Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Maegan Saved the Day! ...and started this post before she saved the day, and finished it after, which hopefully explains the dejected beginning!

I haven't posted in a while. You want to know why? Because I haven't even come CLOSE to being a wonder wife lately. I know that you all come here for spectacular recipes, for priceless baking tips, for words of wisdom on keeping your bathrooms clean. But lately I have encountered terrible luck in the kitchen.... Thanksgiving took up all my magic.

Consider, if you will, my Christmas baking...

(This is where I stopped writing this post, looked sadly around my kitchen, and decided December 15th was too soon to talk about Christmas Bakefest 2010, which at that point was a horrible disappointment.

And this is where I proudly resumed posting victoriously. Read on!)

...which is finally finished and boxed up. So, yes, I'm okay to talk about it.

Anyway, I made about two dozen batches of my favorite toffee recipe to hand out as gifts to friends and neighbors. Near the end of the process, I was feeling pretty darn good about my Christmas Bakefest 2010 choice - the toffee froze well, it was simple to make, and it looked great spread out in sheets across the dining room table. Yes sir, this was the right thing to make in bulk. No more individually wrapping cookies so they wouldn't go stale, or blending up hot cocoa mix to try to divvy amongst messy plastic bags. Yeah baby! Toffee! Toffee all the way!

Until about a week later, when I took it out of the freezer and began breaking it into chunks to box up for my office in Michigan. The toffee broke cleanly and easily, and the chocolate sheeted up and fell completely off the toffee. So I had a thin chocolate-nut layer, and a bunch of naked toffee.

And every batch did this. The chocolate fell completely off every batch.

So I decided to whip up some toffee cookies. Delicious, right? So after dinner, while Brian was relaxing on the couch, I threw together some regular chocolate-chip cookie dough, instead substituting the chocolate for a small amount of the toffee and chocolate I had chopped so meticulously. The dough tasted great.

Unfortunately, when I baked it, here's what happened:

The toffee, which of course is supposed to cool at room temperature, melted in the oven, turned to liquid butter and sugar, and made the cookies spread out faster than a girl trying to tan by the pool in June. You can see toward the back of the sheet that I as trying to shore up the cookies with a spatula. You can see toward the middle that I abandoned that pursuit as a waste of time.

The cookies didn't taste terrible..... so I ate them all. I didn't mean to. But I was just so sad about my toffee... and the cookies... and Chrismas Bakefest 2010 turning into Christmas BakeFrustration 2010.

Now you will know why I am 15 lbs. heavier upon my visit to Michigan.

Are you still following this? I tip my hat and thank you kindly. Here's a ha'penny, and God bless you.

So on the Saturday before Christmas, I forlornly gazed upon my naked toffee and my sad melted chocolate sheets, and I dejectedly walked over to the fireplace and sat on the hearth. Brian was hunting, and Bo and I were all alone. My dog looked up at me as if to say, what's wrong?

"I don't know what to do, Bo. I don't want to throw away all my hard work. And have nothing to give our friends and neighbors." He sighed and set his chin on my foot. "I guess I could melt the chocolate back down and dip the toffee." Bo didn't lift his head again, but looked up at me from the floor. "I could do that," I acknowledged, the hope of an idea flooding my darkened, woebegone soul. "That's what I'll do!" And Bo lifted his head and gave me a nod of encouragement, a bark of approval, and a wide doggy smile. (Ha! Not really. But that would happen in a movie.)

And though it took me the whole day and lots of extra chocolate, that's just what I did. By golly, I dipped every piece of that naked toffee and it turned out even better than before. And I boxed it up and I've given some of it away and I have more to bring to church on Wednesday! And so, I guess I am a Wonder Wife after all!

Hooray! Christmas Bakefest 2010 was saved!

I'm looking to sell the movie rights to this story. Let me know if you know anyone who's interested.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

December in Raleigh

The ornamental grass is broken and not sticking upright anymore, which has nothing to do with winter but instead with the fact that I dropped the plant before putting it into the ground.

The dogwood tree is down to buds only...

Beau is as handsome as ever.

All the leaves are pretty much gone, but the sweetgum trees are still brilliant.

There are still raspberries on our plants, despite nights that dip below freezing.

The coneflowers are dried up and looking quite spiky.

The camelia bushes are in bloom...

... and the vinca vine is still green and pretty, setting off leaves that look way cooler than this photo makes them look.

There are just one or two yellow redbud leaves still hanging on. Their heart shape is my favorite.

The tea olives are in bloom.

The delphiniums are still rocking it.

The pansies on the front porch are all sorts of Christmasy.

And funniest of all, I have a very confused forsythia bush. Over the dry, hot summer, many of them shriveled up and - I thought - died. But when the rain came they sprung back to life, and now they look appropriately fall-ish. See exhibit A:

But the ones that lost their leaves also tried to come back. But the problem is, they think it's spring. See exhibit B:

See the weak and wimpy flowers? I feel so bad for it! I just know it's thinking, What the heck?! I want to tell it, "Go to sleep!"

Three hours after I took these pictures, we got three inches of snow. Go figure! All the pretty blooms shriveled up, all the leaves finished falling, the raspberry bushes melted into frost, and the three of us went inside to curl up by the fire. But days later, when we emerged, those darn forsythia flowers were still hanging on. It's winter, shrub. Go take a long nap.