Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘holiday’ Category

Auntie Meb’s Lemon-Cranberry-Pecan Cookies

In american, bakery, dessert, holiday, recipe, recommended on November 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a dessert recipe guaranteed to knock the socks off the host of your next potluck.

Auntie Meb’s Lemon-Cranberry-Pecan Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and lemon zest. Beat in egg and vanilla extract until combined; set aside. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Gently stir in pecans and cranberries. Drop by large teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before removing to cooling racks. Drizzle with lemon glaze. Eat with gusto.

Lemon Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Fresh lemon juice, to taste

Add water if desired consistency can’t be reached with lemon juice alone. Glaze should be soft, neither stiff nor runny.

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Gingerbread Gallery

In art, candy, exhibit, holiday, museum, photo op, syracuse on December 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Every autumn, the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse holds a gingerbread house contest. All ages are invited to submit a confectionary creation, with winners chosen for each of four categories: Confectioners Competition, Youth, Family/Group, and Canal Themed. This year’s houses are very imaginative, drawing their inspiration from a construction crew, a backyard shed, a beaver dam, a Central New York aquaduct, and even the Wizard of Oz. Fondant icing is rampant, as are any number of types of yummy shingling. (Chocolate discs, anyone?) The exhibit closes on January 3, so make sure to pay a visit before these sweets are gone!

Obscure Christmas Albums

In album, children, holiday, list, music on December 21, 2009 at 3:02 pm

As Christmas draws wonderfully, tantalizingly close, the sounds of the holiday season may start to grate on you: in the shopping mall, in the grocery store, in your car. Don’t you wish you could have a bit of variety? Don’t you wish you could escape that looped track of “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”?

Never fear! Here are a few obscure Christmas albums and websites to spice up the seasonal drudgery that is Sir Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” played ad nauseum on your local radio station.

A Christmas Together, John Denver & the Muppets : Sing along to classic Christmas standards with your favorite furry friends. Recorded in 1979 for the Muppet television special of the same name, A Christmas Together pairs John Denver’s endearing simplicity with the madcap humor of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt and the rest of the Muppet performers. Who doesn’t want to hear Miss Piggy try (and fail) to lead a round of “Christmas Is Coming,” or Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem rock out to the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick”? (Spoiler: Animal yelling “Run run reindeer!” in the background is priceless.) The album has its poignant moments too: Robin crooning “When The River Meets The Sea” is perfect for snuggling with little ones by the fire.

More Twisted Christmas, Bob Rivers : One of the most irreverent parody singers all year round is at his best at Christmas. Bob Rivers’ album is composed entirely of wittily-parodied holiday tunes, including “Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow!” (Let It Snow), “Police Stop My Car” (Feliz Navidad), and the epic “Buttcracker Suite.” As a sampler of the lyrics you’ll get, the aforementioned Buttcracker Suite opens with “Thong! What a delightful gift idea / Thong! Magical shorts that disappear.” A great album for linguists, punny people, and anyone who likes classic rock, More Twisted Christmas will make it hard to breathe for laughing.

Note: Although I love this album, I can’t recommend Bob Rivers’ other Christmas compilations, including Twisted Christmas and Chipmunks Roasting On An Open Fire. The songs can be vulgar and almost racist.

A Rosie Christmas, various artists : This star-studded album by former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell is great fun for the whole family. The tunes are perky and filled with Rosie”s trademark enthusiasm. Each features an appearance from performers both young and old, from Sir Elton John, Celine Dion, Billy Joel and Cher to Elmo and Angelica Pickles. “Gonna Eat For Christmas,” with Gloria Estefan, is a sassy song that will resonate with all those slaving away in the kitchen this holiday season.

Last.fm Christmas tag radio : This station on Last.fm, one of the leading free listening music sites now coming into vogue, plays a wide variety of holiday favorites non-stop with few repeats. Artists range from Bing Crosby and Eartha Kitt to Jethro Tull and Mariah Carey, with some Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Weird Al Yankovic thrown in there too. The site requires you to create a (free) profile to listen in, but the great mix of old and new tunes you get makes it well worth it.

Finally, for those of you with a penchant for overdone 80s pop ballads, there is Last-Christmas.com, which catalogs every recording ever made of Wham!’s seasonal hit. If you don’t know all the words by heart already, I guarantee you will soon.

Happy listening!

A Different Kind of Memorial Day

In dc, event, holiday on May 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Growing up in a small suburban town with no living relatives in the armed forces, my experiences with Memorial Day were limited. Memorial Day was a chance for all the department stores to mark down their spring merchandise. It meant the Memorial Day parade, a fun, flashy celebration which I attended only once in my adolescence, and which was too convivial to convey any serious meaning. For me, Memorial Day invoke neither emotions for the armed forces, nor recognition of battles or war.This summer, in our nation’s capitol, I experienced Memorial Day in a very different way. For those seeking to feel patriotism, humility, gratitude and awe for the United States armed forces, I highly recommend the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington Cemetery is easy to find: take the DC metro to the Arlington stop, follow the giant chattering crowd and you’re there. Army presence is high, will all the soldiers impeccably turned out in their wool coats and hats with the chin straps. Be prepared to wait, and to sweat, with the hundreds of other eager tourists and locals walking with you. Crowd control is stringent and, at some points, creative: when crossing a street, we were told to form a single-file line and each take a pink index card from two soldiers, who acknowledged us curtly but politely with a uniform, “Good morning, ma’am.” (I’m convinced the pink index cards were a ruse to disperse the mob. We were never asked to produce the cards again.) Visitors are required to take the tram to the Arlington monument. Water bottles are not allowed. Be prepared to go through at least one metal detector.

My friends and I arrived at ten a.m. for the eleven a.m. ceremony, and were somehow able to snag spaces standing on the back steps of the monument, facing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were no more than fifty feet from the tomb itself, and twenty feet from the center aisle of the stairs, where Obama and various dignitaries would eventually ascend.

The events of the late morning blurred together into a soft haze of glinting brass and stiff salutes. Representative squads of all five branches of the armed forces climbed the stairs in slow motion, like in an epic movie. Other soldiers presented their branch’s colors, hundreds of ribbons fluttering on flag staffs. A military band entered from the right and stood silently at attention.

A twenty-one gun salute signified the arrival of the man of the hour in the cemetery. We rushed to huddle at the edge of the stairs, my friends first and me following, reluctant to give up my prized spot next to the velvet rope that separated us from his future path. We snapped shots of a long black motorcade arriving under the shade of low-hanging tree canopies, and strained our necks to spy him among his advisors. Obama finally came into view, striding purposefully up the curved path with General Mullen, past the lines of service men and women standing motionless at attention.

The ceremony itself was brief. The military band played the national anthem, with Mullen saluting and Obama’s hand on his heart. An Honor guardsman wheeled the wreath forward for the President to grasp, and then slowly dragged it back into place with the President’s help. A lone horn played Taps. The announcer’s deep voice requested a moment of silence. Shortly, Obama and Mullen turned smartly counterclockwise in unison, giving me my one clear shot of Obama’s face. He looked careworn, and very tired.

As quickly as the two men had arrived, they were gone, striding up the steps to enter the monument’s inner rotunda. There, they greeted several dozen waiting veterans, before exiting through the front of the monument into the packed amphitheater. Everyone standing on the back stairs had been locked into the back of the monument until noon and the completion of the ceremony, but we heard the great shout go up as Obama was announced, and again at intervals during his twelve-minute speech.

It is unsurprising for Obama to give a moving speech, but it is surprising for a speech about the military to move me. Obama’s call on all Americans to remember and reflect was simple yet eloquent, well-delivered, and genuine. I will admit that I programmed an alarm into my Blackberry for three p.m., to remind me to think of the troops in some way at that time, as Obama requested.

Unlike any celebration I have attended before, this Memorial Day ceremony was intimate, serious without being somber, and brought home the humanity of the troops. It profoundly affected my view of the troops, if only for the day. Both exalted and vilified in the national eye, our armed forces risk their lives for the United States and its people, regardless of viewpoint. For that fact alone, they deserve our gratitude.