Snowmen, Strietzel and Sleep Training

What happens to you when you’re sleep deprived? Do you turn into a zombie? Or become incredibly sensitive? For me, it’s a mix of things which came to a peak last week. When you have a baby, you expect to be really tired in the beginning and you are. New babies need round the clock care and a lot of that depends on mom if the babies are breastfed. I think in the beginning I was tired, but I must have been running on new mom adrenaline. The 2 hour feedings didn’t seem to bother me and I managed to get naps during the day when I was really exhausted. What I didn’t expect was to repeat that vicious cycle when we hit four months.

There is an evil called “sleep regressions” and they happen to a handful of babies. I only knew one friend who had a baby who had sleep troubles, the rest must have been angels (or maybe liars?), so I didn’t think much of it. Nolan was never a great sleeper. He had a crutch which was the exercise ball. He was addicted to bouncing and only fell asleep if bounced. We never intended to bounce him so much, but it was the only thing that soothed our fussy baby. Sleep deprivation makes my brain cloudy. Sometimes it’s hard to think straight and mostly I’m just unmotivated to add stress to my day (aka not going out if I don’t have to). With my cloudy head, I ruined some hard boiled eggs… twice. It’s hard to ruin a hard boiled egg since it involves only a few steps, but I forgot about one pan of them and let my water boil down to nothing, setting off the smoke alarm. The second time I set the kitchen timer but thought it was the annoying dishwasher beep and didn’t get to them immediately. Rubbery eggs = gross. Multi-tasking while sleep deprived is bad news for me apparently.

About a month ago, we lost patience with the bouncing. Our quads grew stronger and our back muscles ached. Around the three month mark, Nolan began to sleep in slightly longer stretches but showed no signs of dropping night feedings to give us a break. He was even making progress with naps longer than 30 minutes at a time, hallelujah! Jump to the four month mark and any sort of progress was tossed out the window and buried under a deep drift of snow. Coupled with a growth spurt, Nolan lost all abilities to sleep alone for more than one sleep cycle (30-40 minutes) without needing his crutch. For almost two weeks we tried repeatedly to get him to sleep in his crib and every night by around 2am he was in bed with us, sleeping on my chest. I’m pretty sure he was the only one getting good rest that way and Michael and I were going crazy. We needed this baby to sleep so that we could sleep again too! Can you tell we aren’t a co-sleeping family?

After a terrible night a week ago, we decided we had to do something. We didn’t want to project our frustrations onto each other and Nolan really needed way more sleep that he was getting. Average babies his age are supposed to sleep around 14 hours per day and he was nowhere close. Furthermore, I kept reading that kids who sleep longer have generally higher IQs and I feared that we would affect his intelligence! No joke. I read three books which all made me feel like a failure at parenting: Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child; Baby Wise; and The Baby Whisperer. We ended up using Ferber’s Progressive Waiting approach and are on day 6. Nolan is doing great and we are too! I’m still tired but I think my body is just catching up from lost sleep. We now have long stretches of sleep with minimal wake ups at night and he can soothe himself which is huge progress! I never thought we’d be able to lay him down awake in his crib to go to sleep but it is working! So if you’re out there struggling with the same sleep deprivation, please just try something. If it doesn’t work for you, try the next thing. If there is anything we can take away from this month, it’s that we aren’t alone. There are tons of other parents out there who’ve written the exact same blog posts and weaned from bouncing and swaddling and trained their kids to sleep the same way we are now. Thank goodness for the internet, and a husband who loves you when you’re cranky and want nothing more than to sit around in your sweatpants. And for progressive waiting and sleeping babies…

To celebrate all this recent sleep I’ve been much more alert during night feedings. I still have to keep myself occupied because, well, it’s the middle of the night and it’s dark and I’m holding a warm snuggly baby and sometimes I drift off with my head all crooked in the rocking chair… and even though I’ve got an oil for that, it’s important we don’t fall asleep because that might ruin our sleep training. Once I’ve exhausted facebook and instagram, I usually turn to pinterest. There are a lot of crafty Valentine images popping up in my feed. I’ve been thinking we deserve a Valentine’s Day reward for all this sleep deprivation which will come in the shape of Michael’s favorite cookie of all time, Springerles. It’s only fair because I often smell like a Springerle when i use my Fennel oil for lactation support. Hopefully the family doesn’t stage a revolt since I’m breaking a serious tradition of these cookies only being made at Christmas.

For now, please enjoy some stop-motion short films made by my lovely, and consider making some Strietzel (minus candied fruit) for your lovebird this Valentine’s Day. In a perfect world, I’d be making this for breakfast tomorrow too… maybe next year.

How To Build A Snowman
Strietzel Stop Motion

Strietzel

2 packages yeast or 14g by weight
1/4 C warm water
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C flour

Dissolve yeast in water in a small bowl. Add sugar and flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for one hour.

6 1/2 C flour
1 C butter melted
1 1/2 C milk scalded
3 egg yolks well beaten
1 tsp salt

2 C mixed candied fruits and raisins (alternately if you’re not using candied fruit, just use 1/2 to 3/4 C raisins that you plump in hot water) Candies fruit or “Citron” is easy to find around the holidays. It’s tradition to use red and green candied cherries too.

Scald the milk (185˚F) in a medium saucepan remove from heat. Stir in cold sticks of butter, set aside.

Measure about 3 C flour into a large bowl. Whisk in salt. When milk has cooled and butter is all melted, add this to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add in eggs and yeast starter and stir to combine. Continue adding flour one cup at a time into the bowl with the wooden spoon until you have 5-6 cups of flour incorporated. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times until all the loose bits are incorporated into one ball. Lightly flour a worksurface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (not sticky), 5-8 minutes. I usually add all of the candied fruit or raisins towards the end of kneading so the fruit doesn’t escape as many times. Grease a bowl and add the dough ball, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, approximately 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 15″ rope.

Braid 4 strands, then three strands, then twist the remaining two strands.

Stack the 3 braid onto the 4 braid and secure with toothpicks. When stacking, I rotate the braid 180˚ so the braid is going in the opposite direction of the one below. Stack the twist on top and add more toothpicks.

Grease a cookie sheet and place the loaf in the center. Cover and let it rise again for about 30 minutes (until doubled). Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat an egg yolk and brush top of loaf. Bake 1 hour covered with foil. I removed the foil in the last 10-15 minutes of baking. The loaf will be done when the top is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Star Spangled Apple Pie

Star Spangled Apple Pie

We had a great 4th of July weekend with friends in the woods. We stayed in a tiny town called Dorrington, near Arnold, in a woodsy community that hasn’t changed since 1972. Our friend Keith’s birthday is July 3rd, so I made him a Star Spangled Pie with vanilla ice – his request. The vanilla is my new favorite simple recipe and the pie always changes. It’s not apple season but we have started to see some of the early varieties here at the farmer’s market. I used a combination of  Dorsett Golden and Gala which made for a very juicy pie. Someday I’ll make the perfect apple pie with the perfect amount of bubbling juices but until then, we’ll just keep stuffing our faces with pie and ice cream and watch while the pie attempts to set us on fire.

Old Fashioned Vanilla

keith sparks

You can click on the images above to see the rest of our trip. It was pretty much like adult summer camp with the addition of cute babies and Michael got to take some amazing night photos at Alpine Lake. Oh, and please feel free to comment and send recipes of your favorite apple pie. I need extra practice (and probably extra tasters too).

a Spring(erle) in his step

We visited Michael’s Grandparents in Great Bend Kansas for part of our Christmas vacation and my it was cold! Michael’s Grandma, Beverly, has carried on many of the family Christmas traditions originating in Austria and a good chunk of these traditions are tasty ones. There are three specific traditions I have experienced so far: no meat on Christmas Eve, Strietzel, and Springerles. I welcomed Strietzel into my belly soon after Michael and I started dating. It’s kind of like fruit cake in bread form and I love it. It’s weird with those candied fruit bits and dense – but delicious slightly chilled with a thin schmear of butter. It’s also the one item Michael and I agree is fantastic. Grandpa eats this bread on Christmas Eve accompanied by shrimp cocktail and the infamous cheese ball and crackers (and pretty much every day for breakfast until it disappears). The tradition Michael loves most is a little cookie called a Springerle. Michael just ran out of his stash in early January, savoring them as long as humanly possible. They are not nearly as good when they’re crisp but Michael may argue that.

Townsends

Last Christmas Grandma gave the entire family a lesson in Springerle Craft. She is an amazing woman and I hope you can find some time to watch the video we made. The recipe is incredibly simple with few ingredients, but tricky indeed. I’m especially grateful we have this video because the Springerle is one tradition I’d like to carry on, and I have a feeling I’ll need as much help from Grandma as possible. YouTube is a good second runner-up to teleportation.

Over the past ten years, I’ve grown to like Springerles. I must confess I detested the first bite of Springerle I tried and Michael probably thought “more for me”. If there is one thing I learned over the years is the Springerle inspires sneaking and taunting. All in good spirits mind you. The cookies also inspire a love/hate relationship and I’m finally  beginning to love them. There is a Great Townsend Divide when it comes to who likes them and who doesn’t. I prefer them less Anise-y. The texture is incredible; they are crisp on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside.  I have a feeling I’ll really like them when I make my own, but I’ll have to make two batches because Michael will not be happy with my wimpy cookies.

We have an assortment of antique cookie cutters from Grandma and Michael got the special rabbit shape in his stocking this year. Rabbits are the best because they are the biggest. I finally I bought everything I need to make a batch and I’m hoping all baking ammonia is created equal because I bought mine from Amazon. I think I’ll practice a few batches before May so I’ve mastered them by Michael’s 30th birthday! Hurray for Springerles and Happy Family Traditions!

Springerle
Emilie Peschka Komarek

4 large eggs
1 lb powdered sugar
4 drops anise oil (Grandma Bev uses 6-8)
baking ammonia on the tip of a knife
flour, about 4 cups

Beat the eggs until thick, about 10 minutes. Add powdered sugar gradually and continue to beat for several more minutes. Drop the 4 (or more) drops anise oil during this process. If the baking ammonia is not finely pulverized, grind it between two spoons and mix it in with the first flour added. Add more flour until the dough is firm and well mixed. Shape in a ball, roll out about ¼” thick. Smooth with back of hand. Cut into shapes with cutters.

Place on a lightly floured surface to dry for about 8 hours. Cover lightly if desired.

Heat oven to 325˚F. Place cookie sheets in oven until hot. Remove and “grease” them with paraffin. Dust cookies [remove as much flour as possible] and place on cooled sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly brown on the bottom. The cookies will not spread but double in height. Time will depend on thickness and size. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store tightly covered. Flavor will develop after about 2 days. If not covered the cookies will become very hard!

Notes from Grandma Bev:
Baking ammonia was available in drugstores but is now available in specialty shops (like the spice merchant in Wichita). [I got mine from Amazon.]

The “tip of the knife” I translated to a scant ¼ tsp. 1 tsp baking powder may be substituted, but we purist think the ammonia is better. It is also called hartshorn.

If a Springerle rolling pin or press is used, the dough should be rolled thicker to accommodate. Grandma Komarek did not use a press, only cutters. These cookies were always baked for Christmas, and I am sure that Cecilia Komarek Goetzel Miller baked them as well although I never knew her.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

I thought it would be fun to dye some eggs naturally this year. It’s amazing what you can do with items in your refrigerator or pantry. I decided to try Turmeric, brewed Coffee, and Red Wine Vinegar. They all turned out lovely and since eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast in the morning is a regular occurrence of mine… eating a pretty hard boiled egg is even better. 

How to hard boil an egg:
Fill a medium pot with eggs and cover with about one inch of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let stand for ten minutes and put in an ice bath. Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. 

I have no specific recipe for the dyes I used. I added 1 tsp of vinegar to the coffee and used about 3 C water and 2 T of turmeric and 1 tsp vinegar for the yellow eggs. I like how bright they turned out with speckles, but I also really like the grayish-purple the red wine vinegar created. Check out Bon Appetit for some guidelines on other natural dyes.  

If you’re not into chicken eggs, try Martha’s Chocolate Truffle Eggs even though they are so gorgeous you won’t want to eat them. Oh, who am I kidding, any kind of chocolate no matter how pretty must be eaten immediately! Happy Easter and Happy Egg Dyeing. 

Merry Merry Gingerbread Men

I wish there was a magical recipe generator that combined the best recipes on one website… then I would waste less time looking through hundreds of recipes! Until this exists, I will trust a tried and true method… asking friends. My friend Nicole suggested I make a recipe for gingerbread cookies from Not Without Salt (a fantastic blog by the way). Nicole and I would make a mean baking duo if we lived in the same city again….

When I read through the recipe I was nervous about the amount of black pepper. I like spiced cookies, but was a little unsure of spicy cookies. Nicole assured me they were great, so in the end I used about half of the black pepper called for just to be sure. I made gingerbread cookies for a dinner party we had with some friends. I thought it would be fun to decorate them all together and it was! I’d like to make this into a tradition, decorating cookies that is, no matter who comes to the table. Traditions give meaning to otherwise meaningless baking and I think creating a tradition of gingerbread cookie decorating would be great.

(I added only 1 tsp of black pepper)

Pumpkin Ice Cream

I opened my copy of The Perfect Scoop and gasp! What? No pumpkin ice cream recipe? hmmm. Sweet potato ice cream just won’t do. David Lebovitz what were you thinking not including Pumpkin Ice Cream in your book? I’m glad I wasn’t the only one perplexed by this omission since you happened to post one on your blog in response to our madness…

Lebovitz has a magical way of combining cream eggs and sugar into the most delicious creamy treats. I was really happy to find a recipe he only ever so slightly changed from chef Karen DeMasco in her cookbook The Craft of Baking. You should read his blog post. It’s quite witty and apparently he got some stares while walking home with a rather large but thin butternut squash (subbed squash for pumpkins).

The original recipe used canned pumpkin which I adore. I have a plethora of pumpkin recipes using canned pumpkin, and it’s really my favorite. Fresh pumpkins don’t usually give you the thick consistency of the canned version unless you do a lot of straining. I can never tell a difference in the end product from fresh vs canned pumpkin. That said, I decided to stick to good ole Libby’s. She must have been quite the lady.

I have no idea why I never tried pumpkin ice cream until now. It seems to fit well into fall desserts and even though its cold outside, you can cozy up with a blanket and movie and enjoy some delicious spiced ice cream. Michael and I happen to do this often, and the tub of ice cream disappears at an alarming rate.

I absolutely loved this ice cream recipe. I’ll be making it at least once more this winter but next time I’ll have to place it on a warm slab of gingerbread cake topped with candied pecans. Yum. Good thing you can’t see me drooling.

If you don’t have an ice cream machine, you should at least try making the candied pecans. They are addictive and delicious and would make a great addition to your holiday cookie trays.

Pumpkin Ice Cream – David Lebovitz

Candied Pecans
1 lb Pecan halves (trader joe’s are great)
1 egg white
1 T water + 1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1 C sugar

Preheat the oven to 250˚F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Whisk egg white until frothy and water and pour into a gallon size ziplock bag. Add in the nuts and shake to coat. In another bowl/bag combine the sugar and cinnamon and add the nuts. Make sure they are evenly coated and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to 60 minutes stirring every 15 minutes. Make sure you taste one or two after 45 minutes because they could be done then. If not, keep cooking another 10-15. Cool on tray and store in an airtight container.

Happy Halloween

I love Halloween! I don’t have kids, and I’m thankful San Francisco doesn’t put an age limit on dressing up. Michael and I went with some friends on Wednesday to an underground restaurant/costume party at a “haunted” house in Alamo Square hosted by Stag Dining Group. We paraded through a gigantic house-turned boarding school-turned artist studio/event rental complete with a larger than life size painting of Michael Jackson in full Thriller get-up. Oh, and loads of gorgeous glitter paintings. Yes, I said glitter and gorgeous in the same sentence! Artist Rene Garcia Jr. is a genius with glitter. My limited experience with glitter involved a bottle of Elmer’s Glue….

We jumped from dark rooms into dark hallways to scare other diners in a creepy empty top floor, and walked through a staged “Haunted House.” We also drank some interesting cocktails by Cocktail Lab complete with basil seeds and rum that look and feel texturally like you are chewing on eyeballs. They also made a “Hannibal Lecter;”a whisky sour with chianti poured over a spoon on top to keep the colors separated, which I liked much more than the first.

The chef’s behind the Stag Dining Group created a great menu for the night:
Crab Puffs – Togarashi, lemon
Roasted Beets & Carrots – goat cheese mousse, preserved lemon-honey vinaigrette, rye crumble
Squid Ink Chowda – lobster, kabocha squash, clams
Baby-Back Ribs – smoked maple glaze, apple celery root slaw
“Drumstick” – dark and stormy brownie, rum ice cream, waffle cone 
I can’t complain much about the food, only a little about the timing. It was fun and provided a good test run of the costumes. 
Saturday I spent a majority of the day decorating the house with spider webs and fake plastic spiders for our grown-up Halloween party. I also tried a new recipe for sugar cookies. They are super soft and puffy and very much like the kind you buy in the grocery store… you know, the round ones with sprinkles coordinating with every holiday. The recipe is great. The cookies are not overly sweet and pair well with the buttercream frosting. I prefer buttercream on cookies as opposed to royal icing decorated cookies – the buttercream tastes so much better. The recipe I tried came from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen and I didn’t change a thing (except on the second batch I rolled them a bit less than 1/4″). The general consensus was good and Michael really liked them. I believe his exact words were, “Those cookies are the Bomb!” Then we laughed and high-fived. This is the key to a good marriage. 
Hopefully I’ll get to hand out some candy to neighborhood kiddies this year since we have a front door! I think I’ll refrain from my creepy Black Swan costume as well… no need to terrify the little ones. 

Happy Halloween!

Easy Bake cOven – Mint Chocolate Brownies and Hot Chocolate Mix

I can’t believe the year is already over. I’ve enjoyed time home with family and am looking forward to slightly warmer yet rainy weather in San Francisco. It shocks me every time I go to the midwest. I’m not sure how I survived 23 years of my life in such bitter cold. Cold that makes your face hurt. Cold that makes you itchy and dry and thankful for long underwear. I know I’m a wimp, and even more-so after living in a temperate climate for almost five years. I don’t deny it one bit, and according to my family it wasn’t even that cold. Oh well, one thing I do know is I’ll welcome all warm drinks into my hands no matter the temperature.


A few years ago (yes after moving to the temperate climate) I started drinking hot water. I know it sounds weird, but a friend of mine did and it’s better than drinking tea all the time. Holding a cup of warm water in your hand is nice. Holding a cup of hot chocolate in your hand is even better. I probably drank way too much hot chocolate as a kid. I was never a fan of those tiny dried marshmallows that came in the packets though. I’d rather not have any marshmallows my hot chocolate even if they are fresh and fluffy. I like hot chocolate so much that I once bought a gigantic oatmeal sized carton of powder to have any time I wanted. This happened sometime during college and I had it for a long time (possibly two years). I was sad to see it go, but I used it all.


This is how the first recipe originated for the cOven this month; wishing I had the recipe to a hot chocolate mix I tried once in college. So I contacted Joanna, said recipe owner, and asked her to share her recipe and the story behind it. You can read about it and the other December recipes on the cOven blog.


I thought making the mix was something I could do with my nephew. I’m not sure how his kitchen skills are developing at the age of three, but why not make a mess and try it out? After all, we were at Grandma’s house and I didn’t think she would mind having powdered milk everywhere….


We didn’t make too much of a mess and it was really fun. It was the second time I got him in the kitchen to “help” while I was visiting. The first time he was interested in the rolls my mom, sister and I were making so I gave him some to play with. Then he asked if I could make him a “Michaelangelo” out of the dough… the ninja turtle that is… so I summoned M to the kitchen. He made a pretty fantastic turtle out of dough and gave me permission to bake him. He ate him for dinner and was incredibly happy to nibble off all his limbs.
Like I said before, I was expecting to have a huge mess on my hands with powdered ingredients going into a large bowl, but we did ok (minus the periodical hand reaching in).


J: It looks like snow
me: yes, it’s powdered milk
J: powder milk? I don’t think so… WE NEED MORE POWDERRR!
me: ok, what about the chocolate?
J: yes put some in
J: MORE CHOC-O-LATE!
me: how about more white powder? (it’s easier if you layer them in)
J: ok… looks like snow… more snow
me: what color is snow (just checking…)
J: WHITE….
J: I want more chocolate… can I eat some? 


Our conversation went on like this for a while until we had emptied all powdered milk mixes into the bowl. Whisking slow is key. Avoiding hands in the mix is also key. After it was all mixed in I let him taste some and he thought it was pretty good. Maybe someday he will be a lovely little baker like his Aunt!



I ran out of time to put the mix in cute little jars (and Christmas had already passed) but I still might. Unless you intend to feed an army or hoard your chocolate mix all winter like me, you should give some away. It makes plenty!



The other recipe I wanted to try was inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Mint Chocolate Brownies. I stuck closely to the brownie recipe, and deviated from the ganache toppings. Partially because I didn’t have enough white chocolate on hand, partially because I didn’t want a thick layer of chocolate ganache on the brownies.




They turned out extremely chocolatey and dense. Fantastic if you like fudge-y brownies with a subtle mint flavor. Instead of layering the peppermint in between, I piped it on top and it turned into a lovely plaid pattern with the ganache. I used about one third of the required ganaches from Smitten Kitchen and simplified the peppermint portion. M stated that they should have a hint of peppermint but not be overwhelming. He did a taste test to make sure my proportions were right. I preferred to eat them at room temperature or slightly warm, M preferred them cold. Either way, they may cause sudden peaks in blood sugar levels or cavities. They last just over a week in the fridge and a few more days in an airtight container. Now, if only there were some left to enjoy the hot chocolate with!


I am looking forward to days without tons of sweets. I fee like I ate an entire five pound bag of sugar this Christmas. This is supposed to inspire New Year’s Resolutions right? I hope so, and I resolve to keep all of you updated on my baking a little more frequently in the new year. 


Recipe Notes
For the Hot Chocolate:
I didn’t add the 2 cups of powdered sugar to the hot chocolate mix. After tasting the dry mix, I didn’t think it needed to be any sweeter.


For the Brownie Mint Ganache:
Heat 3/4 C heavy cream on medium-high heat until it just comes to a boil. Immediately pour over a heaping half cup of white chocolate and let it stand for one minute without touching. Slowly stir the chocolate until it is melted and smooth. Add one teaspoon of peppermint extract (or to taste) and let it cool slightly. I also didn’t feel the need to make it green… maybe for St. Patrick’s Day.


For the Brownie Chocolate ganache:
Heat 1/3 C cream until it comes to a boil. Pour over 1/2 C chocolate and let stand for one minute. Stir until smooth and pour over cooled brownies. Spread evenly with a spatula. Flash freeze for 10 minutes then add the mint ganache on top. 

Happy Merry Holidays

I love Thanksgiving and Christmas! Something about being thankful, spending time with family and Christmas songs make me happy and cheerful. I gain a higher tolerance  for crazy unexplainable traffic (most of the time I suffer from slight road rage) and large throngs of people wandering around Union Square. Puppies and Kittens in the Macy’s window display help a lot with this good cheer I’m speaking of. I only wish there wasn’t such a rush between Thanksgiving and Christmas. M and I had so much going on I completely neglected my blog. We moved in early November, I studied for and took an exam, and we made it through a few holiday parties before traveling back to the cold midwest. Since it’s been so long I have so much to share! (I promise not to cram it all in this post)


I had great intentions of sharing our Thanksgiving meal and first-time-turkey-success with you long before now, but all of those I mentioned before kind of took over. Since my table looks like it could be transported directly from Thanksgiving in to Christmas, I’m going to show you how it turned out. When M and I moved, we doubled our square footage (I’m very thankful for this) and gained a dining room. After a long and patient journey, we bought a new dining table! We happened upon a great sale on the Industrial Table from West Elm, and picked it up this past Saturday. Since we had no table for Thanksgiving, we rented one. Who knew you could rent just one eight foot table for less than $10? Well, it’s possible, and you can include linens and dinnerware all for under $40 (see below).

I may have acted like a giddy child when I came home to find our rented table, and I may have postponed brining the turkey until after I set it up, but it was totally worth it! I haven’t had a table in almost five years. M and I really enjoy having people over for dinner. It was difficult to crowd around the breakfast bar at the old place (we managed 6 a time or two and M and I had to share the piano bench) so the rented table brought me joy. There is nothing special about a table, but friends around a table sharing food together is definitely special, and the perfect way to spend our first Thanksgiving in the new apartment!

I never hosted Thanksgiving before this year, and never roasted anything larger than a 3-4 lb chicken. I found some great instruction from Bon Appetite and used their recipe for a dry brine. It’s strange holding a 15 1/2 lb turkey in your arm washing and patting it dry – almost like it was real baby…. Mr Turkey turned out well and very brown and juicy just like he was supposed to. Our friends contributed to the meal with some great sides. Like I mentioned before, it was a fantastic way to spend our first Thanksgiving in our new home. Whether or not we get to host another Thanksgiving in the near future, we are going to make great use of that table. I’m really excited to have our first dinner guests in the new year. 

Now, we’re back in our hometowns’ and hanging out with family. Living out old traditions and creating new ones (like the 10 cracker challenge). I’ve just made two types of creme fraiche with M for our Christmas Eve dinner, and am looking forward to cooking new recipes tomorrow. I hope all of you are enjoying your holiday. What are your traditions? 


For those of your curious about my $40 dining table rental, here are the details. We rented from a catering company (usually for weddings and large parties) and were surprised by how cheap it all was. We had place settings for 8 with table linens and the table. All available for as short of a rental as you like. We had our table for 4 days or so and there is no charge per day. It seems like a great way to accommodate a large group if you don’t have the room to store a large table. Here is the company we used if you live in the Bay Area and are curious.