Friday, December 22, 2017

Truffles: Nothing but Trouble

And so last week I made some chocolate truffles.

NEVER AGAIN.

I'd always heard that chocolate truffles were divine. I'd never had one. Oh, I've had (and made) bourbon balls, but never chocolate truffles. I looked at a lot of recipes and was rather shocked when none of them called for sugar.  What's with that?  Apparently truffles are supposed to be bitter.  So I found a recipe that looked pretty easy and I made up the truffly part and tasted it.

OMG! Can you say "HORRIBLE?"

Nope. I was not going to serve my guests that bitter mess. So I started adding some confectioners' sugar a little at a time. Of course, with all this sugar, the batter/filling/whatever got really stiff, so I'd have to add more cream. Then it would be too soupy,  and I'd have to add more sugar.  I went through at least 8 spoons testing these truffles. Dreadful each time.  The heck with that.  I dumped in all that was left in the bag (in all, about half a pound of the stuff).  Finally, with no more sugar available, I told Mr. L that I was going to let them firm up in the fridge and if they were dreadful, I'd dump them in the trash.

Well, he tested one and said it was okay.  I was going to have one the next day (because of calories--I mean, I had been constantly testing them) but then my cold went into overdrive and I couldn't taste a thing for five days.

I finally had one yesterday. OMG -- talk about good. But I will NEVER make them again.  And I can't even share the recipe when I don't know exactly how much cream and confectioners' sugar I put in there.


Next year, I'll just buy some truffles and save the headache.

(P.S.  After all that work, I forgot to offer the Truffles to my guests. )

Have you ever made something you had to rescue and then couldn't make it again?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Not so easy entertaining

It's been quite a long time since Mr. L and I entertained people other than family. We used to host a holiday party every year, but that kind of fizzled out. But last week we invited our neighbors for a get-together.

Wow. I'd forgotten how much work that can be. I had to CLEAN the house. The cleaning ladies came on Monday, but our guests arrived 4 days later. With cats, there's always a lot of crud. Puke. Litter. Yeah, they may be the only self-cleaning things in the house, but they make a lot of mess.  And Chester litters the house with the toys he "kills" several times a day. (Oy, those hunter victory cries can make your hair stand on end,)

I finally got to do some baking. I LOVE to bake, but seldom have anyone to bake for and if I did it would just be us eating the stuff and ... CALORIES. So I don't bake nearly as often as I would like. I decided to do two different cookies: chocolate truffles and chocolate chip cookies. I was going to make shortbread and cut-out cookies, too, but then ... I caught a cold. OH NO!  I've done nothing but wash my hands and slather myself in Purel for a week now.

The big night arrived and ... uh-oh, only three of the four arrived at our door.  Mr. H had a stomach bug, which was bad for him, and disappointing for us.

I bought two bags of holiday (red and green) M&Ms -- because, hey, M&Ms. And why not send her children back home all hyped up with sugar, right? (That's a joke.) But -- nobody touched them. Uh-oh. Somebody is going to have to eat them.  (Raising my hand for designated M&M eater.)

Of course, I made my mother's famous "pink" dip, which was a big hit. (She got the recipe out of the TV guide one December back in the early 1960s -- and the ad was sponsored by the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV show.) With the dip we had chips and carrots and celery (the latter two were intended for me, but the cold was getting worse and who wants to eat when they can't taste anything?).

One of the kids complained about a rocky stomach about a half hour in.  I left the room to get something and came back to hear, "And he's vomited six times."

OMG -- I felt so sorry for the kid, who had obviously caught the same bug as his Dad, but then I cringed in horror.  I was already in the throws of a bad cold. Would I get the bug, too?  (So far, so good.)
My neighbor took her youngest home just as the pizzas arrived, and we chowed down with her oldest son, who is a budding artist, so he and Mr. L had a lot to talk about. I showed him some of the paintings Mr. L has done, and he was impressed.

My neighbor came back and we had a good time talking for an hour or so, but then everybody seemed to be drooping. I'd been awake for about 18 hours, so I was definitely pooped. (One of these days I'm going to learn how to sleep through the night).

So our first foray into entertaining in years wasn't such a hit. The next day, the cold hit me even harder. I spent the entire weekend lying in the recliner like a beached whale. But at least I got a lot of editing done on YULE BE DEAD, the 5th Victoria Square novel, which will be out next December (2018).

So, will we be entertaining next year? I've got about 355 days to decide.

Have you had less than successful gatherings? Tell all!


Monday, December 18, 2017

Maybe you should skip this one next year ...

Every year Mr. L and I watch a DVD of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. I've seen it every year since I was 9. I can recite almost all the dialogue. And you know what? It's NOT a heartwarming tale. Not at all.

No sooner had Rudolph been born when his own father body shamed him. Even Santa put in his two cents, and that wouldn't be the last time. The body (or nose) shaming went on at the Reindeer Games. When they found out about Rudolph's "non-conformity," not only did the other yearlings laugh and tease Rudolph, but the adult coach (Comet) was the one to proclaim that "We won't let Rudolph play in any reindeer games." Even Santa gets in the act, telling Donner "You should be ashamed!" Ashamed because his son has a (so-called) birth defect?  Santa of all people???

Thinking he's found a friend in Clarice,  Rudolph is verbally accosted by her father, who says, "No doe of mine is going to be seen with a red-nosed reindeer." (I told you I knew all the dialogue.)

Nor is Rudolph the only character to be bullied. Hermie (or Herbie ... it seems like he's called both names) is mocked for aspiring to be a dentist, and is threatened with his job. ("Finish the job, or you're FIRED.")

Poor Rudolph and Hermie weren't even good enough for the Island of Misfit Toys.

The one redeeming character is Yukon Cornelius ("Ta-da! In person!") Although a bit of a blow-hard, he only has Rudolph's and Hermie's welfare at heart.

It isn't until Santa needs Rudolph to light the way on a stormy Christmas Eve that the residents of Christmastown decide to accept Rudolph for who he is. And the head elf decides he will allow Hermie to practice dentistry. (I hope Hermie pulled all that elf's teeth, too.) Of course, maybe Santa is so grumpy because Mrs. Claus feeds him such unappealing food.  (Even gray apples???)

Is this the kind of story children should be watching?

And don't get me started on the song "Baby It's Cold Outside," where the loutish host isn't listening when his woman guest tells him (more than once) "The answer is No!"

Despite the terrible story line, Mr. L and I did indeed watch Rudolph this week. But this time we watched it a la MST3K (Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3000). We made sarcastic remarks about the characters and how mean they were and found new joy in Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.  I highly recommend it.


What other holiday specials cause you to cringe?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Oh Christmas Tree!

Due to complicated circumstances, Mr. L and I took our Christmas tree down early last year. A LOT earlier than we normally do, so this year, I decided to put our tree up early so we could enjoy it longer. I started last Monday, but a week later and it's STILL not totally decorated.  (I like to take my time.)

It's always a joy to open the boxes of ornaments and decide what to put up. I say that because here it is five days later and we still haven't opened two of the (VERY LARGE) boxes and the tree is just about full. (How did that happen?) I thought I might share a few of them with you.

I recently wrote the 4th installment of the Life On Victoria Square series, It's Tutu Much, which revolves around a dance studio on Victoria Square.

My mother collected a bunch of ballerinas to put on or under her Christmas tree. These two beauties were under the tree for at least a decade. I think my mother liked them because my niece was a dancer. In fact, she danced right through high school, when a lot of other girls might have made fun of her (I know when I was in high school the bullies taunted the girls who still went for tap and ballet).

I wasn't a dancer. I loved to dance, but I remember at age 4 being forced to go to dance school and some of the other (younger) girls just didn't pay attention to the teacher who instructed us to dance to "I'm a Little Eskimo." I clearly remember telling my father, "That's just stupid and I won't do it." They took me to the recital and said, "Don't you wish you'd stuck with it?" and I said in no uncertain terms, "NO!"

Still, I now wish I had stuck with it. (Perhaps it was because I so love the book Step Ball Change by Jeanne Ray, a story about a woman with a dance studio--and how her daughter's engagement changed the entire family.) And did I mention how much I love to watch videos of people tap dancing?

And I have a "tutu" story about one of my Mum's ornaments, too.  She bought this little angel (right) at a yard sale. But, OH!, she was nekked!  My Mum thought that just wasn't right, so she took a bit of netting and made her a tutu.  Isn't she just adorable?  I know she was one of my Mum's favorites, even though she cost less than a buck. I wish my Mum could have read my story, It's Tutu Much (which will be available on January 2nd).

I don't have a lot of ornaments that remind me of my books, but since I started writing the Lotus Bay Mysteries, I've been looking for swans.  I found two, and they now don my tree.  One is sort of a stained-glass ornament, and the other is a carved wooden (white) swan. I love them both, and they remind me of my short story, Christmas at Swans Nest (set on Lotus Bay). If you haven't read the "series," but you like Christmas, you can read this and it will stand alone.

I've got lots of other cool ornaments, like this little white flat cat I got at a yard sale. It was painted onto a stone. Wow--I wish I had that kind of talent. How did someone see that there was a cat that could emerge from a piece of slate? Cool, huh?

And then there's the flying cat angel. I had never seen anything like it when my Mum and I went to a gift shop in Brockport, NY one cold November weekend. They were (maybe still are) famous for offering their customers home-baked cookies and punch on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (what's now known as Small Business Saturday). I remember
my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I looked at the price tag--TWENTY-FIVE BUCKS--but my mother said, "If you'd like it, I will buy it for you." I initially balked at the price tag, but then remembered what my friend Judy told me years before. "If your mother wants to buy you something, LET HER. Because (and Judy learned this through bitter experience) one day she won't be there." And now my Mum is gone, and I'm so glad I let her buy that little kitty for me because it's now one of my most treasured Christmas tree ornaments.Years later, I saw knockoffs in plastic for less than $5. But mine still has the original tag on it and is not only signed by the artist, but is so much prettier than any knock off.

These are just a few of the ornaments on my tree. You can see many more on a Youtube video I made. Just click this link.

Have you got a special ornament that comes with a story? If so, please feel free to share it in the comments below.


Friday, December 1, 2017

What's your pie pleasure?


It's National Pie Day! I'll bet there're three or four on offer everyday at Booked for Lunch. What's your favorite pie? (Mine is actually turkey pot pie. It has a crust--it qualifies!)