The title of this post is probably rather confusing to those of you who do not know me personally. Those of you who do have probably already heard me rail on about how, during the Christmas that Dan and I were hosting this year, my father determined that we would be eating Christmas dinner in the garage.
Yes, the garage. With the garage doors and the bikes and the cars that live there. The garage.
Upon hearing this news (and after complaining about it for who knows how many hours), I resolved to make our garage Christmas as non-garage-y as possible. With 10 people at the table, there was limited space to make this happen, but Dan and I persevered.
Candles and greenery helped to draw the eye down from the roll-doors and down onto the delights of the table, I think.
My tone is sarcastic, I know, but watch what happens when you turn the fluorescent lights off and let that candlelight shine.
Much better, yes?
The word ambience was even tossed around by certain relatives. I love the wonder that a few candles, some pine branches, and some nice placemats can do.
Dan did his part by stringing up the Christmas lights, which imparted a rosy glow to the table and buffet-style line as well.
Atop everyone’s plate was a gift bag, pointing out their place at the table and giving them some special after-dinner treats! The stockings were hand-knitted by yours truly, using Mara Jessup’s adorable pattern, Mini Stocking Ornaments. I figured that the hand-checked name tags were a cute reminder that everyone was on Santa’s good list this year. (Ravelry links above, by the way. Are you on Ravelry yet? You should be.)
What’s that peeking out there on the side? Homemade Peppermint Bark! Per Martha’s Basic Bark recipe, of course.
…became this…after several whackings with the rolling pin.
There was also considerable amounts of chopping up chocolate, and then melting it over the stove and resisting the urge to shove my face in it.
The peppermint pieces were doled out, and the whole thing got chilled in the fridge until it was quite cold and satisfying to break into little pieces.
I feel that peppermint bark is very photogenic.
I also did a batch with less, but bigger candy cane pieces, just to mix it up a bit and to not make a huge mess all over the counter with broken candy bits like I did the first time. Picture not available of the mess, thank you very much.
I went with red, clear twists with peppermint flavoring, which seemed to make sense at the time, but which ultimately confused everyone. Dan was expecting cherry when he saw the color, but I just wanted it to look good with the peppermint bark. *Le sigh*
This recipe was an adventure in candymaking that made me terribly unsure of my kitchen skills. First of all, the sugar and corn syrup that make up the candy twists are melted in the microwave, and because I do not want to call Sprinkle Bakes or her microwave a liar, I’m just going to call my microwave a monster. After the second called-for trip in the microwave, I ended up with a black melted sugary mess that required a lot of soaking in the sink and a lot of swearing in order to give things another go.
On my second attempt, I adjusted things for the melting times, and everything seemed like it was working great. I poured out the candy and waited about 30-45 seconds before attempting to cut the candy strips so they could set up a little. Set up they did. It was already pretty much solid. I had to stick the entire sheet in the oven and work on cutting through the candy slowly and painstakingly while half-hanging out of the oven and shooing the cat away as well. Most of the shorter pieces on the ends were already so hard that there was no way they were twisting. Others got twisted just fine on the way out of the oven (which is a fantastically new way for me to singe my fingers, I discovered), but then slipped right through the wire cooling rack, shattering on the counter top.
I was originally going to make 2 different colors of candy for everyone, but after I realized that I had enough for everyone to get a little sample after only one go, I gladly gave it up for the rest of the day. Possibly for the rest of my life.
After the fact, I have to say that I’m proud of them and my first foray into hard-crack molten sugar, but I think next time I’m going to do something with a lot less sugar-to-skin contact.
The rest of the house was kitted out in lots of my grandmother’s old Christmas decorations, including a small tree that we decorated with all of her gold, white, and crystal ornaments. Bowie has been really good so far in resisting the temptation of all the dangly bits, I must say.
Here’s the grandmother in question, Grandma Winnie. She is my last living grandparent, and part of my goal was to make her feel as welcome as possible during a Christmas that could have been very confusing and troubling for her. She suffers from Alzheimer’s and has a lot of troubles with memory and changes in her routine, but I feel like the day was a success.
I’m glad that my mom and I had the opportunity to get this picture together with her on one of her better days.
Add to all this the sweet sounds of our Elvis and Booker T & the MG’s Christmas records (that got all cleaned up with my handy-dandy rubbing alcohol and an old toothbrush), and you’ve got a good idea of how non-garage-y it was in there.
I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or whichever holiday you choose to celebrate!), and I’ll be seeing you more in the New Year, I promise!