December 27, 2013

And a Partridge in a Pear Tart?

Well, I managed to do it again. As usual, my brain appeared to be elsewhere when I was shopping and I completely miscounted the cream cheese. This is absolute proof that my brain has a limited ability to function when asked to do one thing at a time. This should not have been hard. For the first time in forty-two years I was not cooking a big family dinner on Christmas Eve. The only assignment I had was to make a dessert for Christmas dinner at Tom's sister's.

Maybe it was because it was the first time in forty-two years that Tom and I were going to be alone on Christmas Eve. This was a bit of a hurdle for us. We've always hosted dinner on Christmas Eve. It started with dinner for my side of the family and grew through the years to include just about anybody. One year we had a very handsome policeman drop by to be stared at by three giggly teenage girls.

At any rate to get back to the matter at hand, I decided to make a pear tart. The pear tart that I make is quite delicious, if I do say so myself. But the cookie crust is a little tricky. It's easy to overcook it. So I baked the crust Christmas Eve and planned to fill it Christmas morning giving myself plenty of time to make another one if necessary.  But it wasn't necessary. The crust was perfect. A little crispy, just brown enough, good enough to eat.

Cookie crust the way it should be
So Christmas morning in an effort to fight off the blues I was feeling not having my kids there, I looked at this crust and smiled. Then I got busy making the filling. Well, not exactly making it. But very busy looking for the cream cheese which is the basis of it. I know I had some. I had made a list. I went to the store and remembered to bring the list. And, best of all, I actually read the list and got what was on it. So the cream cheese had to be there. Didn't it?

Christmas dessert

Luckily it was early in the day when I searched for the cream cheese. Strangely enough, while I did not have any actual cream cheese, I did have all the ingredients for a Bundt cake, including heavy cream and cake flour. And it was pretty darned good, but not as good as a Pear Tart!

December 9, 2013

Angel hair and Christmas

I would like to thank all of you who came by the Bowie Grille on Saturday to help me officially launch Roses and Daisies and Death, Oh My. The day was a great success. Not only was I surrounded by family, but neighbors and old friends and new friends managed to find time only weeks before Christmas to share the day with me. I can't tell you how much it meant to have you all there. Thank you so much.

And because Christmas is only days away I am going to tell a little Christmas story about the year we put angel hair on the tree. Sounds pretty, doesn't it?

Now, my father was a nut about Christmas. We had no money to speak of and really didn't get much in the way of gifts, but that didn't matter. It just meant so much to him, from decorating the tree to arranging the gifts under it, to hanging our socks at the end of our beds, that we could have gotten socks and underwear and we'd think we had gone to heaven.

He was very big into decorating the tree. It was an art. The tree itself usually looked like one Charlie Brown might have rejected, but we loved it anyway. Lights were strung with care. Ornament placement was crucial. Tinsel was put on strand by strand.

It was an exciting night. We'd have a bath and put on our new pajamas. My mother made all of our clothes and we always had new pajamas for Christmas. By this time, Dad had wired the tree to the wall (we had cats and they tended to climb) and had gotten the lights on. Then it was our turn to put on the ornaments and finish up with tinsel.

But this particular year, tinsel was edged out by Angel Hair. Some marketing genius placed it front and center in the Christmas decorations aisle. And my Dad bought it. It looked great - elegant, wispy clouds of gossamer fluff. We were thrilled. Putting tinsel on strand by strand can be tedious for an adult. For little kids it was a royal pain. This stuff didn't need that kind of precision. My brother, Tim, and my sister, Chris, and I took it out of its package and started strewing. Then we started itching. And then we started crying.

The marketing genius had forgotten to mark clearly on the label that Angel Hair was made of spun fiberglass and, in the wrong hands - well, any hands really - it cut like little knives and itched like the devil.

So the new pajamas came off and we once again hopped into the tub while Dad took the angel hair off the tree with a few choice words and threw it in the trash. We went to bed still itching.

I look back fondly on that night. I have no idea why. Maybe it's the lesson that we learned - never tinker with tradition. Or maybe it's just that I've forgotten most of those past Christmas's and this is the one I remember. Whichever, for about a minute and a half we had a tree fit for heaven, even though it ended up, probably with the marketing genius, in another place entirely.