Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And that's the way it was

You've seen the chairs. Now, the aftermath: the annual neighborhood progressive party.

First there was the decorating. Many tiny Santas were distributed about the house. Look at them: they're massing. This can't be good.

In fact, I think they are plotting against us.

Green things were draped over everything that was nailed down. This was mostly to slow down the Santas, who are known for scaling banisters and staring at you while you sleep. This is how they can tell whether you've been good or bad, after all. It's a whole Santa network.

We fight back with fake greenery.

I tried to get the dog into the act with a pair of antlers a la The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but she was having none of it. This is her "You violated me!" face.

Actually, I believe this is her "FEED ME" face. The two are surprisingly similar.
But I had bigger fish to fry than slipping her Snausages, so I proceeded to make a lemon tart, my mother's brownies, a couple pumpkin pies that didn't make the photo-essay cut, and the piece de resistance: Ina Garten's chocolate cake, that four-hour festival of cake bakery.

This is the icing. It's fiddly as all hell, but by the end of it, you want to take a bath in the mixing bowl. That there's some meringue, about to be joined by well over a cup of butter and 18 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate.

And here is how it looks when it's all mixed together. This is roughly when I start thinking, I don't actually need the cake, I can just make the icing. And then eat it ALL.

But good sense prevailed, and cake was made. If anything, the cake batter is even better than the icing, so the fact that I actually managed to get two cake pans relatively full of cake is a Christmas miracle.

More miraculous, the icing actually ended up on the cake. Well, most of it did. I screwed up the icing so I told people it had "flakes of bittersweet chocolate" in it. That's spin for you, folks.

And oh my, the cake, she was good. But I figured we didn't have enough chocolate for little grabby neighbor-kid hands, so I made my mom's brownies.
That's where the trouble started.
My stove, she is old, and she has little spinny knobs that spin and spin, particularly if you brush against the oven while, say, BAKING SOMETHING. Something like brownies. Doing that makes the temperature knob spin from a nice bakey 350 to a nice broily 500 degrees. Luckily I smelled them blackening--I swear, burning chocolate sets off a race memory equal to that of a forest fire--and pulled them out before they really got charred.
The real news, however, is that the resulting mini-temper tantrum convinced my husband to take matters in hand. Later that night, he whisked me off to Sears under cover of darkness, and in about 15 minutes I had a new stove on order, not to mention a new refrigerator and a new dishwasher.
My husband: I think I'll keep him. Here are the brownies that began it all:
As if that wasn't good enough, the real coup of the evening was the lemon-curd tart that I made up on the fly.
Ina Garten has a recipe for lime-curd tart that I looked at and dismissed as too fiddly (this from the girl who spends four hours making a chocolate cake, mind you), so I zipped over to the local food pornery, bought a couple pots of lemon curd and a tart pan, whipped up a pie crust and covered the top with raspberries when the tin foil got a little too cozy with the lemon curd. And voila! Lemon Curd Tart was born.
And let me tell you, this sucker was gone in 15 minutes. My neighbors sucked it down like their mouths were Hoover attachments.
Everything kind of fell apart after that. The next day I fell perilously ill, got the news that I needed to get back into my walking cast for at least another month, and heard from my husband that the new stove wouldn't fit, and furthermore, the new refrigerator was too big for our century-old house's kitchen.
So more trips to Sears were made, the walking cast was bitched about, and I am out of Kleenex. Balance has been restored to the universe.


Blogger Breakup Babe said...

Mm! Next time I'm sneaking in to the progressive party!

2:37 PM  
Blogger debra said...

looks yummy---secret ingredients sugar and fat??? :-)

8:21 PM  
Blogger inkgrrl said...

Oh sweetie! Kudos on the gorgeous house and the copious cooking and the new appliances! Bah humbug to the cast and the teeny kitchen spaces and the lack of Kleenex. Those Santas will not prevail.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

I have to say, the thought of many wee Santas creeping up the bannister and assembling on the nightstand, to stare, makes me unaccountably anxious for a grown woman. Sweet dreams!

Next year I am crashing your neighborhood party somewhere during the dessert interval as well...or wherever/whenever thata cake shows up. Feel better, lady!

6:20 PM  

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