we did it!

we survived christmas!! not everything got done that i wanted done (but that involved tearing down a wall) but the dining room was set up nicely, there was way too much food for everyone (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, shredded sweet potatoes with garlic and fresh sage, chestnuts braised in port, red peppers stuffed with fennel, and green beans), even if it was all a little overdone because someone didn't tell me three o'clock that our guests had confirmed that they would arrive at four (i had asked them to arrive at three for dinner at four), and then they didn't arrive till gone four-thirty anyway...

no matter! tg loved the gloves i knit him, baby siena's mum loved the hat and mittens i knit for her, everyone was suitably impressed by the shelves, and more importantly, our guests did all the dishes! and we have enough leftovers i won't have to cook for days.

and speaking of leftovers, i almost forgot the best part: when we were little, we used to always have a sara lee frozen pecan coffee cake on christmas morning. after going without for decades, a bought one maybe five years ago, and... it was foul. it tasted like aluminum with a sprinkling of vanillin and msg. so after failing to google anything that looked right to me, i freestyled a recipe and was extremely pleasantly surprised with the results - not least because i have had no success with yeast-raised things in years, not counting the nyt no-knead bread. so i was thrilled that it rose at all, more thrilled with how puffy and light and moist it was, and also thrilled with the taste (the proof of the pudding being in the eating).

so here is my recipe:

christmas morning pecan coffee cake

1/2 cup warm water
3/4 tsp white sugar
1/4 oz yeast (one package)
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

2 tbs soft butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup pecan halves
2 tbs flour
milk for brushing


2 tbs soft butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 TBS milk

dissolve sugar in warm water in a bowl. sprinkle yeast over and allow to sponge (about 10 minutes).

combine flour and sugar in a large bowl. make a well in the centre. pour in yeast mixture.

beat egg together with milk and pour it into the flour as well. stir together, add melted butter, and stir until well combined. cover with greased waxed paper (or a butter wrapper) and set in a warm place to double in bulk (about two hours).

meanwhile, make topping by creaming together the butter and sugar. put 3/4 cup of pecans (save the rest for decoration) in a food processor with the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add to the bowl with the sugar and butter and mix together.

punch down the dough, dump out on a floured board, and knead for five minutes, until dough feels silky. add more flour if necessary, but it should be quite soft.

roll out into a circle about 1/4 inch thick and 16 or so inches in diameter. make 12 cuts from the outside edge about 1/2 of the way to the middle.

lift the dough gently into a greased and floured pie plate or quiche dish. sprinkle topping in the middle. take one of the twelve strips of dough, twist it once, fold it in towards the centre of the plate, and sprinkle with topping. repeat with remaining strips so they all overlap towards the centre. sprinkle with remaining topping and pecan halves. set in a warm place to rise until double (another two hours).

brush with milk and bake for 35 minutes at 350 F.

make frosting by creaming together the butter and sugar; stir in vanilla and milk. drizzle over coffee cake and serve hot or cold.


feeling guilty, or not

okay, so i was feelign kind of guilty that i haven't sent out all our christmas cards yet. about a third went out weeks ago, a dozen went out today, and the rest are still to be glued/signed. argh.

but then when i mailed today's lot, the mailboxes were so full they wouldn't close properly. really. i guess i'm not the only last-minuter.

so what's left to do before the 25 december rolls around?

i've knitted & felted the baby's stocking, but haven't lined or embroidered it yet. my own stocking doesn't even have my name on it. i dream of having a cute new dress and making pyjamas for the baby; we'll see. living room is sorted. dining room is a mess. tg's gloves are almost done (one finger to go!). there is some baking to do, and of course the cards. and ordering a turkey and making stuffing.

i need more time off!



finito! well, i haven't done any painting obviously, and i do want to drive a few more nails for stability's sake, but other than that, voila!

please ignore the dusty footprints on the sofa... the world is my stepladder.

and note the artful placement of paint cans in hopes of flattening out one of the shelves that has a bit of a wow to it.

and now, i am going to finish off my bowl of leftover mincemeat, and sleep for as long as possible.

holiday madness day three - finished! or not!

five o'clock - time to tidy up & get baby. i've got all the shelves installed on one side (yay!) but not the other (boo!) fortunately the cutting & installing of shelves is the fun part. quick and easy. here's the done bit:

and here's the day's biggest time-user: the part where i had to shape the wood to fit around the crown moulding:

this old radio is completely non-functional (bought for $5, i intend to replace its innards with innards that function) but works great as a weight.

holiday madness day three - morning update

well of course i am massively behind schedule (i blame everyone else - home depot for their stupid truck, young marmaduke for soaking himself in juice which cost me about ninety minutes yesterday) - the original plan was one day building, one day painting, one day organising. instead it's three days building, painting postponed till january, and hopefully i will get some organising done at some point...

anyway this morning at breakfast i plotted out each and every step needed to finish the bookcase; there are fourteen steps, and i've got done one through seven. now, i am off to get a gouge (and some fresh air).


holiday madness day two

okay, taking a quick break as my hands are vibrating and ears are ringing due to a combination of scroll saw and circular saw, and i need a bit of fresh air before i get back to it... but i am feeling quite pleased with myself! the project is really starting to take shape:

the tricky bit is that each piece of wood needs to be precisely measured due to the general wonkiness of the house. but i'm quite proud of the job i did cutting the boards to fit around the moulding at the top of the window:

the paint's peeling on the woodwork around the window and you can see that it's a lovely dark wood underneath... part of me wants to strip it (and all of the rest of the woodwork around the windows and doors, and the baseboards) but that would take forever. sigh.

eta: the end effect is meant to be something like all of the bookcases in those gorgeous manhattan apartments that woody allen's characters inhabit... the only pic i could find (without wasting too much time is not ideal, but it will do (from hannah and her sisters )


holiday madness day one

this week, i have taken three days off work in order to get a crapload of stuff done before the holidays. mainly, our dining room needs to be "reclaimed" which means the stuff in there needs to move to the storage room which means the storage room needs emptying/organizing which means i am building bookcases in the living room. our living room is tiny, and our house is old and slightly wonky, so in addition to being less expensive that buying nice shelves, building them means they will fit properly. for example: the idea is to have shelves on either side of the window. but the window isn't exactly centred. it is kind-of-centrish, just centrist enough for you to think it should be symmetrical and for it to look stupid if the shelves are flush to the window on one side and there is a two-inch gap on the other. and then there is the levelness issue.

anyway i started today, day one, at home depot being disappointed by their stupid delivery costs and stupid rental truck (there is only one, first-come, first served, i.e. it is possible to buy a ton of lumber and find there is no truck to get it home with). so instead i headed to my neighbourhood hardware store/lumberyard, the oddly named new canadians, where a nice guy with cool glasses helped me with an endless selection of questions (do you have storm doors? magnetic paint? can you recommend a glass-cutter?)

delivery, however free and prompt, was not instantaneous, so i spent the rest of the morning & early afternoon doing christmas baking-type stuff: cooking the mincemeat, baking a cranberry loaf and chocolate-chip cookies with homemade candied orange peel, and trying to invent a recipe for strawberry bark.

so tg wasn't exactly thrilled when he came home to find a bunch of lumber in the hall and the living room a mess (i should have taken "before" pictures... sigh), but there has been productivity!


yes, prime minister

this short film seems strangely prescient all of a sudden... or else canadian politics is just massively repetitive.


crazy or just stupid?

the world's slowest knitter has just decided to cast on for a christmas gift on the first of december. am i kidding myself? probably. i foresee some furious lunch-hours and sore fingers.