On a Personal Note

By Eilene Lyon

Here we are, winding down another year, and I must take stock. My blogging output has been down a bit as it took a back seat to my book-writing. I completed the final manuscript for Fortune’s Frenzy at the end of August, and it will be released next summer.

Almost immediately after that, my publisher contracted me to write What Lies Beneath Colorado Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards. This will be the third in a series they are doing. The two earlier works are for California and Texas. Being on deadline is a bit of a sweat! But it’s a topic that fits in well with what I do—writing about dead people from the 19th century.

My current project will have me visiting many cemeteries next year – but I plan to wait until spring. This will not do!

I have one last post for 2022 that will come out on the 31st. That will mark the end of my fifth year of blogging—a total of 448 posts. Then, please note! I will be taking a break from blogging in January.

You may have noticed that I am no longer sticking strictly to the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” schedule. After doing that religiously for three years, I needed to scale back.

Then there were the posts I considered writing, but never got around to for various reasons.

Ally at The Spectacled Bean shared a link for historic holiday foods. I thought it might be fun to honor my German ancestry with a typical dish. Not wishing to go back as far as medieval times, I looked at the listings for Baroque-era German holiday fare. Only three choices: Lebkuchen, Candy Canes, and Stollen.

Lebkuchen is gingerbread. I do like gingerbread, but that seemed a tad pedestrian. Candy canes—oh my. The 1919 recipe given on the website states, “Now have your helper roll them so as to keep them round and when they begin to get cold crook the angle, then set them to one side to harden. Your helper’s rolling them until they become cold keeps them from getting flat on one side which affects the sale of them greatly.”

My helper? I doubt The Putterer has the patience to stand around rolling candy canes until they cool. Sterling, if he could be trained, would just cover them in slobber and dog hair. Next!

“You want me to WHAT?”

I thought making Stollen would be just the thing. It’s a sort of raisin bread. You can find lots of recipes online for “genuine traditional stollen,” and they seem rather yummy, if a bit complex. In addition to raisins and sultanas, they include candied citrus peel, spices, and a final dusting of powdered sugar. But are these recipes truly “traditional”?

In “Aunt Babette’s” cook book : foreign and domestic receipts for the household : a valuable collection of receipts and hints for the housewife, many of which are not to be found elsewhere (1889) the only fruits are “seeded” raisins and grated lemon peel; there are no spices. The recipe calls for “two pounds of flour” “two cents’ worth of compressed yeast” [?!] and “half a pound of creamed butter” [!!!] among other basic ingredients such as sugar, salt, and milk.

I finally decided not to go to all the trouble, so you will just have to settle for a picture of stollen from the internet, and pretend that I baked it myself.

One version of stollen, somewhere between simplest and most complex. (Wikimedia Commons)

I also made some craft-y things this year. I wanted to show off how to go about making a birdhouse from a gourd, but all my photos taken during the making process seem to have vanished into the ether. So, here are a couple that are done. I think I may add little perches to them.

A friend and I went to a class to make wreaths and things using a variety of dried flowers, grasses, berries, sticks, etc. Aside from burning my pinkie with the hot glue, I really enjoyed making a small wreath and a wall-hanging. I’ve started drying some things to make more stuff on my own. (The downside being that I have to do my own cleanup—we did make quite a mess!)

MB Henry encouraged me to write a blog about my favorite books I read this year. I even got so far as to put a list together, but just can’t seem to get the gumption to write blurbs for each of them and put it all together. BUT, I just may do that on my NEW blog, which will be part of my author website. Though the site is “live” it is still very basic—a work in progress. I will formally launch it in February (I hope).

I will say this is probably the best nonfiction book I read this year.

On the nature front, last Saturday was the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. My group had a route in town, which has limitations as far as habitat goes. But a woman in the neighborhood showed us where to find a roosting Great horned owl. While we were watching him, I spotted a sharp-shinned hawk. These were delightful finds among the house finches, pigeons, and juncos.

For the past two days, I’ve spotted three beavers sitting on the edge of the shelf ice on the river, munching on cottonwood twigs. I did not have a good camera and tripod, so all you get is this lame picture from my phone.

Those two brown blobs on either side of the river really are beavers!

Finally, I do want to wish you all a very happy holiday season, and thank you for stopping by to read my blog when you find the time. I appreciate every reader and comment. And since I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow blogger this year for the first time (Brandi at Make the Journey Fun), I wanted to add a photo from my roll this year just for her.

See you next week, and after my break, see you in 2023!

42 thoughts on “On a Personal Note

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  1. Thanks for linking to my post. I am bummed that you can’t get Sterling to roll out candy canes, but I’m sure he’s useful in other ways. I like Stollen but would prefer to buy it! Congrats on your upcoming book and your next one. It’s going to be a Happy New Year for you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Useless dog.😊 It is exciting to become a published writer – in hardcover! Blogging is delightful, too, but won’t get me onto bookstore and library shelves. I’m looking forward to meeting with readers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh! The Aztec at night! What a glorious sight to behold. Thank you for this!!

    I enjoyed this glimpse into your year. It sounds busy but rewarding and kind of fun at times. Although, choosing a traditional German dish would be both tedious and intimidating.

    Aunt Babette clearly never envisioned our modern world where two cents wouldn’t buy a single speck of yeast dust! I’m glad you called the whole thing off and settled for a picture. If you have Aldi stores out there, Aldi stollen is pretty good!

    Merry Christmas, my friend! I’m so glad we got to meet this year!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am not usually out driving at night, but happened to be coming home from Albuquerque and saw that sign. Immediately thought of you and had to stop and take the picture! I still have those moments when I wished I’d turned around and gotten a picture and missed a great opportunity. Not this one!

      I’ve never had stollen, but it looks delicious. Another thing Babette’s recipe does not have is rum. She was probably a strict temperance woman!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe Babette could have benefited from a little rum in the stollen. lol. You’ll have to try it sometime- just find it at a nice bakery. No need to decipher that recipe when you can support the economy!

        And yes, when in doubt, always turn around and go back for the picture! I’m so glad you did for this one. That’s a fantastic sign.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think we have any bakeries making seasonal specialty breads, unfortunately. Maybe I’ll plan ahead and try it next year. The online recipes indicate it is supposed to be aged. I didn’t realize one did that with breads!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the update, Eilene! I’ve always found stollen rather dry (at least the store-bought variety that comes in a box). Congratulations again on Fortune’s Frenzy. Have fun with the cemetary book, and enjoy your blogging break!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oooh… How wonderful, published author of hardcover book! Looking forward to it. As for your lack of candy cane helper, that is a bummer. I would not appreciate the dog slobber and hair so I’ll be just fine without. I cannot remember ever having stollen and now find myself wanting to try to make some.
    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least Sterling doesn’t really have a sweet tooth – I could probably trust him not to eat the wares.😉
      Let me know how your stollen turns out. The online recipes call for rum and an aging period.
      Have a Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sterling looks like he had heavy eyes so I’m not sure you could recruit him to help you – you are right. 🙂 Years ago friends of the family, a husband and wife, owned a German restaurant. We went there for years, always at Christmas to buy the stollen, which was delicious. The husband had been a former pastry chef at a big hotel in Detroit. I don’t recall my mom ever making stollen, even when my father, who was German, was around. How exciting to have a book being published and one in the works. I have difficulty juggling everything, so you are the ultimate juggler, but I see why you’d need a blogging break in January. Good luck with your ventures and enjoy the rest of your holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds like stollen is a tasty bread – not so heavy like fruitcake, but more like raisin bread. I do want to try it someday. It appears that a new specialty bakery has opened here. Maybe next year they will make it – or I will try it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that is what it is like Eileen, not heavy like fruitcake and his had powdered sugar giving it a little sweeter taste. I believe some stollens have candied fruit in them – this baker’s were more about currants, raisins and spices.

        Liked by 1 person

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