simply christmas…

by Jeanne

Ask anyone what they love most about their childhood memories of Christmas and I bet you’ll get the same answer …

The sights, the sounds and the smells …

The cookies and cocoa … the carols … the lights and the bells.

But really … It’s the anticipation. The Magic.

That’s what we all remember from our youth.

It’s like Boris Karloff says in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (quoting the masterful Dr. Seuss in the good version … the animated one … and the book) …

“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”

christmas circa 1973

But we’re trapped in a world that’s obsessed with stuff.

And if we know anything here at O’Mamas it’s that life is in the experience. Not the stuff.

So this year, we’re taking a page from the Waitress’ 1980s song “Christmas Wrapping,” and we’re “doing Christmas right this time!”

Here’s our 5-step plan:

BUY LESS / BUY LOCAL / RE-GIFT

Do you remember presents you got when you were 1 and 3 years old? How about when you were 10? Yeah … me neither. In fact, I remember one gift from my childhood. It was an Easy Bake Oven. I think I was maybe 5 or 6. And it was the beginning of my love of baking. The simple reality is … more gifts don’t make more memories.

So … we’ve asked Santa to bring ONE present for each of the kids. 😉

We’ve asked our families to consider giving re-gifts (gently used toys their children have outgrown) or flea market finds, or neat things they’ve found at local second hand stores or made by local artisans. If it’s not out of their closet, we’d like to support the local economy!

And as far as me and the Cowboy are concerned … We’ll cook together. Maybe we’ll take the kids on a snow-shoe (if there’s enough snow!). And we’ll appreciate that we get to spend the holiday together before he takes off on his next job.

SET A BUDGET AND BUY EARLY – SET A DATE TO BE DONE AND BE DONE WITH IT

December 15. We’ve got a few long-distance gifts to send. And we’ve got a short list of folks in town we want to celebrate. But we want to be able to enjoy the holiday season. We want to spend our time visiting with family and friends. We want to make time for the fun things going on around town (like seeing The Christmas Carol at The Ellen theater downtown …for example.) So we set our date … December 15th. Gifts will be bought. They’ll be wrapped. They’ll be sent. And we’ll have 10 days to relax and enjoy the season.

DECORATE (but don’t overdo it)

Decorating is fun but it can be stressful and expensive!! We’re being selective this year. We’re stringing garland and lights. We’re getting a tree and hanging stockings. And we’re putting out the decorations we love that remind us of Christmases past … the plan is to fill the space with love. We’d rather have a few special baubles than so much glitter that we feel like we’re in a bad window display.

BAKE (but only our favorites)

We do a lot of baking in the Cottage. So it’s easy to get overly ambitious when it comes to baking holiday treats. But this year, we’re going to limit ourselves. We’re going to make two kinds of cookies. In fact, later today, the littles and I are making two batches of vanilla cookies (with our new Christmas cookie cutters!)

cookie cutters
yes … butterflies and pigs are TOTALLY appropriate holiday cookies. Especially when they are pink and picked out by a little!

And my sis-in-law and niece are coming over on Sunday to make more than a few batches of Molasses Cookies … a recipe passed down for generations in the Cowboy’s family (which I’ll be sharing next week … they are kind of AWESOME, and totally not “healthy” … and if I tried to redux this recipe I’d be kicked out of the clan :).

And that’s it. (Except for the Cowboy’s bread pudding which he makes every year to share with some of our closest friends … maybe he’ll share the recipe on the blog … I guess I’ll have to ask him 🙂

DON’T OVERCOMMIT

And lastly … we’re not going to overcommit. Because it’s okay to not go to every event being offered in town. It’s okay to stay home and string popcorn (or even just eat the popcorn you thought about stringing) and watch Love, Actually on repeat. It’s okay to celebrate the holiday exactly as you want to celebrate the holiday.

How are YOU managing the holiday season this year?

let’s talk turkey (part 2 of 3)

Jeanne here.

With some very personal information.

It’s an intimate truth in our house.

It’s about Thanksgiving.

And it’s one of the reasons I feel so darn lucky to have married the Cowboy.

You see …

That one day a year when many a wife and mother stresses about the turkey.

Wet brine?

Dry brine?

No brine?

Fry?

Slow roast?

Fast roast?

In a bag?

Tented?

Bare?

Stuffed?

Not stuffed?

My blood pressure just spiked.

(Inhale … Exhale … Inhale … Exhale … Ahhhhhh.)

Okay.

I’m better.

Really better.

And not just because I have all the answers.

But because my secret about Thanksgiving is that I don’t actually have that stress.  Because for the past four years, I haven’t made the turkey.

Somehow, that job landed in the Cowboy’s lap. (Do you think it’s because I was eating a vegetarian diet when we celebrated our first Thanksgiving?  Probably.)

And the good news …he’s really good at it!

He wet brines.

Last year he used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

This year, we’re trying this one which we both heard on The Splendid Table program on NPR with Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Both brines have brown sugar, apple cider and salt and pepper.  The main difference between the two brines is that LRK’s brine has ancho chiles, cloves, basil and a ton of garlic.  PW’s has oranges, rosemary, bay leaves.  It’s just seems a little more mild.  I’m curious to see how the new recipe changes the experience.  I’m going to see if I can talk the Cowboy into using maple syrup instead of brown sugar … just because it seems silly to use a refined sugar when maple syrup exists in our world.

The thing about brining (wet or dry) … both will get you a juicy and delicious bird.  But the important thing is to do something.  That turkey is in the oven a long long time, and without a little help, that organic, free range bird you spent some serious cash to bring home might whither in the pan.  And that would be sad.

Here’s a great article from the NY Times about the science of brining … if you’re into that sort of thing 🙂

Apparently we fast roast our turkey (which basically means 10 minutes per pound in a 450 degree oven) because  it makes for a very crispy and golden skin).

I don’t remember if he tents.

And I’m going to talk to him about stuffing, because I think he does stuff, but I heard an interview with Alton Brown earlier today during which he talked about how stuffing will taste better if it’s cooked in the bird, but cooking stuffing in the bird dries out the turkey!

So NO STUFFING!

 At least … no stuffing in the bird.

Let’s call it dressing and cook it in it’s own vessel.

Okay … so if I get quizzed, or somehow end up being the one to make the turkey, this is what I would do:

Brine (wet … with maple syrup instead of sugar)

Fast roast (10 minutes per pound in 450 degree oven)

Tent it (for some of the time … pull the tent off for the last 45 minutes) – I just made that up, but it works for chickens and lasagne, right?  I think it would work.

And NO STUFFING!  Try dressing instead.

Q: What are the answers to your quiz?