It's been pretty quiet here at the Lovelihood. Maybe you've noticed. Likely you've been too caught up in your own seasonal madness to notice that I've been less than forthcoming with my usual wordiness. But somehow, part-time work and full-time parenthood eats into free time and energy considerably. And sometimes (OK, most nights) the appeal of sitting down to reruns of How I Met Your Mother with a mugful of coffee and a crossword puzzle/zombie game is too strong to resist. So, while, mostly during daylight hours, I've made time for holiday cheer and tradition, and the production and consumption of baked goods, I've been less dedicated to the vocation of blog posting. Racking up mileage on the ol' running shoes also tends to tire you out a little. Just saying.
Anyway, to prove that my silence is not indicative of total inactivity around these parts, I offer up some photos, and, well, lots of wordiness. Bear with me. I'm a little out of practice here, and I have a feeling it will translate to even less self-editing than usual...
Last year, the mere thought of two little ones underfoot rattling tree-hung glass ornaments into smithereens rattled me enough to pack them back away in their designated Christmas cartons. This year, as we pulled out the decorational provisions, Bear's gentle hand managed to shatter ornaments in their protective boxes with her gentle smashings and gentle bangings, and I'm thinking the moratorium on glass orbs might just become a permanent ban.
But those little salt dough men had their own kid-appeal, and I'd wrested some from the tight-jawed grip of a slobbery toddler and swept up dismembered pieces of others. So a new batch of ornaments, taking the form of Scandinavian-cute woodland critter shapes, was mixed, rolled, cut and baked. And then painted and checked on every 5 minutes for signs of dry-enough-to-hang-on-the-tree-ness. Other little projects made their way to the tree, as well. Glitter-speckled works retrieved from school, lanterns cut from cardboard tubes, strips of paper salvaged from the recycling bin and placed gingerly across branches by an ornament-greedy 4-year-old and a toddler-sister who has no concept of the difference between decoration and trash.
So that was what we did for the house, to psych ourselves up for the season. More difficult to rouse from dormancy was the motivation necessary to get presents worked on and out the door. So difficult, in fact, that I missed the cutoff for getting the usual liqueurs started and steeped. Those generally beg for a month or two of cool, dark incubation. And I never quite made it out to a liquor store, the ones here being state-run and generally less convenient than the mega-martropolis of our beloved Houston chain. So I went with non-alcoholic as my theme this year, friendlier for the ever-growing share of teetotalers and underagers on our list.
Photographic evidence of the goodies that did get made are scarce, unfortunately. The manic rush to get them packaged and shipped and out of mind, and the general low-light, late-in-the-dayness of my prime production hours just didn't allow for proper photo-shoots. The inventory of goodies was pretty impressive, though, considering that I almost gave up on the idea of getting them out on time at all.
There was grenadine, which boils over into a black-tar crust on the stove the moment you rush upstairs to retrieve newly-risen children. Vanilla was extracted into a base of glycerin instead of any of the fun alcohols your store-bought variety are usually served in. Vanilla sugar, whose manufacture was so simple as to instill in me trembling Catholic-schooled guilt for passing it off as home-made, poured easily into little jars and vials. Cranberry cakes baked themselves into the little canning jars previously used to store the purees of avocado and sweet potato that constituted the then-baby Bear's diet. Cranberry syrup, really just a happy by-product of the fortnight's maceration of the fruits to ready them for jar-baking, also went into the neat little bottles. A trio of s'mores fixins' was tucked into freezer paper pillows. This year's marshmallows (which also served to amaze an office-ful of hipster newspaper personnel), teamed up with our best batch of graham crackers to date and a chocolate concoction I dubbed Texas bark, which I did manage to shoot.
The bark was basically chocolate, melted and drizzled over corn chips and pretzels, which makes it a treat about as classy as the deep fried whatevers we indulged in at our annual pilgrimages to the Houston Rodeo. We went, perhaps, a little heavy on the chocolate. But, really, when it's Fritos and chocolate, there's no wrong proportion. The Boy, whose eschewal of both corn chips and chocolate is a curious character flaw, was nonetheless a most eager assistant. The work of drizzling clearly fits well within the skillset and attention span of a pre-schooler, alongside cookie cutter operation and vanilla bean sniffing.
And then there were the inedibles. Like last year, I Gocco'ed up our greeting cards on the backs of cereal boxes and tucked within them giftlets of photos and sheep. I'd had bigger plans for the screen printing this year, hoping to Gocco up the calendar/bookmarks. I burned through several screens before coming to terms with the reality that they wouldn't hold up with the tiny text and the ink that had become inconsistent during the summertime move. I sent them through our trusty little inkjet instead, and I'm happy enough with the result, but they would have been so much sweeter with honest to goodness ink pressed into them. To console myself, I decided to screen this year's holiday logo onto some striped jersey, cut into scarf-sized strips, mostly to serve as extra padding for the glass-heavy shipments. Too impatient to properly swatch-test and see the result dried and set, and it being too much past the kids' bedtime to head out in search of proper fabric inks, I threw caution to the wind and just stamped the damned scarves with the iffy ink in my provisions. The initial presses looked good, bright and rich. It was as they dried and soaked into the tight cotton knitting that they started to muddy, ending up mostly just looking like dirty scraps of fabric. Too late in the season to dwell on it, or make more earnest attempts, I sent a few out anyway, at any rate still needing to pad the packages with something. And, not dwelling on the half-assedness of my screen printing, I sport the scarf, myself, with a certain regularity that must have my co-workers muttering under their breaths about that girl who always wears that dingy scarf. Oh, and, of course, more of the burlap buckets were made, lined with the red wool left over from Bear's Halloween costume. It wasn't until after I'd assembly-line cut out all the wool swatches needed for the buckets that I remembered that I'd purchased the extra yardage to make a nice coat for Bear. Oh well. We all make sacrifices.
Ok. Enough for now. I'll try to be back later this week. In the meantime, enjoy the pics.