Saturday, December 12, 2015

"The Tree Boss! The Tree!"

I happily crawl toward Christmas. I managed to gather myself together and get out the door by 3:00 pm yesterday to go shopping for groceries, catz fud and gifties, mostly of the stocking stuffer variety, but also to replace the boombox mentioned in my last post. 

I returned the one purchased earlier which apparently was the reincarnation of Tony’s grandmother’s coffee grinder. That appliance came to a gruesome end when Tony and his brother, ages six and eight, decided to grind rocks in it in 1947. I don’t see why I have to be haunted by the darn thing’s ghost. I’m not the one who put rocks in it. Why should I be smacked in the head with the karma which rightly belongs to two naughty little boys?   

Never mind, this time I bought a cheap CD, unpacked the new boombox, plugged it into one of the store’s outlets and did a test drive. Satisfied I had a CD player and not another appliance in disguise I stuffed it back in the box and went upon my merryful way. 

Negotiating the aisles was very much like playing with one of those puzzles where there is a picture made up of scrambled squares inside a frame and only one empty space. Someone, somewhere, had to move for anyone, anywhere, to move. No one cared, there was lots of laughing and reaching over heads and passing of boxes and bottles down the line, except for one little boy about nine who got separated from his mother in the crowd and panicked. He didn’t speak English and was howling in terror.  It took two or three minutes to find someone who spoke whatever language the poor kid was speaking and to make a “Lost Child Call” in his language on the PA system. He was being comforted and fed chocolate by two clerks when his substantial Mama arrived to claim him. 

Since the sun goes down at 4:30 it was black dark by the time I finished shopping. I ran by our favourite Thai place to pick up dinner and somehow in the dark made a wrong turn on my way home and ended up in a strange neighbourhood. I had absolutely no idea where I was, and I got completely turned around. I ended up coming out on a busy street a couple of miles west of where I thought I was.  I couldn’t turn left toward home across traffic so had to turn back the other way and drive toward downtown until I found a light and could circle around.  This is why they don’t let me drive the firetruck! 

I finally got the “tree” up and decorated. The “tree” is a two-foot-high stick with some others sticks poking out of it, all wrapped in what appears to be coloured hockey tape. Each branch ends in a tiny LED light. We have an actual tree hidden away in a box in the hall closet, but we also have an extremely naughty cat who is determined to do away with the tree and decorations as quickly as they can be put up. So this tiny tree is six feet ( 2 m) off the ground on a narrow shelf he can’t jump on.  

But I rather like this bare little stick. It reminds me of my maternal grandfather Henry Clark. He always slipped out on Christmas Eve and cut an evergreen tree and decorated it with paper chains, strings of popcorn and tiny candles for his children to wake up to on Christmas morning. One Christmas they were living on the Oklahoma prairie and there were no evergreens for miles. He solved his "tree" problem by buying a roll of red crepe paper, cutting a small oak tree, wrapping the trunk and branches in red crepe paper and seating the tree in a coffee can full of plaster. On each branch he put a candle, and he draped the branches in their usual paper chains and popcorn garlands.  

My next Christmas task is the wrapping of gifts, but I’m also going to make gluten-free fruitcake for my fellas and I wanted to share the recipe. It’s not in the trad loaf shape, but it tastes good all the same. I guess if I run short of time I can always just drink the brandy and eat the fruit in my porridge. LOL   

Gluten-free Fruitcake
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) chopped dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) chopped golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup (250 mL) brandy
  • 1 cup (250 mL) gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • Line 8-inch (2 L) square metal cake pan with parchment paper; set aside.
  • In saucepan, combine apricots, golden raisins, ginger, dark raisins and figs; stir in brandy. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until no liquid remains, 6 to 8 minutes. Cover and let cool, 15 minutes. 
  • In bowl, whisk gluten-free baking flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves and allspice; transfer 2 tbsp (25 mL) to small bowl. Set aside remaining mixture.
  • Add walnuts and pine nuts to flour in small bowl; toss to coat.
  • In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in flour mixture just until combined. Stir in fruit mixture and nut mixture. Scrape into prepared pan, smoothing top. 

  • Bake in centre of 300°F (150°C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on rack. (Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.)


Linda P. said...

We've just put up our Christmas tree. Although I love natural trees, my respiratory system does not, so we have an artificial one. That artificial one is now denuded of all the attached pine cones below the height of our dear departed old-guy golden retriever, but what was once an irritation is now a fond memory as I look at the tree. Your description of your cat's antics made me smile.

We still have to add the ornaments. We couldn't do that before Christmas Day when our first golden, now long gone, was around. She crunched them, glass and all. One Christmas, my husband put the tree, decorations and all, on the deck just outside our windows so we could see it but she couldn't get to it. Good think our remaining golden isn't too interested in the tree.

Deb said...

Hi Linda,

Isn't it funny how what were "irritations" at the time become beloved memories?

I found a big orange hairball behind a set of shelves a couple of months ago, testament to my haphazard cleaning skills for sure, but it brought our dearly departed (three years ago!) Salvador to mind very vividly. I cursed his pound of shed orange fur every day, now I'd love to be able to cuddle him again. sniff.