I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

most wonderful time

We're settling into the week before Christmas.

The tree, fetched from a nearby farm, is up and decorated, warming the living room with its lights each night. Almost all gifts are bought and wrapped, peeking from underneath the tree. Baking is in the freezer, with more to follow over the next few days.

Christmas dinner for about 15 is planned and most of the food bought. Dickens's A Christmas Carol has been read, smiled at, enjoyed again. Last Sunday's service at church went well, and will repeat for the Christmas Eve service. Hosting a party for the band tomorrow night.

This year will have its familiarities, and new memories waiting to be made. But yesterday, I had a moment. That sounds momentous, but I did indeed have one.

I rarely (okay, never) regret the fact that I am a full-time mom. I wouldn't trade the time I enjoy with the girls for anything. It's meant choices, and sacrifice, and D's having a job that allows this is a blessing I never want to take for granted. It also means time as a family. It makes for what can be a very laid-back, relaxed schedule. It gives us flexibility. It's the choice we feel is best for our family. I really do love what I do.

That said, it also means that I make no money. Typically, I've joked about this, my status as leech or parasite. But I stood in Best Buy yesterday and looked at a gift I wanted to buy D. And I have no money of my own. And for one brief moment, I wished for a job so that I could have the option to buy something for the guy who makes it all possible without spending money he earned. I actually cried for a minute. Then R, my wise-souled comforter, did her quiet arm-around-me thing and I remembered that the money I would have had did not replace the beyond monetary things I do have.

God bless us, every one... (Tiny Tim)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

daring cook, december

This month's challenge was poaching. No, not sneaking off to the woods to steal endangered animals, but the cooking technique.

Poached eggs remind me of childhood. Coming into the sunny kitchen in the morning, the little radio playing the morning show while Dad had a poached egg on toast before leaving for the office, is one of those childhood vignettes for me. It comes back to me whenever I make that breakfast for myself, something I often do. It's comfort food, both from the happy memories and the simple goodness of it. So the poaching technique was not really new to me, but using it to make eggs benedict definitely was.

"Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num."
The eggs were poached in just-simmering water, cooking gently until the white was set and the yolk softly cooked. And once again, the hens were contributors to the challenge. Fresh eggs do poach more easily as the white tends to stay around the egg better in the water.

Hollandaise sauce! One word: "yummm". Six words: "I wanted to lick my plate". Smooth, buttery lemony goodness. Oh, it was amazing and the technique, while requiring attention, was not as difficult as I had thought (thanks to the wonderful directions provided by the DC hosts this month!). Our first attempt at eggs benedict was English muffin, bacon, poached egg and the sauce. Delicious! I only had salted butter on hand, though, and found less salt would have been better. But for a first take, I loved it and the family did, too. It made for a Saturday breakfast that felt remarkably pampered and indulgent.
Eggs benedict, traditional on English muffin with bacon

On our second go, we altered things a bit; I made crepes and used prosciutto in the place of the bacon. Unsalted butter this time made for a better hollandaise, but the prosciutto itself was quite salty and I think a lower-salt version of the prosciutto might be a good thing. Regardless, these were a huge hit with the taste testers (D and the 3 girls) and the crepes were actually preferred to the muffins by the kids.
Eggs benedict on crepes with prosciutto.

This recipe is another keeper for us. Using a broad saucepan let me poach several eggs at a time, which is nice for serving a group. I would like to try the other poaching recipe provided this month, oeufs en meurette, eggs poached in red wine and served on toasted baguette slices with mushrooms and onion... it sounds amazing. Another time, though!

Side note: hollandaise is also a delight on broiled salmon. We took the sauce knowledge and applied it to a non-poaching. So good!

Side note 2: my other egg comfort food: a soft-boiled egg, cut off the top and dip buttered toast fingers into it. Simple and wonderful. Eaten by a crackling fire, with tea: divine.

Monday, 6 December 2010

on the fly

Generally, week by week for Sunday morning I plan a a lot. Picking the songs based on theme, key, who's going to be there for the band, etc. But sometimes decisions are made on the fly.

Last night the four ladies from our worship team took part in a community concert. We had planned the songs, rehearsed them (given this group, that really doesn't take loads of time as they are officially awesome), and we were ready to go.

We were a quartet among a group of choirs and arrived to be greeted by friendly faces, glad we were able to join in this year. We planned to do my 'Silence Broken' and Mariah Carey's 'Jesus, Born on this Day'. The other three would stand with mics and I'd sing from the piano. Easy enough.

We warmed up downstairs in a classroom with no piano, just to tweak last minute things. So, we were set.

The program started to an overflow house and I sat and listened to the choirs, and two thoughts grew: the piano's sound was ok, not stellar, and wow, the acoustics in here are nice. Then I got one of those thoughts that makes the other gals either roll their eyes, or laugh, or both.

I leaned over to Care, Bee and Connnie and whispered, "let's do the second song a capella, no mics". The looks were hilarious: a bit of disbelief followed by the well-known and beloved 'let's do this' smiles. Within a few minutes, right there in the concert, we decided to go all in. No mics, no accompaniment, on 'Jesus, Born on this Day'.

It was perfect.

The voices blended, raised, pure, nothing to distract, the hall was perfect for it. We finished on a triumphant chord, then silence. Then the place exploded in applause. It was one of those 'wow' moments that still buzzes in my head this morning.

I plan to never play for that song again with that crew. :) Ladies, you outdid yourselves last night! Thanks again for the privilege of working with you.