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  • Anything large enough for a wish to light upon, is large enough to hang a prayer upon. George MacDonald

Thursday, December 15, 2016

CHRISTMAS COOKIES


I normally make 2 different dough types for cookies at Christmas.
And then I use both to make several different things.

The cookies pictured here are all from one or the other.

Ooops! I almost forgot this one was for a picture! 

First: Molasses Crinkles - always.


Besides Molasses Crinkles, which are seasonally one of my favorite cookies, this is the dough I use for Gingerbread men, reindeer, and sometimes sheep, among other possible hand shaped or cut out cookies.

Molasses Crinkles frosting sandwiches are satisfying.
And Molasses Crinkle sheep add variety

If you intend to roll all of it out be sure to add a bit more flour (at least ¼ to ½ cup more). My daughter gave me the recipe. She got it from one of her husband's relatives.

A whole herd of reindeer flew out the door on plates and trays.

Lybbert’s Molasses Crinkles

       Ingredients
* Gray numbers in brackets (#) are for a large batch.
    I don't eat many myself. 
Half my daughter's large batch is more than enough. 
EXCEPT when I am sharing. Then I double!

First Step -Mix:
(1 ½)   ¾  cup shortening (I often use butter). 
(2)       1   cup packed brown sugar
(½)    ¼   cup molasses
(2)       1  egg


      Reserve of Granulated sugar (for dipping cookie)

Second Step - Mix:
(4 ½)   2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
(4)       2     teaspoons baking soda
(½)      ¼    teaspoon salt
(2)       1     teaspoon ground cinnamon
(2)       1    teaspoon ground ginger
(1)      ½    teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:  
1 Mix the 2 mixtures.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. 
   (I sometimes ignore this chill step).
2 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet.


3 Shape dough into 1¼ -inch balls. (I prefer about 1" balls)
   Roll in granulated sugar. 
   Place balls on cookie sheet.

4 Sprinkle each with 2 or 3 drops of water. (Mist lightly).
5 Bake 10 to 12 minutes or just until set but not hard.

Sometimes I flatten the balls slightly by dipping the bottom of a damp drinking glass in sugar, and pressing down evenly. If the glass has a design on the bottom it transfers to the cookie. 


  (Sometimes I roll these out (be sure to chill the dough, and dust table or counter heavily with flour when rolling. The white flour will look like it needs to be brushed off but in a minute it simply absorbs and disappears.

Tiny Gingerbread were urgently needed for a project.
They were first on the agenda
I lay the cut-out, raw cookie on sugar to coat the front.


TIPS: I use a table knife or thin spatula to flip or move these soft, rolled-out cookies.

See the single ball? I couldn't wait for a Molasses Crinkle!

TIP: As they bake they will puff up, and the top will set and lose it's 'shine.' Then they will deflate slightly. That is when I take them out of the oven. I like them soft not crisp. In my convection oven the tiny cookies on a dark sheet bake in 5 minutes. On a lighter shiny cookie sheet they bake in 6 minutes. And some days they take longer and some days less time - it depends on the humidity and how much extra flour you roll them with.


6  Leave on pan a minute to cool slightly.
  
  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
  Cool, and decorate.
Chewy, and tiny - only 1 1/2 inches tall - perfect to toss 
into a candy popcorn mix or decorate for bite-sized fun

 Sometimes I roll these out, and lay the cut out cookie on sugar to coat it by pressing VERY lightly. Is the sugar essential - you decide. Try it both ways, to see which you prefer. 

Second: Shortbread for the press. Almost always.
               (Also called spritz.)

This is the same dough I use for snowmen. Unknown recipe source. 
I have made these cookies for more than 40 years.
These always taste good, and are fast and easy. 
Of course they taste good - they are simply butter and sugar!

Yes, only real butter! And, YES, they take a whole pound!

SHORTBREAD (for a press)
3 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
2 cups butter
drop of 'real vanilla

Cream butter with mixer. Add all dry ingredients gradually, then add vanilla. Bake at 325 degrees F on an UNGREASED pan for about 15 minutes (only 7 minutes in my convection oven) or when light brown on bottom (can be seen on very edge when done). Be careful about how much flour you put in. I start out with 2 cups and add enough more to make sure the dough handles well - but not too stiff. The cookies can be very tender. Leave them on a flat surface while frosting to avoid too much breakage.

Use star sprinkles placed with tweezers for top of trees, and
 Wilton decorating tip 15 or 16 for greens, 101 or 101S for ribbons.

TIP: Buy only the best ingredients. If the flour, butter and sugar 'taste' good your cookies will taste good. Cheaper ingredients often do not have as nice a flavor as better quality ingredients. Particularly beware of generic powdered sugar (especially be wary of WalMart brand, as it often gives food a more starchy [cardboard] flavor.

Tip: For the press you don't want them to 'melt.' If kitchen gets too warm, the dough may need additional chilling (or flour - but then they taste more like flour). I keep my kitchen fairly cool. Too little flour and the cookies just melt out of shape or 'ooze' out of the press. Too much flour and the press is hard to turn or else the cookies 'break' and 'crack' as they press out.

This batch (left) needed a bit more flour (but were fine when decorated).
Mini cupcakes on left were for tiny snowmen seen in middle (post).
Usually one cookie takes about a turn and a half on my press. As it squeezes, I watch for an edge to barely be seen under the press, and then tip the press sharply and lift it in one motion. If the cookie does not break free, the dough may be to stiff OR too soft. Some design inserts break sooner, and some later.

Again, be willing to experiment as each press, the dough, and every person will be unique so - relax and enjoy the process. Once you get the hang of the press these are the fastest, prettiest, and easiest cookies to present or share. One batch can make 10 - 12 dozen cookies, and be completed in 4 hours or less if you are in a hurry. Seriously! I once made 10 dozen cookies, from the very beginning to decorated and on plates in 3 hours.


Experiment until you figure out what works for you. That is why I start with only 2 cups of flour of the 3 called for in the recipe - it is easiest to add more. Generally I use about 2 1/2 for the press but that will depend on the brand of butter used (some contain more or less buttermilk), as well as the brand of flour, and the humidity in the atmosphere. Altitude also affects the dough's consistency. Add more or less flour to get the cookies to work, but start with less. 


CREATIVITY: These cookies can also be shaped into logs, layered and cut, or balls. The balls can be flattened by hand, with an implement leaving a design (see glass used for molasses crinkles), or indented for a 'thumbprint. The indentation may be filled with jam or other fillings before or after baking. The balls can be rolled in chopped nuts, coconut, or cinnamon sugar before baking. After baking the logs can be dipped in powdered sugar (while hot so it will stick), melted toffee or chocolate, or frosting - with or without nuts or sprinkles, and any combination there of. Be creative - there are endless options.




Saturday, December 10, 2016

READY FOR CHRISTMAS

While talking with my mother this morning (age 86, and living in a full care facility), I asked if she was ready for Christmas.

She said we only really are ever ready in our heart and mind.

She said she has her memories.

And shared a few.

Trees were decorated with paper chains, and strands of popcorn and tinsel. The thin metal strands of tinsel glinted and swayed in the light. They were made of an actual metal (perhaps similar to tin foil), and carefully rolled up after use each year and saved for the following year.

From Wikipedia we learn that tinsel was originally made of extruded strands of silver and invented in Nuremberg around 1610. But "silver tarnishes quickly, [so] other shiny metals were substituted. … It was added to Christmas trees to enhance the flickering of the candles on the tree. Tinsel was used to represent the starry sky over a Nativity scene."

We also learn that one of the primary other metals used was lead. "Lead foil was a popular material for tinsel manufacture for several decades of the 20th century. Unlike silver, lead tinsel did not tarnish, so it retained its shine."  And I agree with Wiki that the new plastic forms of tinsel that replaced the metal types "do not hang as well as tinsel made from heavy metals such as silver and lead." Sheesh - lead!! It is a wonder we all survived and aren't mentally deficient.

When Mom was growing up in HillSpring, Alberta, Canada there was seldom a lot of fruit. Near Christmas each year Red Delicious Apples would become available in stores. She explained, with great longing in her voice at the memory, how they looked forward every Christmas morning to that single apple in the toe of their stockings. They wanted that apple more than any candy!

There were also a few peanuts in the stockings, always peanuts she says, and sometimes maybe one walnut. That would be an exciting thing!

I'm ready for Christmas, just like mother. I have past Christmas' shining in my memory: tinsel twirling, popcorn threading as Dad builds the tree stand of 2x4s a few days before Christmas, and family - so many special times with my family.

When Mom raised her children, our family always traded beef for apples. In the fall, usually in late September or October, Dad and a few other local men would take a truck (or trucks) to Creston, British Columbia, Canada and get a load of apples - usually several kinds - but the Red Delicious Apples were always saved until Christmas to eat. What anticpation, though apples in our family were never rare in the winter.


On  the tree or in the box new apples look almost dusty. That is a natural wax that is part of growth. We would rub the apples with a wool stocking and they would shine until you could almost see yourself in the smooth skin. Sometimes we would hang them as Christmas tree decorations by tying them on with a string knotted on their stems. 

Oranges were more rare.

Mandrin, "zipper skins," were a treat available only at Christmas. We loved how easy they were to peel.


They came in a box, and were individually wrapped in green tissue paper. I could have eaten a whole box by myself!

They were however, guarded and doled out as the rarity they were.

Are you ready?

Friday, November 11, 2016

REMEMBER


Cenotaph: a tomblike monument to someone buried elsewhere, especially one commemorating people who died in a war.

Two countries, side by side in the war and now at peace, Canada and The United States of America commemorate their soldiers on the 11th day of each November: Remembrance Day and Veteran's Day. 

As a child, our school in Cardston, Alberta, Canada passed out red poppies to every child on Remembrance Day and we walked, with our classes and teachers, to the town cenotaph. It was on the corner by the courthouse, a few blocks from the school. 


We would hear a speech, and at 10 a.m. two minutes of absolute silence was observed. This commemorative ceremony was particularly personal for me. My father and mother were usually there, and often my grandfather, and other relatives. Grandpa Neil returned from World War I, but his oldest son, Thomas Rex Forsyth did not return from World War II


At some point, before or after the speech and ceremony (or perhaps both), wreaths were laid at the base of the memorial, and we marched back to the school. My father would allow his children to stay with him, and after the crowd cleared we were permitted to trace the name of his brother with our fingers. 

F/O Forsyth, T. R. 

My oldest brother carries the same given name, Rex. 


Dad's cousin's name, Dudley Leavitt is also there. 
P/O Leavitt, D.T.


Late this summer I stopped to take some pictures. 

I wanted them to help me retain this memory fresh in my mind. 


My father taught me to remember.


Always, remember. 






Friday, August 26, 2016

ADVICE ANEW: BE MORE KIND


I received a message from my sister today.
Mother is near the end of her life. Doctor's have discontinued all medications except what is necessary to ease pain.

In June I posted 3 bits of loving advice from mom:

     1. Be Happy,
     2. Take care of yourself,
     3. Make time for family.

Midnight has come and gone, and I sit pondering life and death.

I teach gospel-doctrine class in Sunday School.
This week the lesson is from Alma chapter 40, 41, and 42.

It's about life and death - now and forever. These chapters are all about being perfectly changed, and restored to life after death. Alma also teaches that we acquire the attitudes, attributes and characteristics of all eternity now in this life.

As I sat pondering mother's 3 bits of advice, I wondered (if I could ask her advice one last time) what counsel she might give. I felt as if I heard her voice in my mind, reminding me of what I have heard her say many times:

"Be Kind."

I thought about that.
One of mother's characteristics is kindness.
I wondered, "Am I kind?"
Are my words and my actions kind?

As I considered this I imagined her voice speaking more firmly,
specifically and directly to me. "Be More Kind."

The 3 words summarize every aspect of her life and attributes.
"Be More Kind."






Sunday, July 3, 2016

BILL AND ELNA CAMPBELL

I was talking to mother (Elna Jean Campbell Forsyth, daughter of William David and Elna Campbell, nee Bohne) last night. I was telling her about a woodpecker family here. I watched a baby, almost as big as its momma, be fed a worm she collected, ate, and gave back. Fascinating.


Mom began telling me about how much her mom and dad loved the birds.

I did not know that she got her love for birds from her Mom and Dad. 
She says they never let the kids molest the birds in anyway.
Grandpa, in particular, wouldn't let the boys climb up to disturb nests. 
They protected them. What a nice thing to know about my grandparents. 

As she talked about the birds and how her dad was so protective of the animals she told me a story from the 'timber.' She says she didn't usually go into the timber with her dad unless her mom also went. Her mother would go to bottle berries etc. (Bringing the jars from home with her.)

Mom says usually the kids slept outside, and their parents in a little cabin that was there. She told me how her dad always told them they were not to molest or to disturb the animals.

Then she told how one night they (the girls) could hear something and repeatedly were screaming and crying that it was a bear that was going to get them. But their parents kept telling them it was nothing. The girls kept insisting.

Eventually her dad came out with a lantern to look around. He had been splitting firewood and his axe was still in a log. That area happened to be where the sounds were coming from.

He discovered the axe handle was being eaten by a porcupine.

Mother recalls her father was always so meticulous in caring for his tools. You had to take care of tools because your lives depended on having them. This destruction of such an essential tool just went against his grain.

Mom said he killed the porcupine and it is one of the few times she ever knew her dad to get very upset or to kill an animal (except for food).

Sunday, June 26, 2016

MOM'S ADVICE

I was 20 something.

I told my mother some of my miseries in life.

She told me, "Man is that he might have joy, and that means woman too!* Always remember that."

From my mother I learned to not live in misery. She supported the choices I needed to end misery, and make important changes.

In my 40s I again sought her wisdom.
She was in her 60s.

I asked her, "If you could change anything in your life when you were my age, what would you do differently?"

Her reply was simple - yet ever so wise . . .

"Take care of my knees."

 She pointed out that she sometimes saw me weeding while kneeling on the hard ground or doing things in the house on my knees. She wished she had been wise enough to simply pad and protect her knees when she was younger. She advised, "Never kneel on concrete."

I decided to take care of my knees, and all the rest of my body.

Knees were a simple thing. I have never regretted acquiring good kneeling pads - and using them indoors and out. And I began to use a pillow when I pray. I am still working on taking better care of my physical self. It is an ongoing project and challenge.

Recently I again probed for advice.
This time about the challenges of aging.
I am now in my 6th decade.
Mom is almost 86.

I reminded her of her counsel about knees 20 years ago and asked, "Mom, what would you counsel me about being 62?"

"Slow down!" was her immediate answer.

June 2016 photo by Rex Forsyth - making time for what matters

She said her children and grandchildren rush about here and there, hurrying, always in a hurry to accomplish more sooner.

We take our kids to lessons, we work, we play, and we hurry - constantly on the go.

"Take time to enjoy the things that matter most," she said. "Nothing is more important than your family. Someday they will be gone and you will miss them!"

She ought to know.

Thanks Mom.

Three succinct bits of loving advice:

1. Be Happy,
2. Take care of yourself,
3. Make time for family.

*2Nephi 2:25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

HOLLYHOCK DOLLS

It’s early spring here in Washington and I’m antsy for flowers.


The tulips and daffodils have tips peeking out on the sunny side of the house, but for now I must be content with memories.

Flowers create lasting memories.

 Were you ever teased that you liked butter when a dandelion was held under your chin or by your cheek so that a yellow glow appeared? If you haven’t played that old game be sure to try it with the first dandelions of spring.

Grandma Ames 'dandelion' vase

And surely you’ve made flower chains or crowns!

Children from the past made dolls with hollyhock flowers; they are simple, and no tools are necessary.  At one time these flower were found in almost every garden.

Perhaps your own grandmother (or other ancestors) grew hollyhocks. They are so common and so ancient that they have been found buried with a Neanderthal man. 


My mother taught me to make Hollyhock dolls, and says she learned it from her mother. I asked grandma who taught her how to make them.  She replied, "everyone knows how to make them - anyone could have [taught me]."

But that was a very long time ago . . .

So—perhaps  you have never made a hollyhock doll.
But ask your grandmother – maybe she did!

Some may wonder when it would be useful to know how to make a doll from flowers—trust me on this one.  It ranks next to dandelions and butter for charm, and dandelions are charming – right?

I think we’ve all blown dandelion seeds!

Children love hollyhock dolls, AND guys—listen carefully—it is a great way to impress and flirt with most girls.


Hollyhocks are a biennial, and reseed readily.

With even limited water, they grow flowering spikes 6-8 feet (or more) in height, and many in colors, sizes and varieties.

Hollyhocks grew near pioneer cabins and dugouts because they survive in poor soils with little care.
One of their common names is “alley orchid.”   They are also tolerant of frost and heat, and all parts of the plant are edible, as well as useful medicinally .

In the past, a bucket of water (carried from a stream or pumped by hand from a carefully primed well), had many uses. Water could be precious, with every drop doled out carefully.

After washing dishes, that water could be used to clean boots or scrub a floor. After water became so dirty it was 'almost mud,' then vegetables were watered, and lastly flowers—often hollyhocks.


To make dolls you need 2 kinds of blooms.

A fully open bloom for a 'skirt' - larger is better - after all we want a 'full' skirt – right ladies? (wink).
But if you want a more narrow skirt pick a bloom that isn’t opened as far - use your imagination.

Notice bud at top middle right

For the head or ‘bonnet’ use a smaller tighter bud.

Notice buds have 2 layers of green around the base of the flower just above the stem (see above photo). Peel away the greens, being careful to not damage the bud or deeper petal layers, and look for a small hole.

removing first green layer

 You may worry something could fall apart - don't worry so much - it won't—the layers pop right off (with only the guidance of a thumbnail).

Here is a close-up so you can see it coming apart

Remove the second layer of green, and hidden underneath, several indentations are visible at the base of the petals.


If you can’t see a little hole in the middle yet, that’s OK— use your fingernail to remove a tiny bit more of the white soft part in the very center of the flat 'base.’

Note indentations by base of petals - these will be eyes

Right in the middle, there will be a tiny little hole.


Position the stem of the 'skirt' to go into the 'head.’ If the stem is too long it may resist pushing into the hole. Shorten it a tiny bit to make it stiffer.

Skirt stem above is too long, Adjust as needed.
Shorter a little bit is stiffer. 

Gently push the stem of the 'skirt' into the small hole in the bud until they are pressed snugly together.


Never use dangerously pointed objects to poke holes or hold these together.
That is entirely unnecessary.

The sap from the plant acts like a seal.
This will also keep them fresh.
I have left these in the sun several hours and they were not wilted.


OHH! Look!

A dolly with eyes, a green collar, and a huge headdress!

 Sometimes we pinched off or added on other flower parts for aprons, bustles etc.

Curious oddities can give unique personalities.

See this bustle from leaves that haven't separated
Imagination is the key ingredient here.

That’s it!!
That’s all there is to it.
Simple.

And no tools are needed.

Give it a try this summer.

HAPPY IMAGINING!

Friday, February 5, 2016

GROWING

The old chair squeaked
As I rocked you - and me
I felt movements
Softly beneath my heart
And watched me swell
As you grew
And I patted you
And held you close
And warm.

Now I hold you
Enclosed in my arms
And I feel you stir
Above my heart,
Against my breast.
You give me warmth
And I watch you grow
And I grow too.

Happy Birthday
A poem I wrote when you were an infant.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

RECIPE INDEX

Breads / Rolls
     Crescent Rolls by Caye (scroll to bottom)
     Perfect Pancakes (use Krusteaz mix)

Broccoli and Cauliflower
     Broccoli Christmas Tree
     Eat a Christmas Tree

Cakes and Cupcakes
     Sunshine Cupcakes Candy Corn toppers

Canning and Preserving
     Pears: Love Hate

Casseroles
     California Wheat Casserole
     Vegetable Supper - crookneck squash stuffed

Cookies and Treats
      Cookies and Cabbage (recipe, sheep idea)
      Melting Snowman Cookies
            Think Spring
            Yes, I Did!
      Shortbread (for press)
      Thanksgiving Turkey Treats with Candy Corn
      Turkey Treats with Candy Corn

Diet Hints
     Cookies and Cabbage (and blueberries)
     I Believe I Can: Less Food
     Pound for Pound
     Rewards chocolate pants

Fasting and Feasting
     Freely Feasting
     Not So Slow Sunday

Frosting
     Eat Cake (whipped topping mix)
      
Garnishes
     Sugared Pansies: Sugar Sugar

Holidays
     Little Smokies: Sweet! Hearts 
     Thanksgiving Turkey Treats with Candy Corn
     Turkey Treats with Candy Corn

Pie and Pastries
     Lemon Pear Pie

Snacks
    Broccoli Christmas Tree
     Eat a Christmas Tree
     Little Smokies: Sweet! Hearts

Squash
     Green Summer Stir-Fry
     Vegetable Supper - crooknecks

Stuffings
     Bread with Squash

Zucchini
     Green Summer Stir-Fry