Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Last Minute Holiday Baking - Linda's Hermits

Tonight I've been doing some last minute Christmas baking. Last minute because Kent and I just got back into town yesterday evening. And last minute because I really wasn't planning to do any Christmas baking this year. For one thing, our kitchen is torn up. We're getting new cabinets. We tore out the old ones before we left on our trip. While we were gone, the wood floor guy came in and refinished our floor. The floor looks beautiful, but we have no cabinets, which means no counter tops. We have no sink. We have no dishwasher. The fridge is in the family room. We have moved the oven back into place and hooked it up.

Why would I decide to bake in these conditions?

Because for part of our trip we were at my parents' house in Florida. My mother had some of her famous Hermits in the freezer. I kept going back for another, and another. I've been craving more since we left Florida. These things are so good. She's been making them since I was a small child. Everybody loves them. A little neighbor boy used to say to his mother sometimes, "Hey Mom, do you think Linda has any of those Kermits at her house?"(He belonged to the first Sesame Street generation.)

I made them for the first time a few months ago as refreshments for my book group ladies. I had chosen The Persian Pickle Club as the book for the month. The main character, Queenie Bean, makes Hermits for her husband, Grover. I was so surprised - I'd never heard of anyone else making Hermits before.

I got my mother's recipe and made them. They were good, but they didn't come out just like hers. I have since made some adjustments for our high altitude and now they turn out just like my mom's.

With cinnamon, cloves, ginger and molasses, these make a perfect Christmas cookie.

Linda's Hermits
3 sticks real margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2   1/4 cups white flour
2  1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ginger
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 375. Cream margarine, sugar, and eggs. Add molasses and honey. Add the rest of the ingredients.  Use fingers to form dough into  1 1/2 " wide by 1 " tall logs lengthwise on a cookie sheet, two logs per large baking sheet. Bake for ten minutes. Let cool. Cut into squares. 

Changes for high altitude: 2 cups sugar minus 4 teaspoons, 2  1/4 cups plus 4 Tablespoons white flour, 2  1/4 cups plus 4 Tablespoons whole wheat flour, 3  3/4 tsp baking soda

In the bulk section at Winco, there is a gorgeous raisin medley. 

Winco's Raisin Medley

Aren't these the most beautiful raisins you've ever seen? 

I like to use these in the Hermits.

This is what they look like on the pans before baking:

And after:

Last minute Christmas baking - If I can do it in my kitchen, you can do it in yours!

 Now, time to go wash the pans and bowls in the bathroom sink.

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dem Bones

Best forty dollars I've ever spent?

 A life-sized pose-able plastic skeleton from Costco. 

I saw them last year, hesitated, and when I went back to make my purchase, they were gone. So this year, when Costco resurrected them for Halloween, I snatched one right up and loaded it into my cart.
 I was so excited. I've had a weird fascination with skeletons for a long time. 

Think about it:

 Skeletons are everywhere.

 There's one sitting on my bed right now, leaning back on a pillow, left leg bent with right leg crossed over it, holding a notebook and writing with a pen! It's actually writing with a pen. Occasionally, it turns its head and looks out the window.

Anyway, I took my new friend home in its box and stuck it in a corner, thinking that August was a little too soon to decorate for Halloween.

I had one concern. I was worried that our two-year-old grandson, Jack, would be afraid of a life-sized skeleton.  The next time he came over for a visit, I thought I'd ease into an introduction. How scary could a skeleton still in a box be?

"Jack, Grammy has a new friend! Come see!" (Yes, I refer to myself in third-person.)

I led him into the corner of the living room where the box was stashed. There is a clear plastic section on the box for viewing the content. Perhaps I should say for viewing  the eerily-grinning content. Jack took one look and began to cry. He grabbed onto me tightly and hid his eyes on my legs. He was terrified.

Okay, I thought, world's worst grandmother right here.

Over the next couple of weeks, I tried to convince Jack that it was a nice skeleton. Didn't work. He wouldn't go in the living room. Every time he had to go even near that area of the house, his face clouded over.

 Finally, I said, "Should we cover Grammy's skeleton friend with a blanket?"

He thought this was a good idea. We threw a blanket over the box. Jack got so that he'd peek around the corner to make sure the blanket was still in place, but he didn't want to go in there.

Then one nice day in late August, Jack wanted to go over to my neighbor Beth's front porch to sit on her red chairs. He loves to sit on Beth's red chairs.

"Hey!" I said. "Maybe the skeleton would like to sit on Beth's red chairs! Should we take him out of the box and take him to Beth's?"

"Yes!" said Jack, and started pulling me towards the living room. I could hardly believe it. I'm pretty sure Jack thought it was a great idea to get the skeleton out of Grammy's house and over to Beth's. He kept a bit of a distance as I removed the skeleton from the box.

"This is a nice skeleton," I reassured him. "He's Grammy's friend."

"Nice!" Jack said, trying hard to convince himself. His eyes looked nervous and he was fake smiling.


"Yup, he's a nice skeleton!"

I carried it out the front door and across the lawn to Beth's front porch with Jack eagerly following along, repeating, "Nice! Nice!"

Young neighbor children gathered around. They also have a habit of hanging out on Beth's porch.  She's got red chairs. Doesn't matter if she's home or not. We're there.

"This is my new friend," I told the kids as I posed the skeleton in one of the chairs.

 "What should we name him?" 

After a short discussion (and some odd suggestions) we decided on Bones.  During this time, Jack had come quite close and was actually touching the skeleton.

"Bone nice!" he exclaimed.

He sat on a chair with Bones and posed for a picture.

Next thing I knew, he wanted to take Bones back over to our yard and put him in Grandpa's truck. He insisted on holding Bones's hand as we walked. It felt a little weird, but I would soon get used to it. Over the next weeks, I found myself walking all over the house, yard, and cul-de-sac, carrying a life-sized skeleton, with my grandson holding its hand.

 Bones and Jack have become best friends. They do everything together.

 We've taken Bones everywhere, even in the car. Bones always buckles up. Jack insists.

When Jack's parents took him to St. George for the weekend, I was afraid he'd miss his new friend, so I took a few pictures and texted them to my daughter so she could show them to Jack.

And I found out that Bones is pretty handy around the house.

Posing Bones and taking pictures became a really entertaining activity. I began texting the pictures to our son Kurt who is in Brazil ("Mom, please keep sending these.") and to our missionary son, Joel, who is in Taiwan. Joel's been in Taiwan for a year and a half and had kind of forgotten about Halloween.

" That's pretty funny about that skeleton and Jack," Joel wrote in a letter. "At first I didn't realize it was a Halloween decoration and I was trying to figure out why on earth Mom would buy this life-sized skeleton so that made it even funnier."

Well, I'm afraid that Bones has become more than just a Halloween decoration. He's more like a member of the family now. I don't know how I'm going to put him back in his box and retire him to the attic at the end of the week. 

And I have some sad news. A few days ago, I posed Bones on the front porch, leaning him up against a post, and I started doing a little yard work. Suddenly I heard a crash. When I turned to look, I saw Bones sprawled half in the flower bed and half on the front walk, and his head was rolling away from his body. It was horrible. He had hit his head on a landscaping rock. Fortunately there was no blood. But one of his arms had broken off, too. 

I was afraid Jack might be disturbed, but he's not. He just carries around the broken arm or the severed head. And he still loves him.

And Jack is not the only friend Bones has. When Beth saw how good Bones looked on her front porch, she went out and bought her own skeleton. 

Last night he came over to visit our poor ailing Bones.

His big night is coming up. I need to wire him back together and get him out on the front porch to greet the trick-or-treaters. Then it's back in the box until next year.

 But I've decided that August is definitely not too early for Halloween decorations.