Christmas Desserts and Family Traditions

The QuipperyThe Fruitcake

Have you ever thought what it must be like to be a Fruit Cake? Made weeks or months in advance of Christmas Dinner, it is left to steep in whatever secret ingredient is used to give it that special flavour (I prefer rum). It is briefly admired as it is paraded down the catwalk of the dessert tray – then ignored by a bunch of carnivores who have just devoured half of a gigantic turkey.

I’ve always liked Fruit Cake. Back in the days when I’d do lots of Christmas baking, I’d serve it with Rum Hard Sauce. It is a simple recipe. Beat 3-4 tablespoons of butter (though my recipe says margarine because back then it was much cheaper than butter.) Add 1 cup of icing sugar, 1/4 cup rum, and 1/8 cup milk. Beat and chill before serving.

In a 1983 New York Times column titled “Fruitcake Is Forever,” Russell Baker claimed to be in possession of a fruitcake that a long-dead relative had baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington allegedly sent it back with a note explaining that it was “unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter.
– Mental Floss –

The Sugar Cookie

The Fruit Cake’s nemesis is the Sugar Cookie sitting next to it on the platter. The Sugar Cookie, made just that morning, is unaware that it will be the hands down favourite. It may or may not have been tarted up with icing and silver sprinkles – but it will be devoured. Every last crumb will be gone by the time the last guest has headed  home with a tupperware container full of turkey and mashed potatoes. The Fruit Cake will sit untouched and forlorn on the platter – much to the delight of the hostess who created it (and loves any dessert that contains booze or chocolate or fruit or all three.) It is just a matter of time, however, before the last of the Fruit Cake is also devoured (as is the eggnog) and the hostess – well, she has gained five pounds in weight. (I speak from experience.)

Gingerbread

Baking and decorating Gingerbread is a tradition in our family. I’ve written about this in the past (Line up the Usual Suspects and How to Plan a Gingerbread Party.)

Rum Balls

Rum Ball making has become one of my son-in-law’s traditions. Each year he tries to increase the amount of rum, yet maintain the consistency of the dough such that it can be rolled into balls. Needless to say, Rum Balls are for adults only. Rum Ball rolling is time consuming and is usually done in front of the TV set while watching a movie. In years gone by, the traditional movie for the job was Amadeas. Don’t ask me why it has to be that movie – it is just the right movie for the job.

My eldest daughter decided to introduce Rum Ball making to her family this year. Her post began

Turns out, twenty-two years is enough time to forget a recipe. Although, as I stood in the grocery store calling my younger sister (wife of the rum ball making son-in-law) to find out what almond paste was, it occurred to me that I might not have actually made this recipe before. I did participate in the ritual of drinking wine, watching a movie and rolling. I’m just not sure I ever assembled the ingredients and then mixed them up in such a huge bowl.

Carrot Cake

Huh? Carrot Cake doesn’t seem like a traditional Christmas dessert – but it is just about my favourite treat other than something made with dark chocolate. We have done extensive testing of store bought carrot cake and the Fountain Hills AZ Safeway store makes a carrot cake to die for! Since it is just going to be two of us for Christmas dinner this year, quick and simple Safeway carrot cake is the way to go!

What are your traditional Christmas Desserts?

Well of Lost Thoughts – 2017

The QuipperyWhen I find ideas that speak to me, but I’m not ready to blog about them,  I save them on my Fueled by Chocolate ‘Well of Lost Thoughts’ Facebook Page. Here are just a few of the ones I have ‘rescued’ from there to share with you.

How Cold was our Christmas this Year?
“On Boxing Day, extreme cold warnings were issued for a section of Canada stretching from the Alberta/B.C. border all the way to the St. Lawrence River. That’s a swath of Canada roughly 3,500 km wide.” from the National Post: Mars and the North Pole are warmer than Winnipeg

It was -30C (-22F) here at the Red House on Boxing Day (December 26). It takes a lot of fuel to heat our country in the winter – renewable resources are not going to be able to provide that much energy in the near term. In the meantime, we depend on fossil fuels. This video by Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans, (filmed near Devon, Alberta on May 30, 2004) is a favourite for some of us who depend on this industry. The Car Guy will attest to the accuracy of the terms used in this song.

On the Topic of Jobs Where you Get Dirty
Mike Rowe has dedicated his life to making ‘work’ cool again. He recognizes and tirelessly promotes, the need for education programs for trades people.

We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.
– Mike Rowe –

Mike Rowe – You’ve Got to Make Work Cool Again

The Piano Guys – This is Your Fight Song
I first heard The Piano Guys at a friend’s house in Arizona this past spring. The group, who are from Utah, decided to perform at the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017. That caused a lot of controversy, but the ‘Guys’ explained “We don’t feel right limiting our positive message only to people that believe or act the same way we do.”

Christmas Joy
I am not a devout anything when it comes to religion. This has been quite useful as I traveled the world and visited churches of many faiths, listened to their music and read their history and stories. In keeping with this time of year  and the Christian traditions of many parts of the world, here are some videos that are fun:

Christmas According to Children

From England – Marks and Spencer Videos – lots of interesting stories, including this one from last Christmas:

Human Rights, Animal Rights and Plant Rights
A Dissertation on Plant’s Rights by Cowboy Poet Baxter Black DVM .

Last, but not least our Canadian airline, WestJet Puts the Fun Back into Travel

Deer readers, my gnu years resolution is to tell you a gazelleon times how much I caribou you! Sorry. Bad puns. Alpaca bag and leave.
– Greg Tamblyn –

Christmas Tree Ornaments

A Digital Marble (Amazing Circle) made from a photo of a decorated Christmas Tree.

Photo manipulating programs have a polar coordinate filter that can turn a photo into a circular shape that is reminiscent of a fortune teller’s orb or marble. They are also commonly called Amazing Circles. I recently found a post by Russel Ray with full directions and illustrations for how to create An orb in Photoshop. Be sure to go to his post to see his intriguing results!

I’m very excited with my marble photos, though I will soon have so many of them that I expect the novelty will wear off – for you. I don’t think I will tire of it soon because each one is so unpredictable. I never know what will be inside the marble photo until it is complete! Here are the directions for making these using one purchased program and one freeware program.

1. Photoshop Elements 10:

a. Open your picture in Photoshop Elements or Photoshop and enhance it as desired. I usually adjust the lighting levels and sharpen.

b. Crop it to a square, or a ratio of 1:1

c. Click on Filter – Distort – Polar Coordinates – Polar to Rectangular – OK

d. Click on Image – Rotate – Flip Vertical

e. Click on Filter – Distort – Polar Coordinates – Rectangular to Polar – OK. Then I opened FastStone Image Viewer to add borders and text, and also t0 resize it to fit my blog. This finished marble is 778X778 pixels.   (photo above)

2. GIMP: is a freely distributed program.

The technique for making Amazing Circles is similar to above.

a. Enhance the photo as desired.
b. Choose the Crop Tool (looks like a knife, sort of). Select a Fixed Aspect ratio of 1:1 and select the area you want to use.
c. From the menu bar, choose Filters- Distorts- Polar Coordinates. Uncheck the “To Polar” button.
d. From the menu bar, choose Image- Transform- Flip Vertically.
e. From the menu bar, choose Filters- Distorts- Polar Coordinates again. Check the “To Polar” button.
f. The resulting circle may not have the background color you desire. Use the Color Picker Tool to select a color from the image. Then use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the background.

Darla-Amazing Circles

GIMP also has a plug-in that you can download and use – it automates most of the task for you. It is called Darla-Amazing Circles. You crop the photo as before, then select the Script-Fu Darla-Amazing Circles script. I use these settings:

a. set to the maximum size of 2000 or whatever setting is closest to the original
b. set border size to 10
c. set border % to 10
d. set edges: border growth 1; border feather 1
e. run script
f. add color to background – use paint fill on the white section
g. save as jpg

This isn’t a new technique. It has been around for a few years. Click on this link to see a large number of Amazing Circles that have been submitted to flickr.