Monday, December 21, 2009


I don't care how much snow gets tracked into the house or how much longer it takes to drive anywhere, having a White Christmas is FANTASTIC! We will remember this Christmas for the rest of our lives!

Last night, while The Viking and Man-Cub went out foraging for our Christmas tree, Redheaded Snippet and I decided to try our hand at making marshmallows. Peppermint marshmallows. Which means she sat at the computer the whole time while I made them myself, the brat. But she sure was quick to aid in the tasting of them, wasn't she?

Making these was a bit more involved than I would have thought and I have a new found gratitude for the good people of Kraft for providing me with countless convenient bags of the things throughout my lifetime. That there is the one "action" shot I got: I was super glad for my Kitchen Aid last night. There is no way I would have been able to whip that stuff at that speed for 15 full minutes!

Basically, marshmallows are made of sugar, corn syrup, water, gelatin and egg whites. I added some peppermint extract to give them a bit of a "holiday" flavor and some red food coloring which we'll get to later. You have to melt the gelatin in some water, then dissolve it using a double boiler (at least that's what Martha Stewart says and I am, as of yet, not in any position to differ with her), boil the sugar, syrup and water until it reaches 260 degrees on a candy thermometer, whisk the gelatin into the syrup, then gradually add that mess to two egg whites which you've whipped into soft peaks. After 15 minutes, you get marshmallow fluff! We were sorely tempted to just get out the peanut butter and some bread and forget the marshmallows altogether, but we persisted. Probably because these are intended as gifts and we have no other ideas of what to give people this year!

Once you've poured the goo into a greased, lined and greased again pan, you can use whichever color food coloring you'd like and a toothpick to make fancy swirls. Of course, my version looks nothing like the candy cane-esque version on Martha's website, but there's only so much a girl can do.

And when marbling and swirling is over, the thing just sits out to set. You don't even have to refrigerate it. THAT'S the easy part. I could do that with my eyes closed! The next part? Not so much. I don't even have photos of it because it just wasn't pretty. This is clearly a recipe developed by a woman with an entire staff of sous chefs and kitchen cleaners at her disposal. Quite a far cry from the "servant-less cook" philosophy behind Julia Child's endeavors...

Anyway, after careful slicing and some very messy dabbing of confectioners sugar (I swear it's everywhere now--see it on the counter?), the end result is a plate of intriguing looking, meltingly soft and deadly sweet homemade marshmallows! I'm not sure I want to make more of them so now I have to decide who to give these to. I have a friend who is simply mad for marshmallows so I may just give the lot to her but that means I have to think of something else for everyone else. But at least now I can say I've done it, right?

Speaking of Christmas trees (I was, way up there), here is ours, partially finished. Man-Cub picked it out all by himself and I, for one, think he did a fabulous job.

I've never done this before, but decided to take a few shots of a few of our ornaments. This is one of my favorites: a wax ornament Dharma and Vance bought for us on their honeymoon in Vienna. They bought one for Redheaded Snippet, who was three at the time, and this one for our first son who was only a month old and died within a few days of their return. I love that we actually have an ornament for him and it always brings a bittersweet smile to my face when I unpack it.

When my parents moved from their house to a much smaller apartment, I was endowed with all their old ornaments. These are the ornaments we always had on our tree when I was a child and some of them, like this one, date from when my father was a child. I love the 40+ years of spray snow caked on them.

This is one of the few bows that survived from me and The Viking's first Christmas together. I was pregnant with Redheaded Snippet and very ill, having been hospitalized several times in the first trimester for severe morning sickness. We had neither the energy nor the money for a full-blown Christmas celebration, but we managed to get a small tree and decorate it with a string of white lights and a package of red tartan bows. It was beautiful, in a simple, minimalistic way, and this bow always reminds me of our first bittersweet year.

Another of the ancient ornaments from my father's childhood. I never liked this one as a child; I thought it was weird. But now that I'm older I have grown to appreciate it much more!

Why, hello, Harry! This is part of Redheaded Snippet's collection. She went through a major Harry Potter phase several years ago (I'm still in one) and this was her ornament that year. Man-Cub has a Batman ornament that hangs not far from Harry, but his dark suit proved to be too great a photographic challenge for me. You'll just have to use your imagination.

And don't you just love this one? I found it whilst looking among the branches for a few ornaments to shoot. Maybe someone should take that down.

We decided last night was close enough to Christmas to unpack the creche. This was a gift from The Viking's parents long ago and I am always glad I have it to put on display. It is beautiful but I always find myself wishing most of the figures didn't look quite so Anglicized. I really don't believe Mary, Joseph, and certainly not Baby Jesus (whom you cannot see in this photo but is a blond, curly-headed, little cherub) actually looked like this. I mean, if you're going for accuracy, there probably shouldn't be any blonds in there. But I'm not sure I want to split hairs over it so I unpack it every year and enjoy it.

And, of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without my dad's old Santa bank. This went on the tippy top of our old piano when I was growing up. My mother was the only one allowed to touch it and we were expected to not even breathe too close to it. It was a gift to my father from his grandfather on his very first Christmas in 1948. Fifty-three years later, in 2001, my father gave it to Man-Cub on his very first Christmas. I keep it locked safely away all year and bring it out with the same solemnity and ceremony as my mother used to.

As you can see, we're slowly getting up to speed around here. I managed to get the children to clean their rooms and get the downstairs under control today while I did endless loads of laundry. The tree is up, candles are in the windows, presents are wrapped and I'm just starting to think we might actually be ready in time (keep your fingers crossed)!

Wishing you productive days and restful nights!


Amy said...

Your tree looks beautiful!!! I am so happy we got that ornament for Ethan too. It is bittersweet for me as well. And oh, it's just a technicality, but we went to Salzburg, not Vienna.


Pippajo said...

Do you mean to tell me my children have been roaming about Salzburg dressed up in nothing but some old DRAPES?!

Leila said...

I love it all.

By the way, I think that one of the loveliest charms of God's decision to become incarnate is that you can depict the Holy Family, and particularly Mary and Jesus, as any color or nationality. There is a Polish Madonna, with wide cheekbones; there are black nativities, and I love my little straw Mexican, Anglo, why not? If Mary can look Russian, she can look British.

Merry Christmas!