Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

I think it's fair to say that the past year has been pretty rough, family wise. Not with me and Pete, but with others who are important to us. There have been many sad times coping with these new challenges, this redefining of what it is to be in relationship with others. The changes have also meant some geographic shifts as well, and for the first time in our lives we were without family at Thanksgiving.

Although we joked about how fun it would be just to order pizza and watch movies all day, I felt a little sad at the starkness of it all. Thanksgiving has always been one of my very favorite holidays and the idea of passing it by unceremoniously seemed a shame.

Sunday we ran into our good friend Julie at the park. She and her husband have two beautiful young children and we've been blessed with the friendship of her family this year. She asked about our Thanksgiving plans and learning we had none, immediately invited us to join her family for dinner.

I baked some sides and desserts and today we congregated at Julie's with another family from the neighborhood, also with family far away. Both Julie and her husband have lost their mothers within the last year, and my own losses were heavy in my heart. There we were, three young couples gathered together, bringing food to share, celebrating the gifts in our lives, nourishing bodies and souls in the midst of a challenging year.

I know that many years from now when we likely will have a house full of our own children and even grandchildren, when the wrinkles of this year have long been smoothed, I will think back on this year, this tender afternoon, as one of my most cherished feasts...truly connected to the spirit of the first thanks-giving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Every time I finish a little quilt I think, "That was fun, but never again."

But look at this! Isn't she beautiful? I think I have the fever. Joelle Hoverson's book is really incredible - and just in time for the holidays.

Does anyone have any tips on prewashing fabric? I did this for the first time yesterday and spent an hour between the washing and drying cutting out the huge thread knots that developed in the wash and bound all my pieces into one huge ball of mess.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Today I feel like one of those spazzy little moths at a porch light. All these things need to get done, and I attempt them, but only in little erratic chunks. I feel exhausted from having been out of town but also restless. It's a day when I just put one little step ahead of the other, little micromovements to stave off futility. I think I'm suffering from a bit of craft burn-out too. So many projects other people are doing are so interesting and inspiring and festive, but something isn't connecting the crafting center in my brain to the actual doing center.

The only task of significance that I was able to accomplish in its entirety today was a culinary exploration of our new Gourmet cookbook. Pete found it at a thrift shop ($3!) and I spent our whole car ride yesterday pouring over the recipes. I made turkey meatloaf for dinner tonight, and I'm serving almond-flecked green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. I even made soft ginger-molasses spice cookies for dessert. Honestly, this is a type of all-American meal that I hardly every cook, but I know it's Pete's ultimate comfort food and I enjoy it too, on these dark, chilly evenings.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Baked Goods

My house smells so delicious right now I just want to walk around with my tongue out, attempting to taste the air. The braided sweet breads above have been passed down to me from grandmother to mother and have become a bit of my specialty as well. I start baking them in November and work straight through the holidays, kneading and rolling and filling and braiding. I find them gratifying in every way: they look impressive, smell heavenly, and taste so good it's all I can do not to go at them face-first.

So here's the recipe, and I'm sorry I can't find the source. I cannot urge you strongly enough to make these. They're a bit fiddley, but not difficult. One caveat: I would encourage you to make these on a day when you have a long stretch of time to kill. Light the fire, turn on TCM or NPR , and prepare to be adored.

Special Occasion Sweet Braids

Makes 4 large braids

Dough: Dissolve 2 pkgs yeast and 1 t. sugar in one cup of warm water. Wait 5 minutes. Combine 2/3 c. sugar, 1 t. salt, 1/2 c. soft butter, and 1/2 c. shortening in mixer bowl. Add 1 c. hot water, stirring until fats melt. Cool slightly. Add dissolved yeast mixture and stir well. Add 2 eggs (slightly beaten) and 3 c. flour, sifted. Beat at med. speed until dough is smooth. Gradually add 3.5 more cups flour until you have a soft, smooth dough. Grease bowl and let rise for and hour or more, until doubled in bulk. Turn onto floured surface and punch down. Divide into 4 equal portions and roll each portion into 9" by 12" rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 3 strips, longwise. Spread 1/4 c. fillling (recipe below) and seal strips. Fold ends under and braid. Transfer to sheet pan to rise about 40 minutes. Bake at 325 for 35-40 minutes. Drizzle glaze (recipe below) on warm breads.


Mix 2 pkgs cream cheese (softened) with 1/2 c. soft butter, 3/4 c. brown sugar, 2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. vanoilla and 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans.

Glaze: 1/4 c. soft butter, 1 lb. powered sugar, 1/3-1/2 c. milk, 1 t. vanilla.

These freeze beautifully and I think they're even better after being thawed.

So the market went pretty well, but remember this post? Yeah, kinda how I felt when I first got there. It's hard not to be intimidated by all of the other folks there - really incredible things.

For me, the most fantastic thing about this show were the lovely people I met. I had the incredible fortune of sitting beside Miss Tess of Made By Tess, and across the way from Brooke Cassady, who made this beautiful vessel:

Tess traded me some cakes for this apron. Sweets for sweets.

'Started my job last week and am looooving it, but very tired. Off to bed.