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Bojagi is Korean for Furoshiki


Merry Christmas! Can I have the scarves back?

I probably don’t count my blessings enough, but here’s one- DH gets me. He gave me tons of surprising presents, including earrings with the kind of back I like, dove chocolate, a marble pastry board (!) and he laid out and had printed a book version of this blog. I am amazed.
He also gets my quirks- like the wrapping paper thing. Or, if he doesn’t get them, he puts up with them. I hate wasting paper- throwing away garbage bags full of wrapping paper on Christmas morning- ack! Why are we, as a nation, as a culture, wrapping presents in pretty paper, then throwing the pretty paper away?!!!! He gets it- this year, we wrapped everything in scarves or bags- that’s the Bojagi and  Furoshiki of the title.  We had to scramble to make sure we had enough scarves at the end, but everything we took to Christmas morning at my MIL’s house was wrapped in something reusable.
It was my idea, and even I thought, “well, when we run out of bags, we’ll just do the last ones in paper…”
Umm, no, we did all cloth bags and scarves.

I tried to color code- so the Girl had her presents wrapped in pink, the Boy was either blue or orange, DH was green, and I was purple. By the end, it was just all random scarves out of the scarf box.
All year long, when I have gone to thrift stores, I swing past their scarf display, and usually pick up one or two for a dollar or less. Sarongs are good for larger items, like my marble pastry board (squee!).
Peeking might be a problem if you wrap way in advance. We’re never organized enough to get anything under the tree much before Christmas eve anyway.
I tie most things up like a hobo bundle, diagonal corners tied in a granny knot. This works best for square and rectangular boxes, but it is even good for randomly shaped things, like plastic covered airplane models and stuff.  It is way easier than cutting and taping paper.

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Ugly christmas sweater


“I’m just wondering what you are going to do when you’re a little old lady.” DH says as he watches me embellish a sweater with felted gingerbread men cut-outs.
I don’t know. But I have to say I am in love with this sweater. The theme is “Mele Kalikimaka” which is how they say Merry Christmas in Hawaii. There’s even a song.
There seem to be lots of ugly sweater parties this time of year- it makes me feel a little bad for the people who wear them sincerely. Only a little bad, though.
This isn’t really a tutorial- there are plenty of ugly sweaters in stores already. But if you’re thinking about making one…
I got a wool sweater at the thrift store- look in the men’s section for one that has already been felted- this is Eddie Bauer, marked extra large, so you know someone got it for a gift, then put it in the washer by mistake. It was like 3 dollars. I cut down the center front for a cardigan. Because it is felted, it won’t unravel. Then I started placing elements.and pinning them. Most of my elements I cut out of other felted sweaters. I know, the voice in my head is saying “perfectly good sweaters” but there are thousands of them at the thrift stores- one I even knit myself and then accidentally felted. It’s okay. There are enough sweaters in the world to cut a few up. I now have a shoe box full of wool felt- very cheaply.
I stitched my elements on, because that is my kind of crazy- if I were short on time, I would probably hot glue them- it isn’t like this is going to get worn that much.

Gingerbread man shooting the curl...

I had some aqua hand dyed, homespun yarn from my very first spinning experience (yes, I can spin, shhhh… don’t tell people, they already think I’m weird.) I stitched it on to represent waves- put in a sequined fish, a beach, a surfer, a flower. I got lazy when it came time to put faces on the gingerbread people. They look odd, but I’m going to go ahead and wear the sweater.

Edited to add- I did wear it, and got lots of compliments. One of my 6th grade girls suggested coconut shell beads for the hula girl bras- I so wish I’d thought of that. I also got some daylight pictures:

The front- the grass skirts for the hula girls were scraps of green calico from a quilt, the bikinis are bits of silk. The palm trees and sequined fish were about a dollar each at Hobby Lobby.

Easy Fudge Recipe


The kids’ Tae Kwon Do school has a dessert potluck for their promotions ceremony, and the Girl wanted to bring fudge, like Grandmother makes. This is something my mom has memorized, and she will rattle it off rapidly whenever you ask her, but I have never been able to memorize it.
I emailed her, and was surprised to find out it is in a cookbook I actually own- Creme De Colorado, which was put out by the Denver Junior League years ago. Those junior leaguers- they know how to make fudge…I’m not even sure what I mean by that.
The note on the recipe that my mom sent was “doubles easily” and I’d like to suggest that if you don’t double it, you’re crazy. As many dessert potlucks and choir thingies, and classroom parties and brunches as you get invited to this time of year, you might as well, because it is the same amount of dishes to wash, and same amount of time put into it.

Torque!!!

My mom uses a hand mixer for this- not the crank kind, the plug-in kind, and by the end it always smells like it is going to catch on fire. I have a kitchen aid stand mixer (best Christmas ever!) and it has the power to do it- you really want to have something with power, rather than using the brute force of your own muscles.

The Girl likes to help with this- the dangerous part is pouring molten chocolate, so an adult should do that, but otherwise this is pretty kid-friendly.

Easy Fudge- double it!

1/2 cup butter (or margarine, but why bother?)

12 oz bag of chocolate chips

2 eggs

4 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

nuts- optional ( I hate nuts in fudge, so I didn’t even bother to write down how much…sorry.)

Melt chips and butter in a saucepan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat eggs until light in color, then add powdered sugar and mix well. Add melted mixture and mix well. The heat from the melted chocolate will cook the eggs, but the sugar will help prevent them from scrambling.  Pour this into a 9″ square buttered pan. Cool in fridge and slice.

It's handy to put in the box, because I don't have to mess with plastic wrap, and can stack stuff on top of it in the fridge. DO store in the fridge, because of the eggs.

I did this in two containers- one plastic box because it was for a weekend brunch, and a parchment-lined pan for the Tuesday Tae Kwon Do thing. My mom pours all of it into plastic boxes, because it’s easier to store and give away.

I wonder about using part white chocolate, or cherry chips? If you wanted to maintain the swirl effect, you’d have to use separate pans to melt, it might be worth experimenting. Let me know…

 

Edited to add- I am doing another batch (single batch- we’re not superhuman!) of this to bring to treat day in the teacher’s lounge, and I am adding orange extract instead of vanilla. I am realizing that this is very much a “bag of chips, half bag of powdered sugar” type recipe. When my mom would rattle it off, I got lost, but having done it once, it is pretty much memorized. Tryyyyy iiiiiittttttt… you know you want to.

The Heifer Bank


when we got to the bank, they took it out of the rolls to count it in the machine, so we pretty much just practiced counting for half an hour.

We get kind of greedy this time of year- I know I do, more sweets, more stuff, more presents- I want a new yoga top, but I want to pick it myself, I’ll just wrap this for myself and put your name on the tag, I want 6 new cookie sheets before Christmas.

Maybe you don’t get this way. I do. My kids feel greedy this time of year, too. Sometimes the wanting and the waiting is just overwhelming and impossible. For everybody.

Our heifer bank is meant to be a cure for that- I think it helps a bit.

We have a kitschy cow-shaped bank that we fill all year, and before Christmas we empty it and decide who to donate the money to. (Ooh- an 8th grader laughed at me the other day for using “whom” and I find it is getting to me- darn 8th grader.) ahem, “to whom we will donate the money.” That’s better.

When we started, our charity of choice was Heifer International, (www.heifer.org ) which is why we have a cow bank, but in other years, we have done the local food bank, and this year, our local science museum, which is moving to a new building. We put change into the bank all year- money from the couch, or when I lighten up my purse.

This year, we were astonished to count up almost 100 dollars in change, plus a 5 and a 1. That is a big enough donation to get our name on a plaque. We get a plaque!!!! Wait, it isn’t about the plaque- it’s about helping out the science museum.

What do you do to change the feeling of greed for yourself? Or, do you just roll with it?

This is what a hundred dollars in change looks like.

The Gingerbread Contest


Wow. There are people who are much better at building things out of cookies than we are.

Seriously.

There is a model of the new library re-model, with some of the rectangular parts of the building designed to look like books, and the front windows represented by animals made out of fondant.

This is in the professional division, because the maker is an architect. This is his first time working with fondant.

There’s a lighthouse inhabited by mice. The builder had to make a special mold to create pieces for the rounded lighthouse. Holy moly.

No, the Girl is not biting off pieces of the house- she is having an authorized candy cane.

Here’s a close up of the mice who inhabit the lighthouse. Not sure what it is a reference to? Is there a story about the lighthouse mice? Maybe there should be.

Notice that the mice underground are watching a scary movie- it's about a cat.

There’s a model of District 13, from the book Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, as imagined by a teenage book club. Sorry, no picture.

There’s a model of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, by an entire kindergarten class.

Can you imagine 24 kindergarteners with this much candy and icing. Sticky.

We have ideas for next year- like an ice fishing shack on a glass candy lake, with some goldfish crackers visible under the water. Also, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s moisture farm on Tatooine. Just give me time to forget the misery of this year.

Update- we actually placed! The Girl got 1st in the youth division, and the Boy got 2nd. I got 3rd in the adult amateur division, which considering the other entries, is no shame. Okay, there were only 3 in my category, but I’m still not ashamed.

 

edited to add- The Girl accidentally sat on her house. Maybe I should have said something when she put it on the chair? Yeah, it’s my fault. We knew we were going to compost them eventually, but she was still pretty upset.

 

Gingerbread House Madness


Every year, I think it would be fun to make gingerbread houses, and then we do, and I make it so it isn’t fun.

At all.

It takes a full 12 months for me to forget how terrible it is, and then I do it again.
This year we added the variable of a contest. http://www.friendsofthelovelandlibrary.org/index.php/events/gingerbread-challenge  So we have a brand new way to make it not fun- competition. yea…..

I had a great idea- mine would be a greenhouse, using glass candy for the windows, and candy plants inside that you would be able to see through the windows. The Boy had a cool idea too, a house under construction, using candy canes as the studs of a house. The Girl wanted to stick with tradition, no theme, just a house, but also with windows, and a tree inside.

Okay- the 6 day process begins.

Monday- make dough, last minute trip to grocery for Crisco, not a pantry staple at our house, to make the “construction grade” dough. Chill dough overnight.
Tuesday- roll half the dough, cut out windows and doors, bake and then use every inch of counter space to cool foil sheets of house pieces, for three separate houses. After oven is off- I count up and realize I am 1 piece short…Deadline for entering contest passes, and I feel a little relieved.

1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1/3 cup water. Boil for-freaking-ever, or until thermometer reads 260.

  • Photo credit- The Girl
  • How cool is that? Candy you can see through!

Wednesday- Good news- they are extending the deadline…We boil the sugar syrup to the hard crack stage, 260 degrees, and pour it into the windows I cut into the gingerbread. Both kids are watching closely- thankfully no one gets burned. Roll out other half of dough to make more panels and windows. Recount- still not enough panels- resolve to fill in with graham crackers. As the sugar cools, I repeatedly caution the kids not to touch, Not to Touch, Not To Touch!!

Put myself into time out after 2 walls break due to touching…NOT TO TOUCH!!!!

Technically, a box of candy canes was dropped on it. I really lost it- you know it's bad when your throat hurts from yelling.

Thursday- I attempt some repair with sugar syrup- it is partially effective, if by partially we mean wobbly and sticky. (Also, the fruit flies are having a field day). We did have some fun playing with the decorating kit, including making trees out of ice cream cones.

The Girl tinted the icing, and piped it herself- I love this tree.

Friday- Okay, with enough royal icing, the Girl’s graham crackers attach to the sides and form a cohesive house.  The Boy creates a toilet out of a marshmallow and a life saver. Classy.  My greenhouse roof slips twice, then cracks, then finally sticks.

Contest Saturday.

I have second thoughts.

Both kids have nightmares of dropping their houses.

Why are we doing this?

 

Edited to add- if you do glass candy windows, make sure you get the temperature up to 260, or hard crack stage- my windows were not, and they have slumped over the past weeks.  Not quite a solid, they are a supercooled liquid. The Girl’s windows cooked longer, and are slightly amber colored, but much harder. This is easiest if you have a candy thermometer. We used an instant -read thermometer.