Hello! My name is Shannon Taylor. I'm a long-time writer and editor from Minnesota surprised to find myself on an island in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, three younger children (the oldest is attending college in Chicago), and two dogs.

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Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
+ Robert Fulghum

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Winter Fun

Staples and Scrooge

{ The remains of the plum pudding }

So. We invited a few of our music- and theater-loving friends and their children over Sunday night for dinner, caroling, and a read-through of A Christmas Carol. Everything was off to a great start when Will fell and got a nasty cut on the back of his head. It was obvious he’d need medical intervention so off he and Tim went to the ER. Now, had this been the first time Will had to get stapled back together, our guests would have had to fend for themselves. But since it was Round #3 (and because Tim is the kind of dad he is), I was able to send Will off with a kiss and a promise to wait until he got back to light up the plum pudding. But still.

Luckily, our friends rallied and kept the evening going. We had Aunt Karna’s stuffed shells, Caesar salad, and garlic bread, followed by Christmas cookies and, in keeping with the evening’s Victorian theme, the baked plum pudding. This is a user-friendly plum pudding and I think everyone who tried it was pleasantly surprised. Of course, if you pour enough brandy on something….

By the time Tim and Will got home it was getting late so we only had time to act out part of the play. But everyone knows how it ends, so that was okay. I had high hopes for making pine cone fire-starters for our adult guests, but I ran out of time. (It could still happen.) We did manage to make Victorian crepe-paper balls for the kids. They’re really simple: you just buy a small inexpensive trinket like silly putty or a tiny ornament and wrap each little gift in yards and yards of colorful crepe paper. I remember several years ago my cousin being thrilled because unwinding the crepe-paper ball kept her toddler busy for a good 10 minutes.

Despite the craziness, I think everyone understood what I was trying to accomplish. The holidays can fly by in a blur and I crave moments of just being together with family and friends, creating the memories that will, I hope, last. For me the memories of this gathering will include the children singing (as Melyssa said, “the most beautiful sound in the world”), piano performances, and the menfolk gamely turning off the football game to come and act out the play. God bless us, every one.

Here’s the recipe for baked plum pudding if you’d like to give it a try. It’s very easy and is quite a little crowd-pleaser when you light it on fire.

Baked Plum Pudding

(from The TeaTime Gazette)

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups mixed dried fruit (any combination of currants, raisins, golden raisins)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground allspice
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 whole almond*

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine dried fruit and slivered almonds. Stir into butter mixture. Cut fresh bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Mix bread and spices, then stir into batter. Pour into a greased casserole or pudding basin (see notes below). Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes.

Baking Dish: Select a “pudding basin” (a crock that is small at the bottom and widens out at the top) or use a 1-1/2 quart casserole. Butter the container, then line just the bottom with a circle of cooking parchment to prevent the pudding from sticking. Butter the top of the parchment, too.

To Reheat Pudding: Cover top of casserole dish with foil and casserole lid. Put in a steamer and steam over low heat for approximately 30 minutes, making sure it doesn’t boil dry. Or you can pour 1 inch hot water into a cake pan and place the entire casserole dish in the pan, covered loosely with foil. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes or until warm.

To Serve: When you’re ready to serve, loosen the edges of the pudding, invert onto a serving platter, and remove the parchment. Traditional decoration for plum pudding is fresh holly, so you can place a few sprigs on top of the pudding before pouring 3 Tbsp. or more brandy over the top of the hot pudding and lighting it with a match. Turn out the lights and carry the pudding to the table. Serve with Lemon Hard Sauce on the side.

Lemon Hard Sauce: Sift 1-2/3 cup powdered sugar, then cream sugar with 6 Tbsp. soft butter. Gradually beat in 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and grated rind from 1 lemon. Refrigerate. Allow to warm up for about 60 minutes before serving.

* In Victorian times, a coin would have been hidden in the pudding and whoever found it would have good luck in the New Year. A whole almond works just as well.

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  1. Stephanie says:

    Oh no, poor Will. How is he recovering? Staples aren’t very nice, I had them once. You had a great evening organised – I don’t know where you get your energy and ideas from!

  2. Shannon says:

    Steph, you’re doing just as much, plus chasing down sheep! I think it’s just sheer stubbornness that motivates me. Will is recovering well; there were a few tears but he’s taking it in stride.

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