Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Count Down

Karen's parlor takes her two days to decorate but this year she had to do it in one day and she has the grey hair to prove it! 

Every Christmas season Eastern Tennessee is overrun with visitors. Thousands of Sand Hill Cranes stop by on their way to Florida. And you thought your house guest where eating you out of house and home!   


Well, Pet it’s holiday crunch time. I’ve decorated every square inch of my house inside and out and have almost completed my Christmas shopping. Alas, haven’t started my cards yet. Every year sending email cards gets more and more attractive. : ) But my friends look forward to what crazy card I’m going to create this year so the pressure is on. I have to say it is nice to see my cards prominently displayed on my friends refrigerators. Lol I’m also bracing for the family and friend onslaught and the proverbial house guests. As the year winds down my schedule gets crazy. Good thing the peppermint schnapps is close at hand.     


You’re having fun doing what you love, so don’t get over stressed. Me, I’m more laid back through the holidays, you know the one who smiles  at all the whizzing around shoppers. I love giving regional presents that make the most of the area where you live. The farm where they turn out the Tennessee cheddar features lovely dairy cows I see out in the field brightening the landscape when everything turns brown. Fabulous tasting stuff. Some of my people will get dual gifts this year. First the cheese, then when my husband and I are enjoying our gift to each other…a long, lazy stay in WARM Florida, they’ll get boxes of honey belles, an Indian River delicacy, the best tangelos we even send to the family in Florida. Yes and when we’re down in the sunshine state we can see the orange trees out the window already sprouting blossoms for next year. And the best part? The goodies go out by mail from the suppliers, and I keep smiling.


I guess I’ve succumb to the city mentality. Everything has a deadline. : ) or as they say, that’s life in the big city. Here in tinsel town even something as simple as decking the halls becomes a competition. Who’s the first to get their lights up. If your neighbor hired someone to put them up then you are slumming if you do your own.  If the guy across the street has a mini Disneyland on his front lawn then you better step it up and do Disneyworld! Nothing like Olympic level competition to make the holidays stressful. I try not to get pulled in but I have to admit I was ticked off when three neighbors up the street pooled their resources and have quite the light show extravaganza. Makes my icicle lights and giant snowman on the roof look pitiful. I think I need you to do an intervention. Lol 


Why don’t you simply relax and enjoy the neighbor’s lights? That’s what I do. No competitions here in this hardworking farm community. But I remember when we used to live in the city prizes were awarded. We had some kids living directly in back of us who were…well to be diplomatic now that they’re grown and might be reading our blog, maybe from the State Penn, light fingered. So these little roughnecks (funny they had newly arrived from the country) would go from house to house stealing an ornament here, some lights there even blow up Santas and Frosties joined their heist. Then, blatantly, they’d display them all over their yard and house. And every year they won the competition. No one ever turned them in. First off they were cute little buggers, most needy of all the local kids, hard to prove the adornments were actually stolen, and hey…Wasn’t it nice that the whole neighborhood got involved?  Now that’s what I call laid back.


I’ll say!!! You’d start a war if someone stole anything around here. The neighborhood called out the heavy infantry when a prized orchid was stole from the front porch of a house a block over. I was waiting for them to post missing orchid signs all over the neighborhood. Lol The people here take their holiday decorating seriously. We have a lot of Hollywood types and they don’t mess around with the over the top lighting and automated figures. One guy bragged that his electric bill was over five hundred dollars every December. I have to say it took some getting used to all the competitiveness. Not what I equate with the holidays. But I have to say I enjoy all the wonderful displays I can enjoy from my front porch.


So far everyone around here seems to be in good spirits. Saturday, a busy day, I found myself in that big super place. The crowds weren’t too bad since this is an enormous store in a small city, and there were plenty extra checkers. I ran across little lady in one of those motorized scooter looking confused. When I asked if I could help with something, she all but sobbed, “I can’t find the stuffing.”

I directed her to the proper aisle.

“Now if only I can find the canned artichokes.”

 “Could it be in the fruit section?” she asked.

I set her straight that artichoke wasn’t a fruit but a veggie and we fussed about how you could never find a sales person when you needed one. I went back to shopping and she zipped off.

A few aisles over, zip she reappeared. “I found an associate. Your artichokes are next to the green beans.”

We both raced over there and this time found the quartered artichoke hearts. So now, thanks to the little lady in the scooter, I have the ingredients for this delicious dip for the party Saturday.

  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach - thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 7x11 inch baking dish.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Mix in the artichoke hearts, spinach and Parmesan cheese. Season with garlic and lemon juice. Spread evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove the cover, and let the dish bake uncovered for 5 more minutes, or until the surface is lightly browned.


Your dip looks yummy but the calorie count kept climbing as I read down the ingredients list. : ) Yes, here in tinsel town yet another thing to stress out about is the astronomical calories one consumes at the various parties and dinners. Whole articles are dedicated to the art of nibble grazing. Why if you just take a nibble you can enjoy anything you want and not gain an inch! But I’m here to tell you that it’s a recipe for disaster.  Because in the same magazine they encourage a major fast to help you look perfect in your sparkly cocktail dress.  I’ve witness many a melt down when a poor starved soul starts to nibble and ends up gorging themselves instead. But one clever rail thin hostess found a great way to ensure no bad behavior would take place at her party.  She bragged about how she put together the ultimate holiday buffet. All her treats were healthy and yummy beyond words.  Well, I had no problem enacting the nibble rule at her party because everything was so disgusting one taste and you’d swear off food forever.


Yup, calories are a problem this time of year. That’s why in January every kind of diet suddenly surfaces. So many I can’t decide which one. I did go on one of those diets once and lost loads of weight, looked thin and beautiful enough to attend a tinsel town party. Unfortunately I got sick of chicken breasts, broiled fish and apples. As soon as I ate real food all the pounds came back. In my present condition they wouldn’t let me through the door in that skinny people place. At least here in the South wherever you go, whatever you do, you find someone fatter than you. Those biscuits and sausage gravy are worse putting on the pounds then the holiday goodies. So I guess when the New Year comes I’ll change my life style so I can finally lose those ten pounds I’ve been making a resolution to lose since about 50 pounds ago. Meantime I’m going to make delicious garlic toast to dip into the artichoke dip. Do I hear olive oil and butter?


LOL Pet! I think the more time goes by, weight piles on even faster. But here in tinsel town it’s like a collective mirror is held up to you every day. Especially since I made the mistake of making a living in fashion for over fifteen years. That’s why I try to look as thin as possible even if I gained my usual holiday ten pounds. Nothing worse than going to a party and having someone you see once a year look you up and down and say, “You look so plump and happy. I wish I could not care what people think. ” Ouch!!!!! But I have the perfect non-Hollywood correct response. “Why thank you. And I see you continue to visit Dr. Harrison. He’s a master with lipo.”   


Speaking of eating a bunch the other day we drove to a wildlife refuge to observe the Sand Hill Cranes, tall fellows with red caps and very loud voices, who stop here every year during the Christmas season for refreshments before continuing on to Florida. Watching hundreds of thousands of these noisy birds chow down on wetland veggies is quite a sight. Often in Florida a family of these Sand Hills adopts a human family and demand food. Takes a whole bunch of birdseed to fill them up! Guess all that flying helps them maintain their svelte shapes. Well Karen, I’m about to say Felice Navidad and go back to stirring up my fattening dip and slathering grease on the garlic toast. But first I want you to release to all of us with watering mouths your top-secret scrumptious cookie recipe. And then you can say, “See y’all next year!”


So you are holding the blog hostage till you get my secret holiday cookie recipe? Like my stress isn’t bad enough? : ) Feeling my arm being twisted through cyber space, I’ll reveal the recipe but you and all our dedicated blog readers have to swear that you will not hand it out like candy. After all it’s survived six generations in our family without one tattletale. Now you are forcing me to break such a family tradition. Feeling guilty yet? : ) I have added a modern addition by adding dark chocolate chips to make a fantastic orange cookie even better. So here it is. It will be my gift to our loyal readers. Trust me these cookies are beyond yummy.

Orange Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 c unbleached flour

1 c unsalted butter

3/4 c white sugar

3/4 c light brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp high quality vanilla (Tahitian)

The juice and grated rind from one small orange

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups Ghirardellis 60% dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, orange juice, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Combine the dry ingredients and the orange peel and stir in to the creamed mixture. Fold in chocolate chips lightly and chill for 20 minutes or so.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or tablespoons if you like them man sized :) on a greased baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes until light golden brown and still soft, but set in the middle. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and then remove to cooling rack or counter. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies regular sized or about 1 ½ to 2 man sized. Enjoy!

Pet & Karen Wish You Happy Holidays!!



Scarlet Pumpernickel said...

Pet and Karen
Thanks for sharing the secret recipe! I trasped over here from the goals loop. Nice blog, I'm going to put it in my list of favorite blogs along with the which is the first one I've taken part in.


Fran said...

I really had a laugh at Karen's comment when someone once noted, "how nice to not care how you look..." I like your Doctor Lipo comeback! I am a life member of weight watchers and they insist that you can cook without butter or oil and no one will notice! No, way that stuff tastes terrible-- once I made mashed potoatoes with only fat free chicken broth-- even my football player sons delcined seconds (a true sign that it taste like sh*@) Lets just enjoy the holidays! I am going to start by trying both your recipes...