Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Little Jump On The Season

I am feeling some pressure to get ahead on Christmas preparations because --

- What's that you say? It's barely Thanksgiving and it's too early for Christmas? -

True, true, but once we clear the end of November, all things Christmas will start bearing down on me, and I will suddenly find myself with no time to do some of the special things I wanted to do, and wailing and bitching, *ahem* I mean stressing out about it.

I do have time to do those special things, but only if I work ahead. If I tackle the big projects as a series of mini projects, then all is calm. (Or as calm as you can get in the midst of everything going on.) If I wait until early-mid December to start, woe is me.

This year, when I realized that our contractor was going to eat up an entire week with projects all over the house, I concluded that it was time to put in some serious prep work. And, if I got in significant work before we travel for Thanksgiving, I'll have a jump on the whole season. Or at least keep close to "up."

I might as well go ahead and mix up and refrigerate a few batches of cookie dough, eh?
OP-Sugar Crystals in Butter
Sugar Crystals in Butter - sparkly!

Therefor, a sampling of my list accomplished so far:

Mixed a batch of white roll cookies. These lemon-vanilla cookies are rolled and cut into Christmassy shapes to be decorated later. I have hopes that the little girl will experience some of the sugar-frosting-splashing and sprinkle-spilling fun. It'll be enough of a time-consuming job to roll, cut, and bake them, so I'm glad I got the mixing and chilling out of the way.

Sugar Icing All Colors

Mixed a batch of ginger roll cookies. This is my favorite gingerbread cookie of the crisp variety. I'm hoping, in the name of toddler participation, that the little girl will be able to help place currents and cinnamon candies.

OP-Pool of Molasses

Gingerbread Reds

Bought craft supplies to make fun gifty things that the little girl can help me with. Shhh, I'll tell you about it later.

Stockpiled bars of white and dark chocolate for another fun gifty recipe.

Designed a felt advent calendar wall hanging. I was originally planning to recreate the wall hanging that one of my aunts made for me and my sisters, but the original has gone awol (damaged and thrown out, my mother reports unsentimentally). Then once I started searching online for ideas, I found lots of cool plans. I ended up reworking my original idea to incorporate the best of other versions. Right now, it's all on a sheet of paper with sketches and notes. I'll post some picture later, I promise.

Accumulated felt and other supplies for that advent calender wall-hanging. I still have lots of do to get this ready before Thanksgiving!

Made a rough budget for gift giving. Hopefully it's between realistic and draconian. We almost always overspend, so having a rough guideline helps us keep the spending from reaching the scary zone.

Stockpiled butter. I make lots and lots of cookies, and some of them are heavy on the butter (see below: pizelles). Whenever butter was on sale this Summer and Fall, I got a few more pounds and stashed them in the fridge and freezer, where they'll keep for ages.

Stockpiled chocolates and truffles on sale. My whole family loves my habit of stuffing their stockings with these wee goodies. Since I usually give at least 3-6 per person, truffles tend to run me about thirty dollars a year. I mean, seasonally. Plus oh, several *cough* more for quality control testing. Two out of three people in the household agree that we need to double check the truffles for freshness. Anyway, I have been shopping the sales, and stashing bags in places that we hopefully will forget exist until immediately before Christmas.

Found used play kitchen and play food/utensils for the little girl. We got this this Summer after weeks of shopping and craigslist scanning. We've been saving it until the little girl is old enough to appreciate it, which we figured would be about Christmas.

Other things on the list yet to be done:

Cook up a crock pot of mince fruit filling for pies. To make this happen, I need to cut up a bunch of apples, etc, thrown together with raisins and currants, molasses and spices, and let "simmer" overnight. Then I'm going to freeze two pies worth. Then, when I am at my inlaws for T-day cooking, I can bake two pies - one for my inlaw's dinner (even though most of my inlaws don't care for this pie), and one for my cousin's T-day dinner the day *after*. So after I cook the filling, I need to *freeze* the filling so it can travel without spoilage. Anyway, that's my plan. I just got fresh currants.

Mix up some Pfeffernüße, my favorite childhood German cookie. Like the previous several cookies, this needs to be refrigerated, but at least I am not making the teeny tiny version my grandmother specialized in - that would take me months to achieve.

Dusted Pfeffernuesse

Bake pizelles, my favorite Italian wafer-cookie. I invested in a pizelle press a few years back. What fun! I'm hoping to make several flavours. Anise-flavored, always. Last year I also made a vanilla version, an hazelnut-almond version, and an orange-lemon version. Some for gifts, and some (okay, lots!) for us. Yummy. Oh, did I mention each batch takes a couple sticks of butter and a solid hour of uninterrupted work? (See: stock-piling butter, also: working ahead).

Baby Pizzelle Press

Start measuring/cutting/sewing the Advent calendar wall hanging. Any day now.

Wipe down play kitchen and replace batteries. Did you know that play kitchens these days often come with a sensor that plays "cooking" and boiling/sputtering noises whenever a toy pot is put over a burner? Me neither! Yes, it's electronic, but it's cool!

Wrap already acquired presents. I could start on some of the books and what-not.

Decluttering the kitchen and living room. My goal is to clear out piles so we'll have space to appreciate the tree and other decorations. I might even box up some of the toys in the house for the season, just to get them out of the way during other hoopla.

Move my mailing boxes into one location. I've been saving boxes of a certain midsize, oh, about the size of a cookie tin, say.

Start drafting my annual end-of-year letter. Yes, I am one of those people who write Christmas letters. Frankly, I enjoy getting them from my cousins and other relatives. So I try to make mine informative and entertaining.

Get more sleep. I've been recuperating from a series of bizarre illnesses (hellooo, walking pneumonia! Can I introduce you to pleurisy?), probably because I have let myself get chronically tired and run down. Enough of this; I'm going to sleep. :)

And may all of your preparations be good ones.

Stacks O Pizelles


Flying Saucer Jones said...

Pfeffernusse in a paper cone. I remember it well. I'll check the mail for mine. :)

Joy! said...

Uh-huh, uh-huh... That would require a current address, mister. :)

Lori said...

How very cruel of you to taunt me with such goodies! My mouth is watering but my gallbladder is cringing.

I've seen Pfeffernusse sold around here on occasion and it always reminds me of you. :) We don't do a lot of baking for Christmas here but have started a tradition of gingerbread cookies. Which is currently making me crave just gingerbread. I wonder if I can make a low-fat/no-fat variety...hmmmm

Flying Saucer Jones said...

Pfeffernusse! Pfeffernusse! Pfeffernusse!

Joy! said...

Aw, sorry, Lori! I didn't mean to!
I think that gingerbread recipes are generally less fatty than butter cookies or pizelles for sure. If you like the gingerbread more cake-like, I have a recipe in which you can replace a portion of the oil with applesauce. I've had good results with that.

Mr Jones, while I appreciate your enthusiasm, I'm gonna have to ask you to restrain yourself. :)

Flying Saucer Jones said...

Awwwww! Pfeffernusse?