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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Greetings and Happy Pre-Thanksgiving to all who panic. If you need last minute tips, listen to Martha Stewart Radio on Sirus 112. I don't have it this year, but when I did, the tips for brining turkey, side dishes, cooking turkey, and stuffing ideas were fantastic.

It is finally cool and fall-like, and I thought it would snow on Friday. I visited an exhibit at a local museum of Laura Ingalls Wilder memorabilia, including the school writing tablet first drafts on which she wrote By the Shores of Silver Lake. There were Christmas trees inspired by themes of her books, with accompanying posters of the relevant texts. The doll tree was wonderful, with dolls from The Victorian Papers and Frozen Charlotte bonnet doll ornmanets. There was a music tree decorated with fiddles that even had real cases, another tree for nature with plants and flowers from the prairie, a baking tree, etc. I would have liked to see a tree with Mary's beadwork, but maybe next time, or homage to Ma's china shepardess and brown strawberry delaine dress. Still, there was the wedding picture of Ma and Pa Ingalls, and scarves and cards that belonged to Laura.

Our local Festival of Trees also had a room dedicated to A Little House Christmas, as well as fantastically decorated cakes and gingerbread houses. One was a miniature adobe doll house of gingerbread that won a prize. The miniatures were not edible, but southwest tiny treasures to enhance the pretzel ladders and cookie levels. The same baker created a tiered cake with mini festival trees, intricately decorated, on three cake levels, with signage, and miniature rooms with tiny people and furniture of frosting and marzipan. There were other cakes and houses, some sculptures, including a cake snowman. There was a tree made of a white female mannikin an acquaintance of mine did. The skirt was a vintage aluminum tree hung with black, silver, and clear ornamnents. She wore a black carnival mask with feathers. She was called "Christmas frozen in time." I think she was my favorite, but I also liked the Raggedy Ann tree, and the fantastic tiered doll house and the retro room, "Grandma's Attic" full of dolls and toys from the fifties through mid sixties.

I made butter pecan cookies, similar to my grandma's, with the recipe from The Net, and red velvet cupcakes, Duncan Hines mix. These are for our charity bake sale tomorrow. We are having an ornament and bake sale, with little over $1.00 except some gift baskets at five dollars, and small, decorated trees for two dollars. We hope to raise money for Toys for Tots and The Sun Valley Indian School in Sun Valley, AZ. My club has been sending boxes to the children there for Christmas.

I will post some photos of cupcakes to give you ideas, and you can google pecan butter cookies or sugar cookies or go to recipes.com in a pinch.

We watched a new documentary of old, color films of WWII never shown before. I could not help but cry, and be grateful in this season of thanksgiving for those who were veterans in that and in other wars. We live in a dangerous world, and there are those who have given up the comforts, conveniences and trivialities of modern life to undergo great privation for the sake of freedom. They have courage and fortitude most lack, and I salute them for it.

Now is the time to write to the service men and women overseas, and to send cards and care packages. Many sites and organizations have lists and addreses. We have done this at school, and I've done it on my own as well.

To those cleaning, follow the tips of Laura I. Wilder herself in Little House in the Ozarks, where she suggests resting or napping 20 minutes everyday, wearing overalls or comfortable house cleaning clothes, and cleaning one corner at a time. We can't do it all, and most of us still have to work, in or out of home. Find a simple way to do things; look up cleaning solutions of on-hand, natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda, and try to relax. Bring a Mrs. Smith's or Village Inn pie to one or two events, or opt to make the salad or bring the paper cups. Offer someone an evening of coffee and empathetic listening, or help with an errand if you can. Sometimes, running a google search for someone who is not Net savvy is a greater gift than another gadget. Think of a stack of pre-loved books tied with a lovely ribbon or a net flix subscription for those who love these things, or offer to take someone who can't drive Christmas shopping.

Christmas is wonderful, and I believe its spirit is for everyone. Enjoy the rush and the crowds, admire the decorations, but find your own way to honor the holidays. If you make someone happy, you've done it right.

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