The Farm's First Christmas!

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It's really beginning to feel like the holidays for me now. It never did before. In college, I felt that being home was a burden, a hazy one that either ended with me moping in my room, or texting my college friends with small details of how "annoying" my family was. In California, as I've talked about before, it never felt like Christmas, wearing shorts and driving the interstate to find fast food restaurants that would stay open for us. Or, some years, we split the burden--one of us would stay with the dogs while the other spent Christmas with family back in Pennsylvania. Lonely is all I remember for three years then.

I didn't keep up with the traditions; I never bothered to try. Maybe it was too painful, or maybe I just didn't really care that much. Those in-between years of settling and resettling, in rented houses and backyards that were too small, I never thought I had anything to celebrate. And, as always, I was wrong. And, as always, I'm learning.

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We moved into our house just after the holidays last year, so this is the first time we're really experiencing it all. The tree, the fir, the snow-packed dog paws that melt on the hardwood floors. Old ornaments from second-hand stores and our mothers' attics. Wooden ones, broken ones, ones that hang on paperclips instead of hooks. Things we've never done before, experiences that I've been wanting to create.

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And it was good. Rushed, but good. Haphazard, but good, to look back at a year of questions and answers and understand that sometimes the most fun we're going to have in a week is doing the mindless, repetitive tasks that we used to hate as kids.

And the same goes for cookies. It used to be a tradition, one that I seemed to forget about until I'm hungry for something sweet. But this year, as I shared with Modern Farmer, it's turned into something I love doing. Decorating, baking, cutting shapes and dipping them in coffee. I can't wait to give them out as gifts this year. And below this recipe is a special surprise for your pup as well!

 

 

 

 

Iced Sugar Cookies

Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg (of course, we used our girls' fresh eggs!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
2. Add egg and vanilla and mix together
3. Sift together dry ingredients and gently stir into your butter mixture
4. Turn out onto a floured work surface and pat into a disc. Wrap and chill for 1 hour
5. Preheat oven to 400*F
6. Roll out and cut dough into desired shapes (about 3/4 inch thickness worked best for me)
7. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are just browned

For decorating: Use dyed royal icing (my ratio is 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar for each 1 egg white, plus a 1/4 teaspoon of water or so, mixed with your dyes) and a bit of patience for the decorating. I always remind myself that the more handmade it looks, the more love I put into it--so I never stress too much about perfection!
 

Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies
Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies
Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies

And here is an alternative for your best pal! Make these dog treats (recipe was shared here) and give them away to all your dog loving friends!

Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
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Le premier anniversaire de chien.

He's one-year-old today. Image

He's one and I'm twenty-two, and I'll have this dog all throughout my twenties.  It comforts me to think of commitment and unconditionally loving something that's not my own ego.  A dog is a great companion for people like me, for people who have jaded views on the need for friendships and loves to be needed constantly, incessantly, selflessly.

Nolan and I adopted Murphy when it was probably a dark time for us.  We had just transplanted our humble life of studio-living in ramshackle circumstances, the metallic taste of grudges still fresh on our tongues, and we wanted something to bond us together again. Before it was California, and before we tired of that manifest destiny sort of dream, it was just simple--sex or food in Pittsburgh.  We moved into our current house and I remember the exact moment I came across Murphy's picture.  I was staying for a week in a La Quinta off Harbor Boulevard in Orange County, taking the rest of my law exams for my 1L year.  He was on Craigslist and I was on a comforter that was orange and scratchy.  I got him after my Contracts exam in an Korean community in Los Angeles County.  I gave the owners some extra money for food.  They were poor, Hispanic, and fed Murphy crushed-up, watered-down dog food.

He was inquisitive and cautious since birth.  Energetic at the promise of a walk, a newfound spot to pee, a friend to make, or a kiss from "daddy" or "papa".  It is not a hyperbole to say he has been a blessing and an angel to me.  I was unemployed for six months and he was a reason to still wake up at seven every morning to take him out for his morning ritual (sniff around the mulch, avoid the sprinklers, and squat to pee, his eyes closed in the morning light).  It was a period of bohemian, relaxed self-reflection that involved becoming a caretaker to a child, really.  I considered myself a father and told Murphy my secrets when we were alone.  He's grown into the perfect dog.  Obedient and loving, careful and curious.  He's everything you want in a child, and I brag about him often.

He's the only picture I have in my cubicle at work.  It's when his hair was still shaggy and you see him in all his emotional ranges.

I baked him dog treats and a cake until eleven at night (recipes below).  I wrapped up a sock monkey that we named Pete.  We took him to the park and to lunch, a walk and a nap.  I kissed him a few more times than usual and even wrote him a card.  I sometimes wonder if I do it for myself or for him and how much he recognizes as gestures of love.

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Then I wonder, as most children do when they grow up, if my mother ever thought this way about me.  If I ever really appreciated the post-it notes stuck to my car, saying, "Have a good day."  I hope so.

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Two-ingredient Dog Treats

Ingredients:

  • 2 4-ounce jars of baby food (I used carrot x banana for one combination and turkey dinner x sweet potato for another)
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour (I caution using this much, as I had excess flour.  Start with one and a half cups and add more until it forms a dough)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prep a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix baby food and flour together in large bowl.
  • Once well-incorporated, turn onto lightly-floured surface as it begins to form into a workable dough.
  • Roll to desired thickness with rolling pin; or, alternatively, pat to desired thickness (hey, they're dogs--they won't know the difference!)
  • Cut into desired shapes.  I happened to have bone and heart shapes to work with.
  • Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, until harden.
  • Let cool before serving to your dog.

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Doggy Birthday Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup apple sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons honey

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prep small ramekin for cake.  (Alternatively, this could make two cupcakes.  I, in fact, used these handy baking cups from the Container Store and it was perfect for the festivities and utility.)
  • Mix all ingredients together until well-combined.  Batter will be fairly runny but consistent.
  • Pour into prepared bakeware.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes (or longer.  Mine took 25 minutes) until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool.