Thursday, November 29, 2012

Better to Give

Abe's not the only elf in our house. I've been working on two fundraisers this week and, while I'm (mostly) happy to help, I'm also getting plenty psyched to see the finish line. For the last two days my friend Katie and I have been decorating mailboxes for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. We were assigned 13 mailboxes to decorate and those people should thank their lucky stars that they drew Katie. She's a honest-to-goodness designer and did a beautiful job. I mostly held greenery in place while she secured it with floral wire and agreed with all her decisions on what else we needed to add to the displays. I'd say there were a dozen times during the two days when I wanted to throw up my hands and say we were finished because it looked halfway decent, but Katie would adjust a ribbon, or add another Cyprus sprig, and it would look a million times better. Attention to detail is just my downfall.

Before I show you all some pictures of our handiwork, I should mention that other than some pine boughs, we had to collect all the plant materials that we used in the decorations. I am fairly certain, having gone to law school, that I committed several illegal acts to obtain these items. Let's just say that we used Cyprus, nandina, magnolia, pine cones, and holly and I only have one of these plants in my yard. Trespassing? Yes. Petty larceny? It depends on your perspective. I could have been providing free pruning services. In fact, here is a picture of neighbor Ed and Em's nandina before I clipped some berries for the project:

Here it is afterwards:

What? Don't you believe that I have mad Edward Scissorhands skills?

So, Katie and I met up with our purloined and borrowed clippings, and those big bows that I helped make, and sized up the situation:

Somehow, Katie looked at the bare mailbox, worked some magic with our materials and came up with this:

And we got two of those ginormous monument mailboxes:

The picture makes this look like a hot mess, but it is actually very pretty. We finished up our work decorating Katie's parent's railing. I think it might be my favorite:

Now, the problem is that I'm now under the misperception that I could do this at my house. We have a big railing across the front of our house and a few of these babies would look fabulous on that railing. Ha! You know the likelihood of this happening is about the same as Audrey the Moose being an actual moose and not a figment of the Baby's imagination.

So, I've also been baking my fingers to the bone (wow, that sounds gross) for our big fundraiser at the elementary school that the Boy and the Girl attend.

Basically, the kids' school is transformed into an artists' market and cafe with homemade soups and desserts. If you like Etsy, the shopping experience is like that, only better because of the immediate gratification. My favorite thing to do at Marketplace is to take the kids to the cafe, let them pick out a yummy dessert, and then sit back and listen to the music. This is a major, major undertaking and pretty much every parent in the school contributes in some way to the production. I volunteered to bake a couple of items, one of which was the chocolate cake with mocha icing that I've already blogged about. My second contribution is a little sweet deliciousness called Congo Bars. I've made them so many times, my cookbook looks like this:

They're basically blondies or cookie bars and are easy to make and good. Who could ask for more?

Here is the recipe:
Congo Bars
Combine in a medium bowl:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
Mix dry ingredients.

Combine in large bowl:
1 pound box (2 1/4 cups) light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (cooled)
Mix all wet ingredients with a wooden spoon. 

Add dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture. Mix until well blended.

2 cups chocolate chips. Mix well.

Bake in a greased 13x9x2-inch pan for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. 

They are so good that the kids insisted that we make a batch to keep for ourselves because I have scads of free time to bake something else. But, of course, glutton for punishment that I am, I baked another batch. Here's a picture:

Are you licking the computer screen. Seriously. So. Good. Sister made them for a friend who wondered how they took so long to get here from the Congo. Ha! We think that the name originated because they were served at Congregationalist Church picnics, or maybe just enjoyed by church congregations. This recipe comes from Sylvia's Cakes & Breads, which I've mentioned before on the blog. The Congregationalist Church originated in New England and Sylvia is from Maine, so the Congregationalist Church theory makes some sense. But, my step-grandmother, Emily, who was from North Carolina and not a Congregationalist had a similar recipe for Congo Squares. I was thinking that she may have been Baptist, but then I remembered that she and Grandaddy had this clock on their screened porch: 

So, I'm thinking probably not Baptist. Grandaddy and Emily's house had two other amazing features. One was a grill shaped like an Arkansas razorback hog (I tried and failed to find a picture). The grill was red and smoke came out of the razorback's nostrils. Awesomely crazy. The other feature of their house was a doorbell that played "Dixie." It probably explains a lot about me that I thought that all three of these things were incredibly cool, and knew that I had to live someplace that fully embraced cocktail hour(s), college sports, and nostalgia. Nearly 20 years later, here I am. 

Well, I think I'm going to let Abe do the rest of our elf work because I need a break. Speaking of Abe, I wonder what he'll be up to tonight!


  1. Hey Susannah, what can I say? I feel your pain. I happen to be working the concession stand at F.AVE this Friday night.......& I'm so tired I am snarling at kiddos as they paw through the candy. I know your mailboxes are beautiful. Thank you!!

  2. It is a busy season and you did a fantastic job organizing the mailbox brigade. Katie and I had a ton of fun decorating. Thanks for all your hard work!