It snowed this morning! I was greeted by the severe quiet early this morning, before normal people are awake. I love it before everyone tries to channel Rambo out there with the shovels and dig their way to civilization. Overeager, I think: it’s the weekend. chill out. Drink some coffee, leave my snow.
So I don’t know if you’ve noticed the utter lack of food coming out of here right now, but it’s mostly going to continue on as such for the next week. Besides, all of you really seem to have this holiday food down, and the minute I think of something, one of you posts something better. If you don’t believe me, just know that I’m making things from some of your blogs this year for Mr. Table’s treats trays, and I am certain they’ll be adored.Thank you for that: next year, I’ll make Christmas food right along with the rest of you. And I may still this year, if something hits the mark. Right now it’s really a battle of simultaneously wanting to do everything and nothing, and if I start to work on holiday food posts, no one is getting presents this year.
I did run through my holiday archives, and if you want some holiday options from the past (and don’t mind looking at some genuinely bad photos, in some cases), here are a few of my annual holiday favorites, including:
My first ever holiday cookies post back in 2011, featuring my no-fail sugar cookies and royal icing combo which will get you through anything, along with a my family and friends’ favorite, the raspberry shortbread bars.
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies, which are still my far-and-away best soft ginger cookie, and one which will show up again this year, because the recipe makes roughly a billion.
Homemade Twix Bars (or Millionaire’s Shortbread), which are trickier but swooningly delicious. Their success hinges on your ability to be patient and follow instructions; baking-rushers need not apply.
Winter Bark, my first really big hit on Serious Eats’ site, thanks to a cover photo on their Share your Sweets slideshow and a member making big hay about how delicious they were. So easy and so elegant-looking, it’s a no-brainer for gifts.
On the bark subject, my healthier Toasted Bark may be a good alternative for you this year: i’m thinking of making it as a food gift. It’s the one with the dark chocolate, coconut, almonds and millet. Remember nature’s sprinkles? They may show up this year under the tree.
Katherine (Eggton) asked me about these Chocolate Peppermint Wafers a few weeks back in search of a good cookie recipe. She wanted a softer variety, which these are not (although they are extremely tender), but they’re a darling cookie for the chocolate-mint fanatic in your life. Also fabulous for those of us (me) who only like chocolate mint things mid-winter; not too harsh and full of muted peppermint candy-cane flavors.
So much chocolate! There’s also other flavors to the holiday: for instance, Mexican Wedding Cakes, which were my wedding favor back when i was married. Rather, i’m still married, but back when the deed occurred.
And then there was the time I went absolutely rogue and made Momofuku Milk Bar holiday cake truffles, my one and only foray into anything even remotely resembling a cake ball, which I believe, considering how crazy good these were, can be forgiven.
So there you have it: it’s like I made all the holiday food, and yet I did not. If I think of more, I’ll let you know. Brain = food tired.
Excuses: I think what happened is this: somewhere in the middle of November, Feast asked me to do my – wait for it – first feature article for the magazine. Like the big ones that people read before getting to my normal column; that kind of feature. I can’t tell you any more than that, but just know it involved quite a big of recipe creation and an abundance of overthinking and anxiety. It was so much fun to do, and I love a challenge, but a challenge is really the best way to describe what I did. My materials (along with my normal column) were due in at the beginning of this past week; for those of you with calendars, this means I was crafting and testing oodles of recipes the same week as I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So much kitchen, friends; SO MUCH KITCHEN.
So that’s all wrapped up, the second Just One Question Project post is up, and this weekend, I’m trying to make a Ginger house for Movita Beaucoup’s Ginger 2013 competition. If I have something done by entry deadline (that’s tomorrow, by the way) it’ll be an absolute miracle. In fact, I think just given bake and drying time, there’s no way I get it done. I’m going to try. I have some inside information which seems to indicate the entries will be amazing this year, so even if I don’t have an entry, I’m going to be pumped to see what crazy Ginger-ness has gone on. I still have to finish making the Wee One’s teacher gifts for this year, and as you can see, they’re only halfway finished.
Someone finds this very amusing.
Television: so this is the time of year when seasons are wrapping up and giving themselves over to new ones in January. Most of the shows I watch (of which there are few) finished out this week. I talked about “The Returned” in my last random things post, and if you never started watching it, you missed out: it’s the creepiest, most well-written zombie show ever, and almost completely devoid of any sort of violence or gore. It’s only when necessary, and it’s extremely restrained, which almost makes it scarier. It’s really something, visually, and in a cool storyline way. That closed out this week, as did my secret favorite show, “Sons of Anarchy,” which really did a number on me emotionally this season: it is a gut-wrenching, rip-your-heart-out thrill-ride of a show. If you’re wondering if I’m some biker chick, I’m not: I don’t even know that I’ve been on a motorcycle. That being said, that show is incredibly well-written, with highly-developed characters and deep-like-the-sea plot lines, and if you can handle the subject matter, it’s like watching a movie each week. A movie that breaks and then sews back together your heart with every step. Evidently it’s gained in ratings with each season it’s on (this was Season 6), which is almost unheard of. Season 7 is the last: in my opinion, Sons of Anarchy should be everyone’s Breaking Bad-style binge-watch of 2014.
Speaking of the TV transition, there’s a show that just started that’s gotten really great reviews, and it’s very good. It’s TNT’s “Mob City,”, and it’s only 2 episodes in. It’s about that really glamorous “first era” (my designation only) of gangster in America: the fedora’d, Tommy gun-toting type. Centered around Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen, it’s very stylized and moves along at a good clip. Ed Burns (one of my all-time favorite actors; if you’ve never seen his “The Brothers McMullen,” you should) plays the part of Mr. Siegel, and the whole thing begins right around the time he decides he’s going to invent Las Vegas. I’m a sucker for (decent) mob films and television (The Godfather will always be one of my favorite movies, so much so that I have both I and II’s soundtracks), and for any of you who feel the same, this one may be a decent pick to get you through the sea of holiday specials.
One of several trees around here. I’ll do more photos of the house in upcoming posts for you stalkers out there.
Things Which Should Not Exist: What did you all think of the live performance of “The Sound of Music?” As a massive fan of the original, I thought it was a travesty. As in, it actually pained me to watch it. Nothing against Carrie Underwood or any of the actors, except to say this: why would you sign on to something like that? I was ready to give it a shot until they began messing with the songs, which was about 10 minutes in. To be clear: messing with the order of the songs in The Sound of Music, or creating new songs to intersperse as you see fit is like taking a Hemingway novel, ripping it up, throwing it on the floor, mussing it about, writing some new chapters, and then throwing it all back together. Bad idea. Capital-offense bad. The last straw, for me, was the performance of “The Lonely Goatherd” in the storm scene. What the dickens does a story about a goat have to do with making kids feel better about thunder?!? The entire point of “My Favorite Things” in the original was the closing line: if I think about all the things, “…then I don’t feel so bad.” Inexcusable. As was the complete absence of weird goat puppets and fat beer-drinking, lederhosen-clad man puppets.
It’s officially movie season for me. My sweet St. Louis International Film Festival came and went without me getting to see one single movie, due to illness at this house to rival the plague (thanks, Wee One). She’s better, but now I want to make up for lost time, and there’s so much I want to see. Since I know I’m not the only one who gets movie-happy this time of year, tell me: which movies did you see this year and love? Which ones are you excited to go see in the near future? If I had to pick a favorite day to see a movie, it would be the day after Christmas. I’m hoping I get to do that this year, and maybe spend some free time seeing lots of others over the coming months.
Oh! Side question/note: let’s talk about christmas movies. Do any of you have a movie/movies you can’t get through the holidays without watching? I want to know. There’s been much debate over one of my holiday favorites, Love Actually, so I want to see what some of you like to screen. And don’t judge me on that holiday pick, either; one of my other favorites is Joyeux Noël, an exceedingly beautiful and depressing film about soldiers laying down arms to celebrate Christmas. If you want to cry heavy, historical tears and discover a whole new reason to hate war, run out and get that one. If somewhere in the distance you here deep, unrelenting sobs, that’s just me watching it.
Sponsored Posts: I’ve been pondering some of your incredibly thoughtful answers to the Just One Question Project recently. It seems like there are bloggers who are open to sponsored posts, and bloggers who aren’t, without much grey area. I am the latter, but to the former, I say: you go, people. I have nothing but love and respect for you, because I don’t know the first thing about sponsored posts, but I know some of you do them, and from what I can tell, you do them very well. Some of you touched on it during Question 2 of the Just One Question Project in regard to how long it took you to do those types of posts versus a normal post.
Well, color me intrigued, because I never thought about that aspect of it. Does it take longer? What is required of you? How specifically do you go about a post like that and how does it differ aside from the length of time? Since I can’t ask that in a Just One Question post (because it doesn’t apply to all or even the majority of you; I counted) I’m guinea-pigging it. I am going to do a sponsored post because I want to experience what it’s like for those of you who do them. Will it change my mind about doing sponsored posts on the blog? Not a chance; I can already tell you that unless Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table happens to come knocking and ask me to be their official brand ambassador, I’m having none of it. Even then, I’d need some serious convincing, because this just isn’t my thing. But what I’m hoping it will do is give me some firsthand insight as to why some of you do them.
Lucky for me, then, that the HoneyBaked Ham people innocently and unknowingly sent me an email about doing a sponsored post for them over the holiday. There were lots of flowery words, and I’ll spare you the details, but here’s what I read: We are paying for your Christmas Night dinner. Because as luck would have it, everyone insists on one of those dang hams every year. And although I myself am a fair-weather ham person (actually, their ham is an exception for me; normally I don’t eat it), the rest of the guests can’t get enough of it.
They may have actually known that I wouldn’t be swayed by just the ham, so they came prepared: they would also throw in a Williams Sonoma hot chocolate pot with WS hot chocolate (okay, I’m listening), and Anthropologie apron (um, did I read that right? really?!) and a CD from Mr. Michael Buble, who personally wants to smooth out my holiday stress by throwing a little crooning action my way (sold!). I thought it would be the perfect offer to accept after turning down so many of them; you would think I would have been on some sort of master blacklist right now for these types of things, but I guess not. Well, yet: the upcoming post about my “Stress-Fee Holiday” (hashtag “#HoneyBakedHoliday“, which, let’s be honest, I keep wanting to add an “I’m” to) will either immortalize me forever in the wild world of sponsored posts and I’ll have to shut down my email, or I’ll never hear from anyone again. Which is perfectly fine with me.
So you can catch me and the ‘Bubs hanging out here in a few weeks. I’ll be happily wearing my Anthro apron and eating the tiny rum cakes they sent me (an unexpected treat that only makes the above hashtag idea more amusing), OD’ing on hot chocolate from my shmancy hot chocolate pot, and figuring out – in a stress-free way, naturally – what to do with my enormous ham.
All kidding aside, I’m pretty stoked: everything came in a nice, tidy box, my apron is super cute – very festive without screaming “holiday!” – and obviously the hot chocolate and rum cakes are pretty amazing. The Bubs’ music isn’t what I normally listen to (If I want a little Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin, I dive into my actual Rat Pack vinyl collection), but he does have a beautiful voice, and he hails from Canada, one of my favorite places on earth, largely due to some of you. I’ll never completely forgive you for Celine Dion, really, but Michael Buble and some of your other talent takes some of the sting out.
I am actually looking forward to my #HoneyBakedHoliday Experiment, people: it’s like a sub-project of the Just One Question Project, and I feel like I’ll get to know some of you a little better in the process. The HoneyBaked Ham people are dying a little inside for unwittingly inviting me to do this, I’m sure, but I think they may really like what I do.
Are you ready to watch me try to adhere to all the things required for a sponsorship post? Don’t hold your breath, because let’s be honest, that’s probably not going to happen. What will happen is honesty: honesty about the quality of products sent, honesty about how we enjoyed them, honesty about my experience doing a sponsored post, start to finish. I chose to accept this because history would suggest that this goes really well and that I don’t hate anything. HoneyBaked Ham People: do not fear, because unless you really screw something up with my giant holiday ham order, I know it’s going to be great, and I’m happy to spread the word. I’ve enjoyed everything thus far, and I’m excited to begin using everything you sent me.
I promise to be back soon with actual food and less rambling. Okay, you got me: just actual food, same rambling.