Sunday, December 17, 2006

All Dressed Up

My beautiful 5 year old, all dressed up for our date to the Nutcracker.

My two charming children in the photo for our Christmas card, that you will be receiving sometime AFTER Christmas.

The lollipop it took to get the one child to sit still for ONE decent photo.
But he does look awful cute with those big, blue eyes and new Christmas haircut!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Books We Are Reading

Blogger has decided to put up a fight tonight, so I am forced to enter my current book list here instead of on the sidebar.

Katie and I are currently reading Charlotte's Web, and for the most part enjoying it. I think she could do without the killing and blood references though.

A Special Place For Santa wonderfully combines the history of St. Nicholas with the current Santa Claus and the real meaning of Christmas. Kind of difficult to understand for young kids, but has lots of pictures and can easily be simplified.

The Polar Express Makes me smile each time I read it. We watched the movie for the first time the other night, and Katie really enjoyed it. Then we read the book for the first time since last Christmas, and she was telling me what would happen next throughout.

The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett. Who doesn't love a good Jan Brett book? And while I am on the subject, we are also reading The Mitten.

Next on the list is The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats. Just a nicely illustrated version of the song.

A Little Golden Book's The Christmas Story is another classic read-aloud. It just has such nice illustrations, and it only cost me $1 at Half-Price Books.

Then there are several for Nicholas. Katie and Nick both enjoy reading Rosemary Wells' Max's Christmas. Who couldn't love these cute bunnies and the sweet stories she tells.

Nick also likes Christmas in the Manger, One Baby Jesus, and Jingle Bugs.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Cookies

The tree and advent calendar are finally up, (only 12 days into the month of December), and now it is time for baking.

I am planning on making some of my very favorites, but am also looking for a really good cutout cookie recipe. I have tried different versions every year and still have been unsuccessful in finding that one recipe that makes me say WOW these are really good. I have tasted some good ones in the past, so I know they exist. If you have a recipe to share, please do so.

1/2 pound butter
1/2 pound margarine
4 cups flour
3 egg yolks beaten
1 c. sour cream
jam fillings
powdered sugar

Cut margarine and butter into flour. Add yolks and sour cream. Blend with fork.
Refrigerate overnight.
Sprinkle flour and sugar on board and roll out small portions.
Cut into squares.
Put filling in center of each square and pinch middle closed.
Bake at 350 for 25 - 30 minutes.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar once cool.

Mrs. Fields Mother Lode Brownies
Brownie Layer
3/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3 oz. semisweet chocolate
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 & 1/2 c. light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Caramel Layer
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3 tbs. water
1/4 c. heavy cream, scalded
2 tbs. unsalted butter

1 c. coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
1 & 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. milk chocolate chips

Grease and flour a 9 X 9 inch baking pan. Preheat oven to 325.

Make the brownie layer: In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda.
In a double boiler, melt the unsweetened chocolate and the semisweet with the butter. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl with a mixer, beat the brown sugar and eggs until lightened and pale in color. Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture and the vanilla. Gradually add flour. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 -50 minutes, or until center is set but moist and a bit fudgy. Cool in the pan.

Prepare the caramel layer: In a small, heavy saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then let boil without stirring until the syrup turns a deep amber. While the syrup is boiling, brush down the sides of the pan from time to time with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the hot cream (be careful, it will bubble rapidly). Continue stirring, over low heat if necessary, until all the caramel is dissolved into the cream. Stir in the butter until smooth. Set aside until cooled slightly but spreadable.

Assemble: Preheat the oven to 325. Spread the caramel over the cooled brownies. Sprinkle the toppings over the caramel layer and place the brownies in the oven for 5 minutes to set (do not let the chips melt completely)

Cool and enjoy.

Holiday Spritz
1 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
2 & 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. almond or vanilla extract
Food color if desired.

Preheat to 400.
Beat butter, sugar and egg in large bowl with mixer on medium speed. Stir in remaining ingredients.
Place dough in cookie press. Form desired shapes on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 5 to 8 minutes until set but not brown. Immediately remove from sheet to wire rack.
Decorate as desired.

Peppermint Bark
16 oz. almond bark, broken into pieces.
candy canes left over from Christmas.

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, waxed paper or parchment paper. Melt the almond bark.
Smash candy canes in whatever way possible in a heavy plastic bag. Stir the broken candy into the melted bark.
Spread evenly on cookie sheet. Let stand for about 1 hour until hardened. Break into pieces.

There are several more that I will post later.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Just wishing all of you and my own very little Nicholas, a happy St. Nicholas Day! I still have fond memories of leaving out my shoes for a little present from St. Nick the night before.

Unfortunately with all the vacationing and chaos that comes with getting back to life as normal, I realized that it wasn't the 5th of December today at around 10:00. I also had Mr. Cable Guy coming between 12 and 5, and a sick Nicholas, so we stayed home and cleaned. Maybe next year, I can remember on the 5th??

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy 5th Birthday, Katie! Disney Style!

On Thursday, we spent the day honoring our Princesses every wish. No scary rides, It's a Small World and the Carousel and bazillion times, and long lines waiting for Ariel.

I think the best part for her and for me was going to Cinderella's Castle for lunch with the Princesses. I had never been inside the castle before and found it absolutely amazing. They kept the kids busy with Wishing Stars, the girls got Magic Wands and the boys got little swords. They immediately brought the adults and kids two sampler platters with food. These guys know kids. They don't sit long, and they want food when they are hungry. The kids got fruit and cheese, while we got some type of chicken, cheese, and salad. Then the real food came. All was very yummy, including dessert.

Hungry boy with sword

Katie and Belle

Katie and Snow White
Don't forget chocolate covered Nicholas, who had been thwarted by Snow White, when trying to play with the cake knife. (Notice the small hand in the bottom right with a nice, sharp gray knife)

"Oh, Dear, let's not play with that!"

Katie and Jasmine

Katie and Cinderella

On to Disney World

We hopped a plane Monday morning to Orlando, and were greeted by gorgeous warm weather. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge on Disney property, which was a beautiful hotel with a nice heated pool. After some initial room snafus, we settled in and headed off to the Magic Kingdom.

Tuesday night we went to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, which is a special limited event that only allows in a certain number of people. We were able to ride all kinds of rides without waiting, and saw the Christmas parade that is shown on ABC with Regis and Kelly on Christmas day (they filmed the day after we left).

Katie got to ride the carousel for the first time. She has always been to apprehensive to go on one. We tried numerous times at Kemah's Boardwalk, but were always met with a firm NO!

Disney must have the magic, because she eagerly got on, as long as the horse was "beautiful" as you can see by the roses. We also got to ride on the carousel with Mary Poppins several times.

Nick, of course, loved the race cars. Neither kid would ride with Daddy, so I drove along with my pint-sized passengers, who kept yelling for me to go faster. We unfortunately were in a car with no steering ability so I kept hitting the rails, but they didn't seem to mind too much. Luckily the next couple rides were in better cars, and much less bumpy. I couldn't convince Katie to steer the car ever though. I think she thought the car could go off the track and crash.

We also got to see two different fireworks displays that night. For my daughter, the timid one, the first display took the edge off, and the second one resulted in just this picture.

The best part was while Daddy rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Wendy came and hid behind our stroller while being chased by Mr. Smee. And then we got to meet Peter Pan too.


Yes, it has been a very long time since my last post, but you definately can't blame me. I have spent, with my family a total of 35+ hours driving the US, and 6+ hours aboard planes.
The weekend prior to Thanksgiving we packed up for Chicago to board our dog with my brother for our impending trip East. So we left that Friday afternoon and returned Sunday night, driving through freezing rain.

We then packed up once more for our 13 hour drive to Long Island, NY to visit Mike's family for the holidays. We arrived late Wednesday night, with just a small sprinkle of rain to start our trip as we traveled through New Jersey and into New York.

Thanksgiving Day - it poured and poured and poured some more. But with faces like these, who couldn't have a good time. This was the first time all 4 cousins were seeing each other, and I think they enjoyed playing with each other.

I know for sure that Katie fell in love with her baby girl cousin, and has since named her new baby doll from Grandma after her.

Even the boys enjoyed some fun playing with Daddy.

And we even got in some time at the park.