A New Year to Reflect

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Happy New Year, folks! I hope 2016 will bring you all hope, love, and well-being for you and all of your loved ones.

For several years now, I have given each “new year” a word that I think will be the guiding theme of the next 365 days (366 this year!). 2015 was the year of “discovery,” and it truly was a year when I discovered so much–about myself, about my city, about life. There were heartbreaks: my beloved dog Cosmo died suddenly in June, and Sam’s grandmother died in November. There were triumphs: I got a job that I really love and enjoy that lets me spend time with my family and work with animals on a daily basis. I made amazing friends who enrich my life and make living in Chicago more fun than I ever thought it could be! Several family and friends visited Sam and I and got to experience first-hand why we love Chicago so much.

I will admit that at the beginning of 2015, I was scared. Sam and I had just moved to Chicago three months prior, and the future seemed very uncertain. This year, I am excited and hopeful for the future. I owe this feeling mostly to two key factors: 1.) Rambling Readers Book Club and 2.) Windy City Paws.

Our book club made us feel welcome from the very first time we attended in December 2014, and as someone who has never really felt like I have fit in anywhere, I can honestly say that my fellow Rambling Readers make me feel more accepted than I ever have. To my book club: I love you all and am so grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for being you!

My work at Windy City Paws has also made my life so much fuller this past year, and I can honestly say that I am so fulfilled and challenged with the work that I do. My supportive colleagues make me want to do more and learn more every day, and I am so thankful for their guidance and their friendship.

I guess you could say that things really “clicked” in 2015. So many things I was worried about this time last year fell into place and created a wonderful new life for Sam and I here in Chicago. Not everything was happy this year, but it really was a year of “discovery” in many ways–most of which were amazing.

Sam and I have determined that 2016 will be the year of “reflection.” We’ve been in a cycle of massive change for the past several years, and we are now at a point where we feel we can take a moment to enjoy our lives the way they are.

I am excited about spending the upcoming 366 days with Sam, Missy, and our new kitty Mister, reflecting on how very fortunate we all are as well as embracing the next adventures the future will bring. Welcome, 2016–I look forward to experiencing all that you have to offer.

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Historic Holiday Eats Recap

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The holidays are officially over, so it’s time for “Historic Holiday Eats” to come to an end. It has truly been so much fun (even if it was difficult from time to time) to take the recipes from Amelia Simmons’ 1798 cookbook, American Cookery, and recreate them in my own kitchen. In fact, it was so much fun that I’m going to keep doing it. (You didn’t think I could actually stop now, did you?!)

Julia Child Quote

When a historic recipe overwhelms me, I just look for inspiration from Julia Child. 😉

From now on, my food posts will be called “Historic Everyday Eats,” and I will be using several different historic cookbooks that I have been able to find transcribed online (links to all of them will be included, of course). Before venturing into this new series of historic recipes, I want to take a look back at the ones that got me started.

In order of my most to least favorite (though I enjoyed them all), here are my nine historic holiday recipes:

1. Christmas Cookies 

2. Apple Pie

3. Whipped Syllabub

4. Winter Squash Pudding

5. Syllabub “from the Cow” 

6. Pumpkin (Pie)

7. A Stuffed Bird

8. Gingerbread

9. Indian Pudding 

I look forward to creating even more delicious historic recipes in the new year, and I hope you’re looking forward to it as well!

Historic Holiday Eats – Syllabub “from the Cow”

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Hello all! I hope you have survived the major holidays thus far happily and/or in one piece. We do still have one more pretty big holiday this coming week though, and that is New Year’s Eve/Day (also any lingering Christmas/other holiday events as well)! What better way to celebrate the New Year than with alcohol? That is why I saved the second syllabub recipe in American Cookery for this week. This one is meant to be a drink rather than a whipped topping, like the first syllabub I made a few weeks ago, and it has plenty of really good stuff in it for a winter party!

“To make a fine Syllabub from the Cow,” you must:

Syllabub from a Cow

 

“Sweeten a quart of cyder with double refined sugar, grate nutmeg into it, then milk your cow into your liquor, when you have thus added what quantity of milk you think proper, pour half a pint or more, in proportion to the quantity of syllabub you make, of the sweetest cream you can get all over it.”

This recipe is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it requires a cow. Obviously, I do not live on a farm in the year 1798 (like the author of this cookbook did), so I do not have ready access to a cow for milking straight into my liquor. No worries though–I just went to the store and bought whole milk to make up for it. I know it’s not the same, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Also, this is one of the more “loosey goosey” recipes as far as measurements go, but I managed to make it work and turn it into a nice drink. Here’s how:

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The ingredients for the syllabub: 3 12 oz. bottles of Angry Orchard Traditional Dry apple cider/whatever cider you prefer (3 bottles is slightly more than a quart, 4 cups, but as I see it, a few ounces more cider never hurt anybody), a pint of heavy whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups of whole milk, 2 heaping teaspoons of nutmeg, 1/2 cup of sugar for sweetening the cider, and 4 tablespoons of sugar for sweetening the cream.

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First, I poured the bottles of cider into a bowl and added the 1/2 cup of sugar. It fizzed immediately (which was pretty cool to watch), and I whisked the two together until the sugar dissolved.

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I then whisked in two heaping teaspoons of nutmeg. You could also grate an entire nutmeg into the mixture, but I had the pre-ground nutmeg on hand already. (I used this much nutmeg because most other recipes for syllabub–from the period and from today–call for an entire grated nutmeg.)

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Next, I added as much milk as I thought proper to the cider/sugar/nutmeg mixture, which was 1 1/2 cups.

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I personally love the fact that this recipe calls for “the sweetest cream as you can get,” so I decided to sweeten the pint of heavy whipping cream with 4 tablespoons of sugar in my stand mixer. 

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I beat the sugar and cream on medium speed for about 3 minutes just to get it combined and to make the mixture thick and frothy (but not actually whipped).

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I then added my sweet cream (nearly the whole pint) to the milk/cider/nutmeg/sugar mixture, and I whisked it until it was all combined. It looked so pretty and smelled even better!

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Lastly, I poured the syllabub into glasses for my husband and I to try. The taste was sweet, spicy (in a winter-like way), and very slightly tart (from the apple flavor). I also loved the frothy look and texture. Be sure to refrigerate this if you’re not serving it immediately.

When I first began this recipe, I was not expecting to like the outcome. I’m not a big milk fan (part of the reason why I’m so short, I’m sure), and I just didn’t know if cider, milk, and cream would work together. I was pleasantly surprised, however! The end result was a sweet, frothy, alcoholic beverage that smelled and tasted of all things fun about wintertime.

In short, if you like eggnog, you’ll like syllabub “from the cow.” Or, if you don’t like eggnog, maybe the difference in flavor and texture of this syllabub will appeal to you. Either way, just try it! Definitely give it a go this winter, especially if you have any events coming up for New Year’s week!

Have fun and enjoy the rest of 2014, everyone!

 

12th Day of Christmas Movies – A Christmas Story

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Merry Christmas everyone! On this most joyous (or aggravating–however you’re spending it) day, I waited to discuss the pinnacle of all Christmas films. That is to say, I saved A Christmas Story just for today.

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Released in 1983, A Christmas Story made its way into mainstream popular culture immediately. The television station TBS shows it for 24 hours straight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, people pay heaps of money to stay in the “Christmas Story House” every year, and quotes from little Ralphie can be heard from nearly every mouth during the holiday season. While I still like Elf more, A Christmas Story is my husband’s favorite film, and since it is so ingrained in our culture, I knew I had to talk about it on Christmas Day!

A Christmas Story follows the story of Ralphie Parker, a little boy whose greatest wish is to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, he drops subtle and not-so-subtle hints to his parents, Santa, and even his third grade teacher about his Christmas wish. The response every time? “You’ll shoot your eye out.” How deflating it is to hear that repeatedly (no matter how true it may be). Ralphie, his brother, his friends, and his parents encounter all sorts of adventures leading up to and on Christmas Day, all of which have become bastions of popular memory. All of this makes A Christmas Story that much more lovable and endearing, so make sure to turn on your TV and catch it before Christmas is over!

11th Day of Christmas Movies – Eyes Wide Shut

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Merry Christmas Eve, all! I hope you all are having a wonderful time today. In honor of this most giving holiday, I present to you a film that continues to bear gifts with each subsequent viewing–Eyes Wide Shut.

Eyes Wide Shut

 

Eyes Wide Shut, released in 1999, was Stanley Kubrick’s last film before his death. He truly went out at the top of his game, if I do say so myself. This film is at once real and surreal, making the viewer ponder, evaluate, and reevaluate every single scene. It is purely brilliant, and it is also set during the Christmas season. Christmas lights provide a blinding luminosity or an eerie glow in the background of nearly every scene of the film, making everything have a dream-like feeling, which is perfect for a film based on the idea that one’s dreams and fantasies can haunt, even ruin, your everyday life.

Dr. William (Tom Cruise) and Mrs. Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) live in Manhattan, enjoying their wealthy lifestyle and wealthy friends. They attend a Christmas party at the home of one of Bill’s patients, both of them flirting with other people, which leads to a somewhat-heated, half-naked discussion later that evening while smoking pot. Alice admits to Bill that she thought about cheating on him once during said discussion, creating a very tense moment of Tom Cruise staring…straight into your soul. Just when she’s done admitting her feelings, the phone rings. That happens a lot in this film. Whenever there is a pivotal moment, the phone rings. It distracts Bill from what he just heard or saw. At first, the calls seem to be a sort of saving grace–they get him out of uncomfortable or dangerous situations. Later, the phone calls turn into an all-out nuisance to him, but they are what moves the plot along throughout the entire movie. (Genius!) I won’t give away the entirety of what happens next, but Bill does end up at a cult-like orgy and considers cheating on his wife several times throughout the course of one evening. He doesn’t do it though. In the end, both he and Alice love each other too much to be unfaithful.

Eyes Wide Shut is a true roller coaster of a film that tells what most people call a “psycho-sexual” story of one man’s night out–a night that brings him face to face with his morals and the reality of his marriage. From a line like “Don’t you think one of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties?” to the discussion between Alice and Bill at the end of the film in the middle of a crowded toy store right before Christmas: “I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.” “What’s that?” “Fuck,” this film will take you on a journey that you don’t want to miss.

 

Every time I watch Eyes Wide Shut, I discover new things about it that I never noticed in previous viewings–something that Stanley Kubrick was very, very good at in his films. If you want a true cinematic adventure that will make you laugh, gasp, cringe, and say “WTF?”–you need to watch Eyes Wide Shut, a true “Christmas classic.”