Vintage Paper Christmas Tree

vintage christmas tree

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Christmas Tree Bread

2014-12-05 14.38.49You can make the Christmas tree bread shape (and do it better than I) with any yeast bread.  I’ve done it with about a dozen different versions over the years, including plain white bread dough.  As long as it rises and can take sugar, it will work.

 

Here’s how to make the shaped loaf, the recipe I used for this batch of dough follows;

Take about enough dough for one small-medium loaf of bread and roll it into what could generously be described as a rectangle.

2014-12-05 13.50.47 Sprinkle coloured sugar and cinnamon onto the dough (you can make your own coloured sugar by putting white sugar and food colouring in a plastic bag or a small bottle and shaking it up really well):

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Fold it in half lengthwise.

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Now cut it into strips along the shortest edge, from the outside to the fold (I use a pizza cutter):

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Because of the flexibility of the yeast dough, it doesn’t stay in a perfect rectangle. It starts pulling back in on itself, which means the strips at the outside edges will be shorter.  Starting with the strips at either end, twist the strips and put them on your greased baking sheet at a diagonal slant- one on the left, one on the right, meeting at a slight point in the middle. Continue, picking strips from the outside edge of the rectangle, twisting, left, right:

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Use the shortest piece for your trunk.  Now, I made a mistake with this one in the placement that will show up in the baking.  I should have given the twists a little more of a lilting curve, gently curving each branch of my tree so that each one looks like a gentle smile on a smiley face, so the outside edge is lifted up just a bit.  It’s okay, but it would be prettier when it bakes if I’d remembered to curve my branches.

Cover this with a towel (moisten the towel if your bread is on the dry, stiff side) and let it rise for about 30-45 minutes:

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Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, or until browned:

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When you want to eat it, it’s nice to drizzle it with ‘snow,’ or a plain soft frosting/glaze of powdered sugar and water.

You can also put sprinkles in and around the dough for decorations.  To eat, you approach it like monkey bread- just pull off a piece and enjoy.

Here is the recipe I used this time:

7-½ cups warm water

2 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast

¾ cup brown sugar and about 1/4 cup of maple syrup (you can use 3/4 cup of honey)
¾ cup melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons salt

15-17 cups of  whole wheat flour
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 cups of oats, put through blender

1 cup of chopped almonds

2 tablespoons cardomon powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

1.  In very large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and sweetener. Let this sponge for about fifteen minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients, but only about half the flour. Stir to combine.  Now continue to add flour about a cup at a time, stirring it in.  When the dough sticks together and is soft and only slightly sticky,  grease your hands with additional oil, then knead  for about ten minutes, adding more flour if needed.   I usually knead in the bowl.  When making whole wheat bread at the kneading surface, I don’t add more flour, I use oil.

3. Spread a bit of oil over the top of the dough.  Flip it, spread with more oil, then cover with moist towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

4. Punch down and knead for one minute, then divide and form into bread.

This makes six smallish loaves, or two large Christmas Tree breads and a large pan of cinnamon rolls.

Your pans should be well-greased.  I use this.

Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until bread is golden brown.

6. Take out of pans and let cook on racks.

 

Below my handsome assistant demonstrates his kneading technique:

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I put the lid on my bowl, and this is what I found at the end of rising time.  I think it’s riz.=)
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More pics- I made the last of the dough into cinnamon rolls- sprinkled the rectangle with red sugar and cinnamon, rolled, sliced, put them cut side up in a greased pan, sprinkled with more red sugar, and I shall tell the grandchildren who are coming to visit tomorrow that they are Christmas Tree Balls:

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Vintage Christmas Rocking Horse To Cut and Put Together

vintage jointed Christmas Rocking Horse

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Doug and Melissa Toys, 50% Off

Doug&Melissa, for just a few more hours, 1/2 price at Amazon.

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Focus, DHM, Fo- oh, look, more Christmas orna- a book! Dishes! What?

I was working on a small project, and I needed some change. So I went to go get some change together.

Along the way (and not necessarily in  this order), I:

Put out some other Christmas decs.

Put out some other Christmas decs.

Put a few Christmas decs out.

Put a few Christmas decs out.

Made self and Cherub a green smoothie

Made self and Cherub a green smoothie

unpacked the nutcracker tote

unpacked the nutcracker tote

Ironed something.

Ironed something.

Cleaned up a couple of messes the Cherub made.

Cleaned up a couple of messes the Cherub made.

Washed a couple of these dishes.

Washed a couple of these dishes.

found a jar to fit this candle lantern

found a jar to fit this candle lantern

Put out another Christmas decoration

Put out another Christmas decoration

found a place to hang the Christmas clock

found a place to hang the Christmas clock

Put batteries in the Christmas clock, put out some decs.

Put batteries in the Christmas clock, put out some decs.

Took away the red balls from Cherub and returned them to bowl

Took away the red balls from Cherub and returned them to bowl

Made this table messier.

Made this table messier.

Added more to tote I'm getting rid of.

Added more to tote I’m getting rid of.

I also figured out what I was making for supper, packed up some living room items to make room for more Christmas decorations, and heated the coffee.

Amount of change I collected along the way can be seen inside this box:

blank white square

 

Take heart. Creative people, it is said, flourish in clutter, and nothing is more cluttered than my brain.

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Quick and Creamy White Bean Soup

If you keep some cooked white beans in your freezer or keep canned white beans in the pantry, you can have a rich, filling bean soup ready in about 15 minutes.

Run four cups cooked white beans (navy beans) or two cans of prepared white beans through the blender- adding enough liquid to puree it and keep it a ‘soup’ consistency. You don’t want it totally smooth, so just blend for a few seconds. Pour into saucepan and reheat, adding 2-4 Tablespoons bouillon if you have it, salt, pepper, and odds and ends of your choice.

Possibilities:
corn
snipped green onions or leeks
chopped ham, sausage, or turkey ham
seaweed
tuna (add a splash of lemon juice and some dill for a Tuscan soup)
diced carrot and celery
add green chiles, cumin, chile powder, and chicken for white chicken chili

 

based on a recipe from the Country Beans cookbook

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The Boy’s Attempt At Comfort

feelingsThe last couple of weeks both the married daughters with children were over at our house a lot, trying to get in as much time as possible before the heart-wrenching, and also because we helped babysit and provided meals during the packing and cleaning up process. Also, we’ve had the boys for Thanksgiving break and to babysit while their mother works her new job.

The last couple of weeks have been chaotic, to say the least, also brilliant, and fun, exhausting and noisy, fulfilling and exhausting, and I’ve had lots of baby time.

We’ve put out Christmas stuff in the midst of the chaos, and I have three more giant totes to finish.

During a quietish moment- the little boys had just left, everybody else was in another room, my son sat down from cleaning up in the garage to make room for our van and our now empty Christmas totes (a huge and cold job right now)

He gets very frustrated by the toys carpeting the floors, and he knows how I feel about noise and he meant to be comforting.

“Just think, Mom,” he said. “This next weekend, there won’t be little children here at all….”

He stopped, horrified. You can imagine why- if you’re women, at least. I assured him through the blubbering that it wasn’t his fault, I knew he meant to be funny, that probably anything he’d said would have made me cry, and I wasn’t upset with him. In retrospect, I have to say his face was perfectly hilarious. He’d stepped in a puddle of feelings and it was deeper and wetter than he’d expected.

He showed me a gaping hole in the leg of his jeans. “If it makes you feel any better,” he said, “This is where I burned myself today while I was trying to burn the boxes from the garage.”

I sobbed out, “You do not understand a mother’s heart if you think it would comfort me to know that you burned yourself, even if I were angry with you, which I’m not.”

“Oh, I wasn’t exactly trying to comfort you,” he said, “I was really just trying to distract you.”

And actually, it worked. He made me laugh.

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Tortilla Soup

tortilla soupTortilla Soup

(serves about 4)

INGREDIENTS:

13 oz. cooked chicken meat (you can use canned, and you should not drain it if that’s what you use)

6 cups of liquid- four cups water, two cups chicken broth, or use more broth if you like.

1  oz. tomato paste

1 c. diced summer squash (the yellow will look prettier)

1/4 cup each  chopped yellow onion and diced green bell pepper

1 oz. poblano pepper, seeded and chopped (you can get Dried Poblano Pepper or canned poblano peppers via Amazon)

1/2 tsp. chili powder (I like Frontier’s Fiesta Chili Powder Blend, which is very mild, but has a rich flavour, and because it is a blend, I use more than 1/2 a teaspoon).

Generous pinch of chipotle chile powder (Frontier Ground Bottle)

1 small Guajillo chile, seeded and chopped (look for these mild but delicious peppers in the ethnic section of your grocery store, where  you will find them dried and bagged, or you can get them from Amazon- Mexican Guajillo Peppers)

Generous pinch of ground cumin (we prefer the richer flavor of freshly ground cumin, so I buy seeds and we grind them at time of use- Badia Cumin Seed Whole, 16 Ounce)

1/4 c. heavy cream OR coconut milk if you are doing Whole30 or are dairy-free.

DIRECTIONS:  Cut chicken meat up into small pieces, or break up the canned meat.  Put all ingredients except the cream into your heavy bottomed soup pot.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer until squash and all veggies are tender, not soggy and disintegrating (about 15-20 minutes).  Turn heat to lowest setting and stir in the cream.

Puree if desired.  Personally, I like the squash creamed, and the chicken in chunks, so I like to hold back the chicken for the first ten minutes or so-  until the squash is soft enough to use the immersion blender in the pot, and then I add the chicken.

It doesn’t need cheese. You can top with tortilla strips or have it with corn chips on the side, but I think it’s delicious just as it is.

This recipe is from this blog, and also in  Low Carb-ing Among Friends Cookbooks: 100% Gluten-free, Low-carb, Atkins-friendly, Wheat-free, Sugar-Free, Recipes, Diet, Cookbook VOL-1.  I can’t speak to any of the other recipes, I don’t have the book.  But this one?   It’s absolutely amazing. So delicious.

 

It’s a low carb recipe, suitable for Atkins. If you are doing Whole30, subsitute coconut milk for the cream.  I know it sounds a little odd, but I have a Thai style soup using chicken broth, coconut milk, and lots of red pepper and it tastes fantastic.

 

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Chow Mein/Yaki Soba

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7 children from 2-10 enjoyed my Yaki Soba (Asian noodle dish) so much, this is all that was left.

I had several mouths to feed, including 7 children between the ages of 2 and 10. The meat I had intended to prepare was not put in the crockpot on time.

I had leftover spaghetti noodles, this recipe for ‘chow mein’ just like the Panda Express (I’ve never eaten at there, but okay), and my history of putting together ‘yaki spaghetti‘ and Asian Broccoli Noodles.

Measurements are approximate, and are based entirely on what you have in your hand- or fridge and freezer.

I put some sesame and olive oil in my big saucepan. I diced about four stalks of celery, 2 cups of cabbage, and a large onion and put them in the skillet to be sautteed just to a shiny translucency.

I stirred in a cup or two of leftover diced meat (it honestly does not matter what kind- pork, beef, chicken, shrimp and calimari, all tasty in this).

I added some coconut aminos (soy sauce would also work). I stirred in the leftover spaghetti noodles, filling the pot. I stirred well, adding chinese five spice, ginger, and minced garlic. I drizzled molasses over the top and stirred well- it was probably between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of molasses I use molasses in Asian dishes instead of any other recommended sweetener.

Everybody liked it- the older (5-10 year olds) had 3 bowls each.

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By the time I thought to take a picture of it, this was all that was left:

 

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The next day I had the same crowd for lunch, and lunch crept up on me unawares. I was out of cabbage, and I only had about a cup of leftover spaghetti. However, I did have some quick cooking soba noodles, so I boiled those:

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Meanwhile, one of the daughters chopped celery and broccoli for me = probably about a total of four cups.

I cooked the vegetables for a few minutes first, added the meat (about 2-3 cups of shredded pork and beef roasts), Chinese Five Spice, garlic, ginger, amino acids, pepper, and then stirred in the cooked pasta, along with a drizzling of molasses.

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This time, I had just about enough leftover to make one lunch dish for my husband’s lunch.

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Tree of Cranes

I have several thousand books because I have a flit from flower to flower mind, and I like variety in many ways, but especially in my reading. I am never sure what I am going to feel like reading, or what the children would have wanted to read when they were children, so I had a little something for almost every taste, so long as said taste was not for depravity or Elsie Dinsmore.

But the manner of most children is to like tradition, consistency, and routine. So the Equuschick read Anne of Green Gables every fall from the time she was old enough to read up until even now. And Pip read Lord of the Rings at least 13 times by the time she was 13. The Boy, as a small tot, picked one favorite picture book and only wanted to hear that book, over and over until we all could recite it from memory and often were forced to if we were traveling and had forgotten The Book of the Moment.

This last week or so we put away the downstairs picture books and put out the Christmas Picture books- which number around 100.   Equuschick and family were here for most of the week while they packed.  Several times a day the Dread Pirate Grasshopper or his sister the Ladybug have brought this book to one of us and asked for us to read it:

tree of cranesTree of Cranes

It’s a pretty little book with a soft, quiet story, and luminous images that take the reader to another place- origami cranes, kimonos, rice paper walls, chopsticks, rice gruel for a sick child.

The author/illustrator’s name is Allen Say, but I was sure from these illustrations that he had to have spend some part of his childhood in a Japanese household, so I looked him up.

His full name is James Allen Koichi Moriwaki Seii. He is a 3rd culture kid with bells on (albeit, born in 1937, he’s no child). His mother was Japanese American, his father was Korean born, but he was raised by a British family in Shanghai. Mr. Seii did indeed live in Japan. He was born in Yokohama. When his parents divorced he first lived with his father and eventually went to his grandmother, but he wasn’t happy with either solution.  His grandmother agreed to let him live alone and he apprenticed himself to a Japanese cartoonist. His father eventually moved to the United States and Allen Seii came as well, although he was disappointed to learn hsi father had enrolled him in a military academy rather than allowing him to live at home with his father and his father’s new family.

When she was 13 years old, his daughter wrote this in an essay about him:

The rule that he always enforces is the one that requires me to write a two-page essay anytime I want something. He didn’t speak English until he was sixteen, and he had a hard time learning to write it, so he wants me to become a good writer at an early age. This ritual started when I asked him if I could have my ears pierced when I was nine. He said it was barbaric and told me I couldn’t do it until I was thirty-five. But I kept asking him, and he finally said that if I wrote an essay and I could persuade him in writing why I wanted holes in my ears, maybe he would say okay. I wrote my first essay for my father, and after one month of writing and rewriting, he finally gave me his permission.

In America he went to military school (not a great success), joined the military, became a photographer, married, divorced.
He was not able to become a fulltime illustrator until he was fifty years old, when he won a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in the book The Boy of the Three-Year Nap.

In an interview here he said:

My mother had been born in California and my father was a Korean orphan who had grown up in Shanghai, and I was always aware of being different from other children. This sort of personal history doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary today, but it was when I was a child. I was born an alien. And my sense of being an alien intensified in America. In Japan I could blend in with the crowd and disappear, but in America I was too conspicuous. Some years ago I noticed that there are a lot of doors and windows in my illustrations, which of course are the devices through which the outsider views the world.

Many of his books reflect this duel cultural background. He also wrote:

Grandfather’s Journey, which is a lightly autobiographical retellng of his grandfather’s story, moving from Japan to California and back again.

Tea with Milk, which is lightly autobiographicall telling of his mother’s struggles, and how she met Allen’s father.

He was the illustrator of:
How My Parents Learned to Eat (Sandpiper Houghton Mifflin books)

I have not read The Ink-Keeper’s Apprentice, but it’s now on my list. It is a novel with some autobiographical elements. One of the interesting things about it tht I read is his opinion of how he wrote the father and grandmother in the story- he says they come across as decent, reasonable people, which they absolutely were not, and he’s a little resentful that this is how they came out in the story.

In Tree of Cranes

I love all of his work that I have seen, but for a long time now, Tree of Cranes will be at the top of my list.

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