat at an ornament, not one tiny nibble on a tree branch, nor have they even tried to eat the needles fallen on the floor. The one bad behavior was when Sundae chewed for two seconds on the dangling end of a string of lights before I plugged it in, but she's liable to chew on any dangling wire, so I don't think that really counts.

    They enjoy sleeping on the tree skirt, Logic especially, and they're inquisitive when I put more water in the tree stand. When we first brought the tree into the house, they sniffed it while it was still lying on the floor, and they got hyper with all the activity involved in getting the tree upright and secure in the stand. But that's it! I am just in awe. There was a real fear that they would eat the needles and need to go to the vet. I assumed they would try because when we put up an artificial tree for two Christmases, they would not leave that thing alone. They played with the ornaments, chewed on the tree itself, and knocked it over a couple of times.

    I have no big special plans for the holidays. Eat food, exchange presents, play games, eat more food, so on and so forth. I don't like New Year's parties usually, so I haven't been invited to any and don't care. Charles and I have one week off together, so I hope we can go kayaking at least once. We can do some hiking too. I don't want us to stay home the whole time.

    So what's everyone else up to?
    • CommentTimeDec 19th 2009
    That's a lot of baking! I've come to believe that food makes good presents (for certain kinds of people, at least). After all, everyone needs to eat sometime, right? And a lot of times, people don't explore beyond their normal boundries or treat themselves to something expensive, like really good chocolate. It helps that my company sometimes sells food, and that I can get a hefty discount:p

    I don't even know what you mean by tempering chocolate. Does chocolate have a temper? I bet chocolate gets real angry, especially when you try and combine it with other stuff, like peanut butter.

    Regarding cats & christmas, this is always one of my favorite reads: Wrapping Presents (With the assistance of a Cat). Hehehe.

    Nothing terribly special for the holidays for me either. Last year was a bit weird though, because my parents were putting an addition on the house at the kitchen area, and it wasn't done yet. With no kitchen and a messy house, we couldn't have it there, so we ended up going to my uncle's, which was great and a nice change of pace and all, but it will be nice to be back at my parents this year. Also my aunt moved back into the region (from Texas), so she's having a big Christmas eve dinner, something we usually do kinda low key. We're doing the 7 fishes, which will be fun:)

    Other than that, not much going on. It's snowing right now, and apparently we're going to get about a foot of snow today. Score. And I don't have to go anywhere, so that's fun. I got most of my shopping done, I just have to find a present for my uncle. It's hard to shop for a priest though. What do you get a man who's taken a vow of poverty? Usually, I just get him a book or something,but he's probably gotten a dozen unread books from me at this point:p

    But I have off all next week, so I should have plenty of time to find something.

    Heh, so my nieces asked for these books - Diary of a Wimpy Kid or something. And when you search amazon, you find all those books and variants, then they start showing other kids books. The funny thing is that the first few are all about farts. One was called Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger. And the other one was called SweetFarts (and it has a picture on the cover that looks like SweeTarts). I bought those for my brother. Heh.

    • CommentAuthorSovawanea
    • CommentTimeDec 22nd 2009
    My Christmas baking has been less than stellar this year. I decided to make fudge. I wanted to try brown sugar fudge, because I had awesome brown sugar fudge in Canada when I went for a wedding in August. My brown sugar fudge tastes great, but it's sort of crumbly.

    My boyfriend has been doing much better in the making presents for Christmas arena. He's gone gung ho on home preserving. So far, he's made a spiced blueberry jam, a mincemeat and a chestnut vanilla jam, which is more like a nut butter. I highly recommend the home preserving stuff if you have the time. Not the last recipe though. I tried to warn my boyfriend that under no circumstances should any sane person attempt to cook and peel chestnuts. I tried it a few years ago for a brussel sprouts recipe and vowed never again. He thought I was exaggerating. 2 hours, 3 lbs of walnuts and 5 fingernails with blood underneath them later, he's taken the no chestnuts ever again vow with me.

    He's also made some fruit and nut brandy and 'winter solstice' brandy. You don't even have to buy a canning kit or go through the sterilization boils for them, as long as you keep the alcohol content high enough in the mix, it's safe. Basically, he took one bottle of brandy and split it between two mason jars. He added the fruit and spices from the recipes he found and then sealed them up. You shake them every day for about two weeks and then strain through cheesecloth into stoppered bottles for a nice gift presentation.

    We didn't do any decorations really this year, because of the cats and also because we just aren't here on Christmas so it doesn't feel as critical. We switch off every other year in Tulsa and Cleveland. It's a Cleveland year this year. We leave on Wednesday morning and come back on Sunday. We're actually getting rain and not snow on Christmas Eve if the weather report is to be believed.

    I'm 95% done with Christmas shopping. I still have to pick up a gift certificate to the beer making store for my boyfriend, an nerf sword for his nephew and a few more stocking stuffers. But, everything for my family has arrived wrapped by amazon and/or is waiting to be wrapped by mom and sister. Well, except my sister' slow cooker, which I knew when I ordered it would not get there until Christmas.

    Mark, I heard a piece on BBC radio as I was falling asleep last night that was talking about the value of presents in economic terms and it was sort of arguing against buying presents for adults if you don't know for sure that they will truly value them. It mentioned as an alternative a charity gift card where you pick the amount but the recipient could pick what charity it goes too, that might be something that would be great for your uncle. It didn't mention how to get one, though.

    Spencer, we never go out for New Year's either. We have a friend that visits every year and we just stay home and play games. I usually have people over New Year's Day for a traditional Southern feast (with a few vegetarian substitutions), but this is being somewhat thwarted by Ohio State's bowl game being New Year's Day this year. We've only had one RSVP.
    • CommentTimeDec 22nd 2009
    Human Fund FTW:

    I actually gave a bunch of those out a couple years ago. In all seriousness though, that's a pretty good idea. On the other hand, I had a conversation with him since writing that and found out, completely incidentally, that he likes Malcolm Gladwell a lot, but doesn't have Outliers, so there we go:)

    I think the most holiday baking I ever do is chocolate chip cookies. My dad made some crazy cookies this year that have like pecans and milk chocolate chips, and they're pretty good, but I tend to go for the classics, so just plain chocolate chip for me (milk chocolate might be a good change of pace though).

    I've always wanted to try beer making. The only issue is that I don't really have a good place for it. My whole house is sorta open. Except for bedrooms and bathrooms, I can't really close off anything else. Even the basement is kinda open with the rest of the house (and I actually like that). Does it get smelly? That's kinda what I worry about. It gets smelly and then sorta wafts up to the rest of the house.

    But still, the prospect of brewing my own belgian style farmhouse ale instead of paying through the nose for it seems like awesome.

    • CommentAuthorSovawanea
    • CommentTimeDec 22nd 2009
    I don't know if it gets smelly. I was more concerned about how much space it would take up. The lady who owns the store assured me that it can all be crammed in a corner in the basement. I would think it wouldn't be stinky while it was fermenting or aging or whatever in the barrel, but I imagine it could get smelly when you are actually cooking hops or what not.