Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ACCM - Christmas Baking

Ignore my caved-in pumpkin bread. I'm baking at 7100 feet and have an aversion to adjusting my recipes...

Pumpkin yummy! I used to grab the boxes of pumpkin bread mix in the stores as soon as it started showing up around Thanksgiving. Sadly it would disappear from the shelves shortly after the new year. I decided I would have to find a homemade recipe that was as good or better than the boxed stuff I was buying...and I found one!

Unfortunately, I've been using this recipe for years and copied it down without the source. I found it online and I really wish I could share the source, but I'm certainly still going to share the recipe. There are a few changes that I've made. The spices are "heaping" measurements. I know they weren't in the original. I like my spice! I've also substituted some wheat flour into the recipe. You can go with all white flour if you'd prefer. The recipe makes one loaf, but if you're a fan of pumpkin bread like I am just double it. Use the whole 15 oz can of pumpkin puree. It won't be exactly 2 cups, but it works. Trust me on this one. And by doubling it you won't have leftover pumpkin!

Pumpkin Nut Bread

1/3 c. butter (or margarine), softened
1-1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. water
1 c. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1 c. flour
2/3 c. wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, heaping
1/4 tsp. cloves, heaping
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, heaping
1/2 c. nuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light; set aside.

In another bowl combine the eggs, water and pumpkin; mix well. Add creamed butter mixture; blend thoroughly. Sift dry ingredients together in another bowl and add to creamed mixture 1/3 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Mix in the nuts, if desired.

Pour into a greased and floured 9x5x3-inch loaf pan for 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

ACCM - Christmas Tree Decorations

Some of the ornaments from when I was little still hang on my tree.

Who didn't have a glass pinecone?
What kind of decorations do you put on your Christmas tree? Is your tree all pretty glass ornaments and ribbon? I can really appreciate the beauty of those trees. I can appreciate it, but it isn't me. I'm not even sure if I'm capable of putting together one of those flawless, beautiful, artistic trees. I think it would turn out more like a Pinterest-fail if I made the attempt. That's alright though because the decorations on my tree express more than beauty. Each one has its own story. Whether it was purchased because it was merely pretty or because it represented an experience or place visited, it says something about who we are as a family.

My tree has pretty much always been like that. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my adopted-nana, Hazel Blum, made some ornaments for my sisters and I. One in particular that I recall was little magazine clippings that were decoupaged on a plastic egg-shaped ornament. She clipped things that reminded her of us. Perhaps a scottie dog for my little sister or a doll for me. It was homemade and it was cherished. Sadly, I don't have these ornaments anymore. Any ornaments that were "mine" are MIA. I asked my father, keeper-of-the-Christmas-stuff, for them years ago and he said that he didn't have them. He said that he had given them to us. I don't know what really happened to them, but I don't have them. I do have a lot of decorations from my childhood, but never these. These most cherished of items.
Not all ornaments are traditional.

Yes there were glass ornaments on my tree growing up. Probably ornaments that are very similar to ones you may have had on your tree. Perhaps you still do. I know my husband's family had similar ornaments as well. They were in vogue at the time. In addition to those ornaments I added some that I painted.

The first Christmas that I was in the Army and didn't go home to be with family I bought my own live tree and needed to decorate it. I didn't have any ornaments so I got some plaster craft ornaments and painted them. I tied ribbon to them and hung them on my tree with white lights and baby's breath to simulate snow. It was beautiful to me and I didn't need much. I still have those ornaments.

As time went on I got other ornaments from friends and family and they've been added to our tree decorating. We even have a glass pickle ornament that we hide on the tree and the child that finds it gets a special present. Each year I get my sons a new ornament and put their initial on it somewhere. This way when they grow up they'll be able to take these ornaments with them to put on their first Christmas tree. It's a tradition I started, but one I hope they will continue with their children.

A poi ornament from our time living in Hawaii
Ornaments aren't something parents should covet so they could remember when their children were at home with them once they've gone off on their own. They are gifts of memories that we give to our children so they can remember the good times at home during the Holidays with family that wasn't perfect, but the loved and cherished them.

Happy Holidays everyone!

A plastercraft ornament for my youngest
A plastercraft ornament I painted for my oldest

Some help us remember places we've been...

...and some show our family fanaticism.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

ACCM - Christmas Cookies

I purchased this copy of The New World Encyclopedia
of Cooking
on Ebay for about $20.00. I love everything,
but...the smell (yuck mildew)!
I've blogged Christmas recipes in previous years. My favorite cocoa refrigerator cookies, "Aunt" Hazel's peanut butter fudge, and my mom's, aunt's and uncle's favorite...sand tarts.

This year I'd like to share my mom's sugar cookie recipe. My mom made the BEST sugar cookies. They had orange zest in them and were just so yummy. I haven't made them in quite a few years. Since we started going to Wisconsin for Christmas around 2009 there was no need. You see my sisters and mother-in-law would get pre-cut sugar cookies as a tradition and the aunts would gather around and color some icing purchased from Festival Foods. We'd ice the cookies and pass them to the kids to put sugar crystals and sprinkles on top. The result was a lot of fun for the kids and a little nudge closer to diabetes for the adults. "Sugar rush" is an understatement!

There were usually lots of cookies to take home after the holidays so I stopped making my mom's sugar cookies because of this. Now most of my nephews and nieces are grown up. Fewer and fewer want to decorate cookies. It won't be long before I start making these again to keep sugar cookies around for my kids. Sugar cut-out cookies are just a must for the holidays!

I've had some trouble with this recipe in the past. I won't bend the truth here. My cookies just weren't coming out as yummy as mom's. It bothered me. I'm a pretty good baker. The cookies were tough. I'm not talking tough to make, I mean tough as in how they tasted after I made them. Frankly, they were kicking my butt. I couldn't figure it out. The first couple batches were fine. Then it came to me. I was re-rolling the dough too many times.  Yeah...don't do that. Take the scraps and re-roll once. Try to maximize your cut-outs so you don't have a lot of scraps left. Heck...give the scraps to the kids (or eat them yourself...cookie dough...YUM!). Just don't do more than two rolls from the same dough. No bueno!

Now I must go on to clarify that while I say these are my "mom's" sugar cookies she actually got them from The New World Encyclopedia of Cooking. They're on page 673. There are several variations to this recipe listed below the base sugar cookie recipe and one of them is "Lemon Sugar Cookies." My mom didn't add lemon zest to the batter, she used orange zest.

Growing up I remember putting those candy silver balls, red hots, colored sprinkles an sugar crystals on them. We were never allowed to put too much on and you really wouldn't want to cover up the flavor of these!

My Mom's (ahem...TNWEOC's) Sugar Cookies

2/3 c butter
1 c sugar
2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 orange, zested

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla; mix. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and orange zest. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture.

Divide dough and place on a sheet of waxed paper. Place another sheet over the dough a press to about 1/2 to 1-inch thickness. Do this with the other half of the dough and refrigerate overnight or until firm.

Break off a piece of the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes. Make sure to maximize your cutouts to reduce scraps and re-rolling! Bake in a 375 degree (F) oven for 10 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet until the bottoms are golden.

Transfer to cooling racks and cool completely.

Remember that after you break a piece of dough off to roll that you must put the rest of it back in the refrigerator until you're ready to use more dough. You want it to stay cold!

Also if you're decorating without icing and just sprinkles you want to decorate before you bake them.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sympathy Saturday - Hopes Dashed

I've posted several times about my 2nd great aunt, Bessie Dugan. She died shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Elizabeth "Betty," by c-section in 1918. I was obsessed about finding out what happened to her daughter. Why? Bessie's parents, William and Mary Quirk nee Lee, had 9 children...only 2 of them married and had children of their own. My great grandfather, Edward Quirk, was one of them. Bessie Dugan nee Quirk was the other. I was in disbelief that so few had gotten married.

At first I had assumed that Betty had died near the time that Bessie did, but then I found her in a 1920 census with her dad. I won't go into too much detail. I've already done so in other posts which I will link to at the bottom if you'd like to read more. The point is I've been searching (and hoping) not just that I'd figure out what happened to her, but that I'd hear that she lived and that she had children and that there are other branches to my Quirk family to get in touch with.

Hopes dashed.

Pennsylvania Death Certificate - Elizabeth Dugan child of Dennis and Elizabeth nee Quirk

Mystery solved. Betty didn't reach her fourth year of life. She died from diphtheria in 1922. How absolutely heart-broken her father must have been to lose them both. How heart-breaking it was to find that death certificate and have it confirmed that my Quirk line is the only one that lives on.

In her death certificate her place of burial was listed as "Hazleton Catholic Cemetery." Yeah...thanks. No cemetery by that name. Bessie is buried in my family cemetery, St. Gabriel's, in Hazleton. So is Betty. I contact the church (now Holy Annunciation) and they have little Betty in their death register for 1922. Sadly they don't have a plot number for her. Their assumption is the same as mine...that she is buried in the same plot as her mother. I'll be looking for that obituary when I go back to Pennsylvania next summer. Hopefully, it's not on one of the Standard Speaker's many missing rolls of microfilm. If it is I'll have to go and seek out an obituary in Bethlehem.  The bottom line is that I want them remembered though. Always.

Ambiguous cemetery listed for burial
I'm grateful for the advances of modern medicine. Diphtheria isn't a concern anymore. We have a vaccination to protect against it. I'm amazed that Bessie died of c-section complications and not the influenza pandemic that was peaking at the time of little Betty's birth. Perhaps that was a contributing factor, but it's not in her certificate that way. I'm equally amazed that little Betty was able to avoid the flu and then die just before her fourth birthday from diphtheria. Diphtheria was certainly a killer of children, but to live through a terrible pandemic to die a few years later is desperately sad. The odds were not in her favor.

Dugan posts:
Wisdom Wednesday - I Live For These Moments
Amanuensis Monday - Two Steps Forward and One Step Back
Amanuensis Monday - The Long Lost Dennis Dugan
Tombstone Tuesday - Another Brick in the Wall
Amanuensis Monday - Always Searching for Bessie

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ACCM - Christmas at Church

The Shrine at Our Lady of Good Help in New Franken, WI decorated
for Christmas
My family is Catholic. Like way back Catholic. My paternal grandparents were Catholic, but switched because of a disagreement over divorce/annulment with the Church and became Methodist (I think), but everyone else...Catholic. My hubby's family is Catholic as well. My mother-in-law is German so there are some Lutherans there, but it was pretty well split between the two faiths.

When I was young we'd go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I'm not sure why my parents would do that to themselves. I say that because they'd come home and send us kids off to bed and then would have to get the presents out and put together any big ones that needed assembly. They must not have gotten much sleep that night. Kids tend to wake up early on Christmas morning! There were a couple times when we'd get up super early and go to their room to see if we could go out to see if Santa had arrived. We'd be told that it was too early and to go back to bed.

As an adult I liked going to Christmas Eve mass as well, but not the midnight service. When my husband and I first got married and had children that's the one we went to. It wasn't necessarily "getting mass out of the way," but it is more convenient than waking kids up in the morning and parading them past presents on their way to church. To me going to mass on Christmas Eve just got me even more in the Christmas spirit. You go to mass and then come home for a nice meal. Enjoy some Christmas Eve television specials with a cup of tea or hot cocoa and then send the kids off to bed and get to bringing out the presents. The next morning was just enjoying the day with family.

After we started spending Christmas in Wisconsin with my in-laws doing Christmas Eve mass wasn't possible. I tried it once, but it threw off the schedule of events. You see my in-laws all gather together on Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law's house. We have beef tenderloin and lots of other tasty treats and gifts are exchanged. There's actually a lot more that goes on, but that's a short, sweet summary of events. The night starts early so heading to church means delaying everyone else's night and that's not right. I like the way they do things...Christmas Eve together and then Christmas day with their in-laws. It works out nicely and the kids and I head out to mass with my mother-in-law Christmas morning. We usually get everyone up early enough so the boys can check out their stockings before heading out. It seems to tide them over until we get back home.

I love seeing how beautifully decorated the Churches are for Advent and Christmas. I really need to get a picture of my husband's church in Green Bay. Saints Peter and Paul's is always stunningly decorated! It really is breath-taking! Seeing all the decorations helps to put me in the holiday spirit. I love the songs during church at Christmas too. They range from "Go Tell it on the Mountain" to "Silent Night." You don't want to hear me sing, but I've got no fear singing these songs!

Another favorite part of church at Christmas is the manger scene. We rarely have attended a production of the Nativity, but we always take the kids to the front of the church to see the manger after mass. Baby Jesus is absent from the manger scene throughout Advent and then is placed in the manger at midnight mass. Perhaps that's why my mom liked going to midnight mass. The absence of Jesus from the manger is something we do at home with our little Nativity. We leave Jesus out and place him in Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. At least when we celebrated Christmas at home. We put out baby Jesus sooner when we go to Wisconsin for the holidays. It wouldn't serve a purpose to put him in there in January and then clean it all up!

Advent and Christmas in the Catholic Church always gives me a feeling that we're ramping up to something big...and we are. It gets you into the spirit. It helps everyone to remember the real reason behind the season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

ACCM - Christmas Traditions

We had a few traditions when I was growing up. We had a pretty barberry candle in a glass container that had a white plastic flower attached to the lid. The smell was divine! Burning a bayberry candle is supposed to bring luck/good fortune. I don't know that it ever did, but the candle only came out at Christmastime. My sisters and I used to take the glass lid off and breathe in the fragrance whenever we got the chance. When we were really little we'd be scolded for doing it too often...afraid that little hands would break the lid. I have bayberry candles in my home, but they are out all year long. There are fewer and fewer large candle producing companies that make bayberry scented candles and even fewer that actually use the bayberry plant when making them. My kids love the fragrance too and hopefully will have bayberry candles in their homes as adults.

We had a ceramic yule log that came out at Christmas as well. It had taper candles in it and was covered in wax drippings from years of use. It would usually be placed on our dining room table with the Christmas cookies in tins. Occasionally it would sit on the mantel above our fake fireplace or the flat-top of the dining room radiator. A few years back I found a replica of this yule log on eBay. It wasn't painted which was fine by me. That meant I got to do the colors I wanted. I ordered one and got to painting. I bring it out each year. I don't think it means much to my children, but every time I see it I smile. Good memories.

Even during the hardest times in my childhood Christmas was a time of happiness. The replica is a little smaller than the original (at least by my reckoning), but it was a piece of my childhood I never expected to be able to share.

One last tradition I'd like to share is one that my husband and I started a year or so after having our first child. After we put our stockings by the fireplace my husband would read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to our boys. They'd sit on his lap (next to him now that they're bigger) and listen to him read it. It was the last thing done before giving kisses and heading off to bed.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Military Monday - Fort Carson GWOT Fallen Soldiers' Memorial, 2004

Fort Carson GWOT Memorial stone 2004
These photos were taken shortly after Memorial Weekend on Fort Carson. All of the flags, flowers, bottles and various token were left behind by friends and loved ones as a tribute to those they lost. We need to remember ever single one of them!

Roll Call

SSG Billy J. Orton 24 Apr 2004
SSG Stacey C. Brandon 24 Apr 2004
SPC Kenneth A. Melton 25 Apr 2004
SSG Hensley Box 6 May 2004
SFC Troy Miranda 20 May 2004
SGT Justin L. Eyerly 4 Jun 2004
SPC Justin W. Linden 4 Jun 2004
1LT Erik S. McCrae 4 Jun 2004
SPC Eric S. McKinley 13 Jun 2004
SPC Ken W. Leisten 28 Jul 2004
SPC Omead H. Razani 27 Aug 2004
SSG Gary A. Vaillant 5 Sep 2004
PFC Jason L. Sparks 8 Sep 2004
SGT Benjamin Warren Isenberg 13 Sep 2004
SSG David Weisenburg 13 Sep 2004
1LT Tyler H. Brown 14 Sep 2004
SGT David W. Johnson 25 Sep 2004

SPC Robert O. Unruh 25 Sep 2004
CPT Eric L. Allton 26 Sep 2004
PFC Joshua K. Titcomb 28 Sep 2004
SGT Russell L. Collier 3 Oct 2004
SSG Christopher Potts 3 Oct 2004
PV2 Jeungjin Kim 6 Oct 2004
SGT Ronald W. Baker 7 Oct 2004
PFC James E. Prevete 10 Oct 2004
PFC Aaron J. Rusin 11 OCT 2004
SPC Christopher A. Merville 12 Oct 2004
PFC Mark A. Barbret 14 Oct 2004
SPC Bradley S. Beard 14 Oct 2004
SSG Omer T. Hawkins II 14 Oct 2004
SPC Stephen P. Downing II 28 Oct 2004
SGT Maurice K. Fortune 29 OCT 2004
SGT John B. Trotter 9 Nov 2004
PFC Dennis J. Miller Jr. 10 Nov 2004
SSG Sean P. Huey 11 Nov 2004
SSG Marshall H. Caddy 16 Nov 2004
CPT Luke C. Wullenwaber 16 Nov 2004

SGT David Roustum 20 Nov 2004
SPC Sergio R. Diaz-Varela 24 Nov 2004
PV2 Brian K. Grant 26 Nov 2004
PFC Harrison J. Meye 26 Nov 2004
SGT Michael Antonio Smith 26 Nov 2004
PFC Stephen C. Benish 28 Nov 2004
SGT Carl W. Lee 28 Nov 2004
SSG Michael B. Shackelford 28 Nov 2004
SSG Kyle A. Eggers 5 Dec 2004
SPC Edwin W. Roodhouse 5 Dec 2004
SSG Marvin L. Trost III 5 Dec 2004
PFC Andrew M. Ward 5 Dec 2004
SFC Todd C. Gibbs 7 Dec 2004

May all of our Service Members come home for good soon!

Fort Carson GWOT 2003-2004 memorial post.