Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Countdown

Well, here I am, stuck at school watching my students take a quiz on simplifying radicals.  You remember radicals, right?  You know, these fun little things √  ∛  ∜, square root, cube root, fourth root, etc.  It's not my most favourite thing to teach.  For one thing, you have to find a good way to teach kids that a fractional exponent is the same thing a root function.  It's one of those things that, no matter how hard you try or what different approach you use, it just doesn't sink in.  This year was better than most but they are still struggling.  Of course, being that there is only one more day before winter break (Yes, I know, the rest of the northern hemisphere is already on break!  BASTARDS!!) the level of learning is shallow at best) you really can't blame the poor things.  They are really tired, we teachers are really tired; everyone needs a rest.  But not here in the Beaverton School District!  We work and learn until the BITTER END!  Oh, did I mention that every other school district in the Portland Metro Area is already on break?  Yeah, there's a nice factoid!  So, here we sit, the last bastion of learning in the Portland area, simplifying radicals.

Do I sound bitter or just tired?  I'm going for tired.  A pot of coffee sounds amazing.

Okay, enough about work.  Let's move on to Christmas.  I don't know if you realize it but I am a Christmas Monster.  Seriously, I love it AND everything has to be just right.  Jeff has learned, after 23 years, to just get out of my way and go with the flow.  This, of course, includes the Christmas baking.  There are several must haves during Christmas at our house, Snicker Doodles, Hazel Berries, Pfeffernusse, Fruit Cake, Date Cookies, Cranberry Orange Bread, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies...and the list goes on.  One of my must haves is Christmas Stollen.  I think this is probably my most favourite Christmas treat, soft brioche bread filled with booze soaked fruit and bits of citron.  Of course, it's a labour of love since it takes all freaking day to make it.  Here's a quick rundown:

1.  Take an ungodly amount of currants and raisins (ummm over two cups each) soak them in booze, because, you know, it's Christmas.

2.  Mix in dried apricots, almonds, candied citron, the peel of four oranges (yes four) and the zest of two lemons.  I know, it doesn't seem like enough, a mere five pounds of filling, but trust me, it works.

3.  Next comes the flour.....wait for it....11 cups.  Oh and you have to shift it with the other dry ingredients.  Have you tried sifting 11 cups of flour?

4.  Proof three packets of yeast, lightly beat six eggs and warm two cups of milk. (super easy!)

5.  Melt a CUP AND A HALF OF BUTTER.  Did you notice how much butter is in here?  Ummmm...butter.  Hmmmm....butter.  God, I love butter.

(So, I'm hoping that you are seeing how this is so amazing.  It starts with butter and booze.  Only the creator could have come up with such an amazing combination!)

6.  Mix, kneed, add boozy fruit, mix and kneed some more.

7.  Put in a buttered bowl and let it rise for about two hours.  See, super easy!  (Notice that the pictures are now happening with the stollen in the oven.  That's because my kitchen looks like a bag of flour exploded in it.  But, Damn, my oven looks amazing!)

8.  And now, the magic of three packages of yeast is apparent.  Look at how lovely and poofy it is.  My oven has a proof setting and I LOVE IT! 

9) Punch it down, roll it out, fold it up and let it rise for a second time (Yes, my kitchen still looks like a bag of flour exploded in it.)

10.  Look!  Big and poofy again!  (You may also notice that the pictures are taking place on the counter tops again.  Yup, I cleaned!)

11.  Bake for 35 minutes.

AHHHHHH!!!  Here are two of the four loaves.  Now the recipe says to dust with powdered sugar.  However, I'm not a big powdered sugar fan; so, that's not going to ever happen to my stollen.  The flavour of these improve over time and can stay wrapped up on your counter for up to three weeks.  They also freeze really well.  Jeff and I are already halfway through one loaf.  Yumm.

So, let's move past baking and on to poodles.  I wanted to clear up a misconception that people have about poodles and their lack of shedding.  Most people just swoon over the fact that poodles don't shed.  "OMG!  You must never have to vacuum up dog hair.  That is amazing!"  Ummmm...short answer..No!  What most people don't realize is that all of those lovely soft curls on poodles are like velcro...velcro for all of the detritus of the outside world. I vacuum CONSTANTLY!  Here is a pictorial example.

This is my girl Ruth.  She looks a bit of a mess in this picture, mostly because she had a busy day chasing ball and playing with Busy Betty (you remember her from my last post). 
Anyway, I took this picture after picking a pile of vegetal material out of her coat.

Ruth is on my right and this pile of sticks is on my left.  That pile is the treasure that I removed from her coat (Yes that's a glass of wine and, yes, I'm using it to cope with my eight poodles and my constant cleaning).  Now, you need to understand that this pile represents just a small portion of the outside world that my girls bring in to share with me and Jeff.  Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate nature; I'm just not wild about it in my house.  Seriously, five minutes after vacuuming, my girls are tracking in several hundred pine needles and about a half a pound of leaves and sticks.

But, I still love them!  Look at their faces!

Aren't they so sweet?!

Okay, time for some knitting?  We all love knitting.  Here is some fun eye candy.

This is what Knit Picks called "Electric Sweater" or what I called "Top Down Colour Block Sweater."
Hmmm...I think their name wins....clever bastards!

Now, this sweater is my take on a top down seamless knit.  It's SUPER easy to knit up.  The only techniques that you need to familiarize yourself with are provisional cast on and short rows.  The provisional cast on happens with the collar and the short rows happen with the back and the shoulder caps.  Other than that, it's just straight knitting.

The nice thing about this pattern is that it lends itself to improvisation.  Instead of colour blocks, do texture blocks.  Be bold and throw some cables in there.  Hell take a more conservative approach and treat it like a gansey.  Hell, when you join the front and back, throw some fair isle in there!  There are a lot of possibilities with this one.


No comments:

Post a Comment