Friday, December 23, 2016

A Tradition of Hope: Intergenerational Baking and Thinking of the Future

I haven't asked yet, but I'm hoping to commission a camel and a donkey from SheepInStitches.

Solstice was quiet. I bought two trios of LED candles that could be left on all night, then lit everything else I could find until bedtime.

The highlight of the day was when two sheep ornaments arrived from an artist (and sheep farmer) in Britain. She sews all sorts of delightful creatures in evenings after farm work--horses and dogs, as well as sheep--and she will make portraits of individual animals. Check out her shop:

I was ready for Christmas, almost. One important detail remained. I needed to bake German Stollen. It's a tradition I adopted from my German grandma, who called it Kluben (no idea about the correct spelling). I'm sure Grandma didn't bake stollen every year. Mom made it sometimes. Sometimes no one did. But I have become a fanatic. I first tried the recipe in college. I've been baking stollen for my family every year for almost three decades now.

Without help, this year it might have really hurt me. I've been weakening quickly after the smallest exertion and not sleeping well. Next week I'll be seeing the doctor to try a new biologic.

Adult children to the rescue! Youngest is my constant right-hand man.  He stays on top of the dishes, making cooking and eating at my house even possible. Oldest is working retail right now and exhausted, but he had today off, so I booked an hour of his time. He managed the mixing and kneading of three batches. At the end of the day, my tummy is full of Christmas bread and I'm no more tired than usual.

Here's how it's done:
Hand mixer required, but extension cord is optional unless you, too, are working from a 1950s kitchen
I'll share the recipe with you, an ancient family secret. My version comes from Better Homes and Gardens:New Cook Book 1981 edition. I have boosted the add-ins to reflect the way I actually bake.

German Stollen

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 slightly beaten egg
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup mixed candied fruits and peels
1/3 container candied cherries
1/3 cup chopped blanched almonds
2 tablespoons finely shredded orange peel (fresh or dried)
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel (fresh or dried)


1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon butter

In a large mixer bowl combine two cups of the flour, the yeast, and cardamom. In a saucepan (or the microwave) heat milk, the 1/2 cup butter, granulated sugar, and salt just till warm (115-120 degrees) and butter is almost melted; stir. Add in egg. Add to flour mixture. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for for 1/2 minute; scrape sides of bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can mix in with a spoon. Stir in raisins, candied fruits and peels, cherries,  almonds, orange and lemon peels.

Turn out onto a lightly flour surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 3/4 hours). Punch down; turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Three risen batches ready to be shaped into loaves
Roll one third of the dough into a 10x6-inch rectangle. Without stretching, fold the long side over to within 1 inch of the opposite side; seal. Place o. a greased baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough.

Cover; let rise until nearly double (about 1 hour). Bake in a 375 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until golden. Combine the powdered sugar, hot water, and 1/2 teaspoon butter; brush over warm bread. Makes 3.

Nine loaves ready to be delivered to my parents, siblings, and uncle

I am trying to follow Grandma's example in more than Christmas (and New Years) baking. Now Grandma, like most Germans was never known as a sunny optimist, but immigration is an act of hope. So is religious faith and raising a family.

 Grandma's hopes were never outlandish. She didn't hope for riches and fame in America, but for a life in peace, with enough to eat and access to an LDS temple. She didn't hope for a mansion, but for a roomy kitchen, big windows, and more (though still not quite enough) bedrooms. Grandma hoped for, and built, the house I live in now.

Like Grandma, I won't entertain fantastical hopes for 2017, just feasible ones.

Hopes for next year:

1. I hope to travel. There are two planned trips right now and more  possible. In the spring, I will visit redrock country with my parents. They will trek all over Canyondlands National Park. I will read, knit, and nap in the campground at amazing Dead Horse Point National Monument.

 In the summer, a dear friend and I will visit either St George or Cedar City, Utah to visit the temple and attend at least one play.
This second trip, and trips I would like to talk my husband into, require more strength than I have now. They depend upon the next hope.

2. I hope for a (temporary)cure: I want a new drug. (Huey Lewis has no idea.) I'm hoping that the latest period of easy exhaustion has come on because my biologic medication is failing me. Switching will mean giving up the ease of a twice daily pill in exchange for a regular injection, but if I come back from the dead, it's worth it.

3. I hope that (baring the unexpected miracle cure) Social Security Disability comes through. Ironically that, or the miracle cure, is what is required for me to work again. Once I'm approved, I can try out part, or part-part time work and the salary lowers my benefit, but I don't lose the security. I would love to get back out into the world and contribute in some small way.

4. I hope my family is happy. My husband is struggling to find a comfortable place in his work. My boys are starting school and continuing to edge into adulthood. I want things to go reasonably smoothly for them and for all of our family.

Squirrels and deer are less appreciated on the Menssen compound.
5. I hope for peace of mind. I don't sleep and can't find calm. There are many reasons. I think fear over upheaval under the new administration is part of it, but it is amplified by personal insecurity. The  sudden shift from frantic to idle has thrown me into a tizzy. I have the best possible support system, but I feel quite useless, which makes me feel helpless.

I'm doing a lot of religious reading, watching and listening in hope of inspiration and/or a sense of calm.

Easy to get carried away with wildlife photos.
 I'm also watching a lot of nature and travel shows. When I get this posted today I'm on to season two of Wildlife SOS. Its a show about nice British people rescuing baby foxes and hedgehogs. They even saved a squirrel stuck in a bird feeder.

I need some stinking badgers

Reading/listening about science and history helps too. In the middle of the night, after starting a Facebook holy war and reading a few chapters of the Book of Mormon I listened to a series of podcasts with historians talking about the place of 2016 in history. It's nice to be reminded sometimes that it is not currently a plague year.

6. I hope for peace on earth. So one impossible dream. But I like to look at it more as a long-term goal. I'll do what I can. You'll do what you can. Multiply that by the good people on earth. Count on help from Heaven too.

We can all make things better a few lives at a time. It sounds like too little, but look back at my picture of Dead Horse Point. That was carved very slowly, over time, by water. The key is in persistence. Don't ever give up.

Here are two videos I found helpful.

Sharon Brous on hope through religion

John Green on hope after the election


Long before ugly Christmas sweater parties became a thing, I made myself a beautiful Solstice sweater, which I wore on Wednesday.

I don't have any new knitting for my shop today. There are several items of charity knitting that I need to turn in soon and I would love to make a few more pieces, but I also have two pieces of personal knitting I am trying to finish first.

My mom has requested a white vest. The pattern that I think will give her the desired fit is very simple. it is essentially a rectangle with arm holes. There is no inside out or upside down. Mom doesn't need that kind of accommodation, but her daughter does some days. This should be finished by Christmas, since it is a January birthday gift, this is efficiency, not last-minute craziness.

Last Christmas I tried to make a sweater for Youngest. I chose a nice-feeling wool/cotton blend that I swear grew as I knit with it. It is a little baggy on Oldest who is three inches taller and at least fifty pounds heavier than his brother.

So I'm trying again, only sort-of following a pattern that will eventually need steeks to set in the sleeves. I'm also supposed to steek to add a v neck, but he doesn't want a v neck, so the finishing part should be interesting.


Not great. Hopefully better when holidays are over, days are longer, and a new biologic has had a chance to kick in.

In the meantime, here are some beautiful Christmas watercolors by Jill Cook, friend and artist. They hang in my house year round. Copies of these and other great works are at


  1. Those loafs look amazing. yumm!! We generally have very few treats around at the holidays because of blood sugar issues. So when we go to others houses we tend to have a small treat. Don't be surprised if I show up at your house. LOL

  2. You'd be welcome. Merry Christmas!