Post-Christmas Bed Camp

There’s always a Holiday Bed Camp for me, either after Thanksgiving to refresh and prepare for what’s to come, or just after Christmas well, because most people need it by then. This year it was really needed — the heating system went two weeks before Christmas during a cold spell and heated only the bottom floor. It was finally repaired the day before Xmas Eve, during which water poured down from the radiator above my bedroom, coming through the ceiling I painted just last summer and onto my bed, soaking my comforter and linens…then the butcher messed up my ham order…. you get the idea….that kind of week.

It took all I had to keep my eye on the prize — Christmas here with my family — yearly regulars and new additions this year.  A house full, just like I love it. And other family gatherings planned here for the days after….and a Bed Camp just for me at the end of it all. Keep.Your.Eye.On.The. Prize.

Things to do

I went to bed late the night before Camp, planning on getting up late. Food was ready for the next day, my activity table was set with electronics, yarn, a loaded Kindle, a Netflix list of options, pad and pen, the best parts of the Sunday paper and coffee for morning and wine for the evening. It was a rainy day, which was good and, oddly or maybe not, helped keep me calm. It was 55 degrees and sunny the day before and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a good long walk on the River.

My Day Eyes opened at 10:34. I made the bed, showered and got fresh bed clothes on and went downstairs. Breakfast was coffee and Katie’s Christmas ginger cake toasted and buttered and brought back up on bed tray. My idea of leftovers. Yum.

Breakfast

Television, on my iPad and on the big screen, seemed to be on most of the day, and needles and yarn in my hands. One scarf finished. It all kept my mind from straying to lists of things to do.

Two episodes of the Pioneer Woman Cooks started it all. She has a well-followed blog and now a cable series on the Food Network. Her cooking style isn’t mine but I see the attraction for the masses. I did yell at the screen when she dumped a can of tomato paste into a meat sauce without letting it cook by itself alongside the vegetables at the beginning….but to each her own. Move on. Keep calm.

A Ted Topic (LOVE Ted Topics and recommend highly – something smart for everyone) with Jamie Oliver talking about obesity and good eating habits. Love his stuff!

Two episodes of the PBS Series ‘Mind of a Chef’ with David Chang. I’m a big fan, and his episode on Spain was fabulous.

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Somewhere in there I had a light lunch of St. Andre cheese, crackers and walnuts.

On to Netflix, where I watched, engrossed, the first five episodes of House of Cards. My boys were right that I would love this. (I love talk of this ‘new’ trend of binge watching television series in a single sitting/day. I’ve been doing this for years, with CD’s of the Pallisers, The West Wing, Joseph Campbell’s Mythology Series and, a favorite I take out every few years, the full 21 hours – takes two days – of Brideshead Revisited with a very young and very hot Jeremy Irons.)

The last episode of ‘Cards’ ran a half hour into this season’s first Midwives…

Loving House of Cards

…followed by last season’s final episode of Downton Abbey, the channel changed right before Mathew’s car crashes….couldn’t bear to see that again. Can’t wait for the new season to begin next Sunday.

Dinner of spinach lasagna was ‘served’ during House of Cards and Midwives and Christmas photos were organized into an album to share with the family.

Television finally off, I was ready to open the Gluten Girl Cookbook I got for Christmas and finish Amy Tan’s latest book before turning out the lights on a very good day.

Mission Was Accomplished. I use the word ‘mission’ because for me, Bed Camp is a mission, with the goal of getting myself refreshed, relaxed and ready to be back on track.

Every  Bed Camp is different, depending on my moods and needs. This Camp, I needed my mind to wander away from all the lists of things to do in the next few weeks and just roam into other spheres.

My mind is clear, my body relaxed and I’m feeling content. A Good and, yes, Productive Bed Camp Day. Well done!

Unique Gift for Your Favorite Cook

Favorite independent bookstores are shrinking or closing and, in the big box stores, toys and gift items are taking over. The Union Square children’s section at Barnes & Noble looks more like a playground than a bookstore after school lets out. But it’s the growing cookbook section that confounds me. There are books from the ‘serial’ writers, who think they have to publish a cook book a year. Then, there are those from just about anyone who had a nano second of fame, likely in some field that didn’t involve pots and pans! With so many good recipes available online and in magazine and newspapers, why? So few have anything really original.

I have more than a tall bookcase of cookbooks. So many of them and yet I always turn to the same dozen or so. But I still like to take them out and look at the beautiful pictures. I’ve been curtailing my purchases and buying more electronic ones  lately…running out of room and not much out there that looks interesting.

But every once in a while, something special arrives. An early Christmas catalog for outdoor clothes featured the Remington Camp Cooking book by Charlie Parker and had a delicious recipe for duck breasts. Looked up the book online and knew I had to own it. Recipes for game and outdoor cooking, but lots of indoor cooking as well. Not at all like anything on my shelves. I tore out the recipe and went to buy the book and some duck breasts.

Remington Camp Cooking

How frustrating that distribution is limited. Not in local stores. Not in B&N. The site for the book –  http://www.remingtoncampcooking.com – lists a small number of independent stores (not in New York) that have it, and directs you to Amazon.  Not something you have to worry that someone will buy for themselves or that someone else will because they likely won’t see it or find it. Unique, beautiful, something new and different. Can’t wait until it arrives…then just have to decide what lucky person gets the second copy.

What’s your go-to Cookbook?

I Give In. Summer’s Done.

October has been so fine so far. Just trace amounts of rain in the city, temps a few degrees above normal and lots of sunny days. It’s been easy to prolong that ‘laissez faire’ summer feeling. But, reality struck today when the heat came on this chilly morning. I give in. Fall is here and Summer is now something to fondly remember and look forward to.

My last batches of Chunky Cranberry Jam have been processed and the canning pots and equipment have been put away, summer clothes are stacked and ready for the trunks and closets, flip-flops and scandals have been traded for real shoes and boots and Apple’s fall announcements have been made and a new laptop is in my near future. Welcome Fall 2013.

Summer lends itself to feeling fresh and relaxed and loose. The Fall onslaught brings tighter schedules in shorter days, more meals that require actual cooking and the upcoming holidays with all the stress they can entail. This is when it is so important to commit to a plan to take care of yourself and make sure you schedule you-time. Put your first Bed Camp on the calendar now, especially if you’re hosting any of the festivities.

Holiday Tip #1 Make for yourself, or bring to the hostess if you’re a guest. Cranberry sauce is for the day, but Chunky Cranberry Jam is delicious on day-after turkey sandwiches. This recipe is processed but if you don’t can, you can make some the day or two before and refrigerate and bring a jar or two with you for the hosting family’s day-after snacks. (As always when bringing food to someone, let them know when it has nuts in it.)  I’ve made several batches so far and have enjoyed it on turkey meatloaf, chicken breasts and toast. Delicious. I found the recipe in Kevin West’s book, Saving the Season. He also has a blog of the same name – www.savingtheseason.com. Both worth checking out. Here is my version.

Chunky Cranberry Jam

1 pound cranberries (Don’t rely on package weight. Use a scale.)
1 cup water
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 inches cinnamon stick
peel from 1 orange, chopped very fine
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon Citron Vodka

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Rinse the cranberries, removing any stray stems and discarding imperfect berries. In a heavy bottomed saucepan (I use my favorite heavy copper pot), add the cranberries, diced apples, ginger, cinnamon stick, orange dice and the cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, until the berries pop.

Add the sugar, stir well until it dissolves and return the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Add the nuts and cook for another 3 minutes, still stirring constantly. At the gel point, add the Citron Vodka, and cook for another 3o seconds.

Remove the cinnamon stick and ladle the jam into prepared 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

NOTE: I’ve assumed canning skills here. You can find instructions online at the Ball site at freshpreserving.com or, just make it a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday sales, lay-away, Radio City touting its Christmas spectacular. It’s September still and the march is on.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m good with holidays, Christmas in particular. With four kids, lots of family and friends to buy for, I learned early on how to plan well, execute with time to spare and, most important, enjoy myself.

The secret to my success begins late-Summer each year.  I buy a small notebook and get to work. Each person on my list gets two facing pages. The left side is for gift ideas, the right side keeps track of gifts bought for that person. Once the book is bought and filled in with all the names, it never leaves my bag. I need it handy so I can quickly jot down things people mention in normal conversations about what they would like, love to have, wish they had the money for, would never splurge on for themselves, etc. etc. etc. People drop so many clues every day.

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Like I said before, this helps me enjoy more of the season, get others presents they like and never tire of hearing “How did you know….”?

The back pages of the book are reserved for keeping track of what’s been ordered and when delivery is expected and then a to-do-list by store. So, the Toys R Us page would have a list of all the kids on my list whose gifts could be bought there.

For receipts, I keep a big envelope where they all get deposited and I set up a folder on my laptop for electronic buys. Paper receipts can also be scanned into the electronic folder.

This might sound like a lot to do, but I never worry about getting one child more than the others, don’t forget things I bought early and hid away, have plenty of sales between late August and December to take advantage of, and always know how much more I have to do and when I’m done.

Happy Holidays!