41 days of Celebration Surprises

Wow, twenty days…where does the time go? Not only that, but now it’s 36 days until the new year and already 4 days of my ’41 days of Celebration and Surprises’ have passed. I feel like 25 just aren’t enough (the 25 days of Christmas made popular by ABC Family…and Advent and just so many things in general.) Also, by having 41, instead of just 25, there isn’t the…what’s the word? Let down isn’t right, but if you do that 25 it’s like excitement excitement excitement, Christmas hits and then BAM nothing…so instead I’m gonna keep going right through to the new year, and greet 2013 in a way I haven’t greeted the others.

Day 1: Thursday, November 22: Thanksgiving
Although we are thankful to be together, my immediate family doesn’t really do Thanksgiving in a traditional sense anyway, on the day of

As my dad calls us, The Brain Trust had lots to discuss about the various trees. We’re even starting my nephew off early, he’s not even two yet.

. No, instead our family usually goes Christmas Tree hunting. In the past the hunt has been…heated. All three of us siblings can be headstrong with our opinions on which tree is ‘perfect’. The first year it took us over two hours to agree on a tree. However since then it’s been easier and easier to agree. Either we’re growing up, learning to pick our battles, or know/understand the traits we each look for most. After our tree expedition out to the tree farm we returned home to have dinner. Rather than having turkey or ham we had Nachos (why I love my family). Then we did prep and cooking for the big weekend.

Day 2: Friday, November 23: Atkins Thanksgiving
Every year my mom’s family comes to town for Thanksgiving weekend. Two days of nearly 20 adults in my parents house. It’s awesome and usually crazy. Friday is the big traditional meal day. The family starts arriving around noon and spends the time before the meal either helping with the cooking or out shopping (trying to score a couple Black Friday deals). This year two (of the three that would travel to our house) siblings were able to make it. It was weird, for whatever reason with four less people than usual (still leaving us with 17) it seemed like a much smaller crowd. Seriously, that line of thinking seems rather ridiculous. Anyway, Friday is the day we have our typical Thanksgiving meal. After we washed up and ate too many desserts my cousins and I went to my apartment to finish watching the Creighton- Wisconsin game. It was favorable that we left. One of the families are huge Creighton fans while my brother-in-law is a Wisconsin man. My cousins were able to rejoice in the win without punishing him too much.

Day 3: Saturday, November 24: Atkins Thanksgiving continued & Brunch with the Girls
I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with a couple of my besties since they were in town for the holidays. (This is a major bonus to me staying close to home. I’m always here when they come home to visit their families, so if they have spare time for a cup of coffee or something we can usually meet up. We decided to head to The Cafe for brunch, us and maybe a fourth of the population, but I can taste why. It was sooooo good. Pumpkin pancakes, cranberry-lime scones, parfaits. Perfection. It was fun seeing the two of them and hearing about their shenanigans (one of them just closed on a house, the other is a teacher. There are always shenanigans to discuss). After returning home the day was full of soup, games (like Ticket to Ride which, with many of us being rather cut-throat, means it’s usually a five-way battle of wits. My only goal this year was to get longest route. A goal which I did achieve even though I didn’t win overall) , and a couple episodes of Top Gear. (My uncle is really into car, a passion he has somewhat passed onto his son. He had talked about this show and despite myself I may be hooked on it).

Day 4: Sunday, November 25: Cooking and a Classic
My darling sister likes to do some of her Thanksgiving baking weeks ahead and then freeze it (like the amazing rolls/breads we usually have just laying about on Saturday). This has lead me to try an experiment this year. I’m going to start cooking holiday goodies now for our Christmas festivities. That was the plan anyway. Yesterday I tried 4 recipes: Honey-Almond Fudge, Honey Cakes, Pumpkin ‘Fluff’, and Pumpkin Poppers. I had a 75 percent success rating. Care to guess which one didn’t work out?
The Honey Cakes, although more biscuit like, turned out just fine. They are these dense tough cookie-like baked goods that taste really good with some jam. (Sadly I didn’t bring my camera from my parent’s house after the other weekend activities so I don’t have any photos. I even told my mother I wouldn’t be needing it, once again, mother knows best. However since I’ll have the goods for a while, I’ll post a follow up post with both the pictures and the successful recipes when I get it back). I don’t usually bake from scratch, and part of the reason is obvious: I don’t have the proper materials. I had to use a cup to roll out my dough since I didn’t have a proper roller, nor did I have a round cookie cutter. Then I realized I had mason jars and the lids were the perfect size, so that worked out rather well.
Pumpkin Poppers are delicious. They are meant to be more doughnut hole-esque though and I didn’t have the right materials for them either. You’re suppose to cook them in mini-cupcake tins. I only have normal sized ones. Once I had filled them up I decided to just make a shallow loaf/cake with the rest of that batter. It worked shockingly well…except for when I dumped it out and broke it. Even then I just cut it up into various shapes (based on how it had fractured) and it worked out just fine. The ones that I had cooked in pumpkin tins I finished the way the recipe intended (brushing/rolling them in butter then in cinnamon-sugar). The loaf I combined with the Pumpkin Fluff.
Pumpkin Fluff is cool-whip with instant pudding and pumpkin added and is a bit addicting. It made a lovely ‘frosting’ for the Pumpkin loaf-cake and will taste amazing with graham crackers. (This last bit is an extrapolation, but it tasted good with the pumpkin loaf and on it’s own.)
This leaves the fudge being a fail. I don’t have a candy thermometer, so perhaps that was my downfall, but I’ve made fudge without it before. The directions were just poor. I was trying a new recipe and after heating the mixture to soft-ball stage I was instructed to cool it until it reached 100 something degrees (which was suppose to take 50-60 minutes). After 40 I checked it and had a hard mess stuck to the bottom of the pot. The poor pot will never be the same…it still has hardened sugar stuck to it. I’m going to have loads of fun trying to fix that situation. Rather than trying the fudge again I decided to pass on it. I’ll be making more fudge in the next couple of weeks. We don’t need this batch of fudge.
To finish up the day I watched a classic movie. Oh perhaps I should take this time to explain the ‘surprise’ part of the next month. Earlier this month I put a handful of movies in two separate opaque bags. On Friday/Sunday I will close my eyes (for good measure) and pull one out to watch. The ones on Sunday are suppose to be older movies (I honestly can’t recall what I set aside for either night). Yesterday it was The Court Jester starring Danny Kaye. (Also Basil Rathbone who, of course, voiced Sherlock Holmes for so many years)

I love old movies, particularly this one. The writing, although decades old, is still funny and witty. The large ensembles are amusing and add a sense of grandeur that just isn’t the same nowadays.  Which makes it highly re-watchable. If you’ve never seen the movie and are looking for a comedy set in the days of lords and vassals pick this sucker up, you wont be disappointed.

Must dash – plenty of fun to come though, let the holiday festivities begin!
Until next time ~ Q

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