Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Whistling Christmas Greeting

My mom has had dreams of some kind of Mason Family consort for years. She looked into purchasing bells for a bell choir, but the prohibitive price quickly put that idea to rest.

Two years ago she came across a set of whistle party poppers in the Smithsonian catalogue. When she called to order a couple of sets, however, she was told that they could not be shipped because they contained GUN POWDER.

This year, though, she was in luck. She located the whistle party poppers and had them delivered with no problem or delay.

Said poppers were opened on Christmas Day.

Here are the results:

From our family to yours: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Roses and Bites

Despite the utter neglect of my roses this year including lack of mulch, no dormant oil spay, no Epsom Salts, sporadic watering, and minimal feeding, the faithful bushes continue to produce lovely blooms. Here are some of the last of them for the year including Mr. Lincoln, Abraham Darby, and Memorial Day:

After plucking these beauties, I enjoyed another round of baking.

I cut the recipe for Shortbread Bites out of the December 2003 issue of Good Housekeeping. Although I looked longingly at the picture for years, I never realized my dream of making them...until today.

They are very simple and quick to make. You might want to consider doubling the recipe. I could eat these in one afternoon:

Shortbread Bites

Prep: 30 minutes plus cooling
Bake: about 18 minutes per batch
Makes: 160 cookies

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
3 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut up (no substitutions or don't bother to make 'em)
1 TBSP red and green nopareils or sprinkles (I used multi-colored)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse flour and sugar until combined. Add butter and pulse until dough begins to come together. Place dough in medium bowl. With hand, gently knead in nonpareils until evenly blended and dough forms a ball.
3. On lightly floured waxed paper, pat dough into 8" by 5" rectangle; freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2-inch squares. Place squares 1/2 inch apart on ungreased large cookie sheet.
4. Bake cookies 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 1 week, or in freezer up to 3 months.

From Good Housekeeping Magazine December 2003

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have A Ball!

My mom used to make Bourbon Balls every Christmas. My sister Christy confesses that she really, really liked them as a child and consumed quite a lot of them over the days leading up to Christmas. It was only later that she discovered what bourbon really was!

If I drank, it would be bourbon. I love the smell of it. I love the taste of it. I just don't like the extended nap I need after only a few sips. I prefer conversation and good company, neither of which I can accomplish while sawing logs.

I found a new recipe online this year. Instead of cocoa powder it uses melted chocolate chips. I'm all about the chocolate chips!

Bourbon balls are as close as I get to my favorite beverage. I still would not consider driving after helping myself to a few of these:

Bourbon Balls

1 (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate bits

1/2 c. sugar (I used Organic Sugar from Trader Joe's because that's what was on hand)

3 tbsp. light corn syrup (Karo white)

1/3 c. bourbon (I used Rebel Yell from Trader Joe's because I've always laughed at the name. I used a little extra to moisten things up.)

2 1/2 c. (about 5 dozen) finely crushed vanilla wafers (I used a tub of vanilla wafers from Trader Joe's and was completely blown away by the buttery goodness they added!)

1 c. finely chopped pecan nuts (Got these at Trader Joe's, too)

Powdered sugar to roll bourbon balls in

Melt chocolate over hot water (I did this step using the microwave, following the melting directions on the package). Remove from hot water and stir in sugar and syrup. Blend in bourbon. Combine wafers and nuts and add to chocolate mixture; mix well.

Form 1-inch balls and roll in confectioners sugar. Let ripen in covered container at least several days. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen. Will keep 3-4 weeks in tightly covered container!

I let them ripen for about 6 hours before I started sampling them. I'm guessing there will still be some left by Christmas Eve...

Stay tuned. More recipe goodness tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh Fudge!

It has been many, many years since I've had the time and inclination to bake at home.

For my single years, all the Christmas baking I did was in the Atascadero kitchen of my sister Christy. I would escape my landlady from Hades for as many as 10 days and indulge myself to my heart's delight in my sister's well appointed kitchen. Since I never got to cook or bake for anyone and my sister ALWAYS had to cook or bake for a lot of people, we were both blessed by the arrangement.

Now sister Christy is GRAMMA Christy and I am at long last married to my dear husband Bob. With the felicitous change in our arrangements, I find myself in a cozy home with a spacious kitchen. Even so, I have not done a bit of Christmas baking since Bob and I were married 3 and a half years ago (but who's counting?). Bob's mom Nellie was able to spend a week with us right before Christmas the past 2 years, and we relied heavily on Trader Joe's delicious delights while we lolled about enjoying each other's company.

This year USAir no longer flies out of Oklahoma City, Express Jet is kaput, and Nellie stayed safe at home. With that large expanse of extra time, my thoughts turned to...SLEEP. But after that, they turned to baking.

I think Christy was a bit shocked (in a good way) when I called her out of the blue and ran down a list of cookies and other goodies I would be providing this year.

I found this recipe online while checking the directions of a recipe I already had. This one looked even better and had a catchy name:

Killer Crack Peanut Butter Fudge

3 cups sugar (I used the organic sugar from Trader Joe's and it worked great)
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup (160 mL) evaporated milk
1 cup peanut butter (I used Skippy extra crunchy from Costco and liked the added little crunch of the extra nuts)
1- 7 oz (198g) jar marshmallow creme
1 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, butter, and evaporated milk in a heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. Add the peanut butter, stirring until melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla; beat until well blended (I used a hand mixer for this step). Spread in a buttered 9 x 13 x 2 - inch pan. Cool at room temperature. Cut into squares when firm, then refrigerate (it's MUCH easier to cut before it is refrigerated.)

This fudge definitely lives up to its name. Bob is not much of a sweets eater (I find it impossible to relate to that), but even HE was unable to resist the siren call of Killer Crack fudge and has indulged in more than one silky piece.

Tomorrow (or whenever I get around to it), comes another recipe from our home to yours.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to come down off a serious sugar high...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Magic Kingdom Dedicated to Flute Prayer

I got a big kick out of this viral video from Disney (just wait until it loads, then click the play button):

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Irish Tenors Cerritos 2008

I was so very grateful to play for The Irish Tenors concert at Cerritos Performing Arts Center again this year. They are magnificent musicians. It is a true pleasure to be on the same stage with them.

Since flute playing takes two hands, I was pretty limited in my photo ops.

Here's Karl Scully getting a feel for the hall:

Karl caught me in the act of photoblogging:

Anthony Kearns was the next one up:

They have such a short amount of time to get used to the hall:

Finbar Wright managed to avoid my lens this year. You'll have to settle for a picture from last year:

I especially enjoyed the several new arrangements in this year's concert, masterfully conducted by Eric Stern.

What a lovely evening.

To quote Steve Martin, "And the funny thing is, I get paid for doing this."

I love my job!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

True Forgiveness

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- A Korean immigrant who lost his wife, two children and mother-in-law when a Marine Corps jet slammed into the family's house said Tuesday he did not blame the pilot, who ejected and survived.

"Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident," a distraught Dong Yun Yoon told reporters gathered near the site of Monday's crash of an F/A-18D jet in San Diego's University City community.

"He is one of our treasures for the country," Yoon said in accented English punctuated by long pauses while he tried to maintain his composure.

"I don't blame him. I don't have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could," said Yoon, flanked by members of San Diego's Korean community, relatives and members from the family's church.

Read the entire story here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Irish Tenors Revisited

I am grateful to once again be playing with The Irish Tenors at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts this Wednesday.

It is a wonderful show with a difficult book which is far from boring.

If you can get tickets, please come join us.

See you there!

F-18 Crash Near My Flute Technician's Home

I was horrified to learn of the F-18 that crashed into a San Diego neighborhood.

I was especially concerned because my excellent flute technician, Jay Sleigh, is only blocks from the crash site.

I am extremely grateful that Jay is safe.

I am deeply grieved by the horrific nature of this tragedy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

I haven't abandoned the blog. Rather, I've been spending time face to face with far away family and didn't want to take time away from actual human interaction to sit in front of a computer screen. I've got some lovely Thanksgiving pictures which I will eventually post.

Meanwhile, Happy Birthday to Me!

Bob and I spent the day at Disneyland.

It was truly lovely.

To see more pictures click here.