Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Decorations

My sister, Sally, asked me to post pictures of my holiday decorations.  Instead I'm including a small picture essay of things we've done this holiday season.  I have not been the best photo taker but hope to improve this in the new year.  Me and the girls have had some really fun times.

Merry Christmas!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bar cookies.  Our fav!  We use mini candy bars b/c they pack better than Hershey's kisses.  Yes and I said "pack" but truly, they don't last long enough to pack.

After sectioning off part of the front window, I had the girls paint winter scenes in acrylic paint.  I peeled the tape away for an easy, festive decorative touch. The girls loved it too.  They felt a bit rebellious for painting on the glass window.   Why not?!

I love poinsettias.  Every year on Black Friday, Lowe's sells them for $1/each.  I bought 15, gave away some as gifts and used about 10 to decorate the house, including each of our bedrooms.  Yikes, I think both photos are of Indigo as a baby.  Poor Ais.  Gotta swap that out pronto.

I love the Christmas Village. I also have a wooden Nativity set complete with animal figurines, a manger and hay.  My children love it and I think it's a very practical way to make the Christmas story real.  As a kid I loved setting up our Nativity set.  It was that odd paper mache stuff from the 60s with glitter.  It lasted, somehow.  I recently inherited a ceramic lighted Christmas village set from someone who was throwing it all out in it's protective original packaging!  Thanks Chris.  It's given us some charming holiday light.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baking Design

I'm slowly immersing myself into blogging again.  Right now, I'm focused on getting my Christmas activities done.  I'm a good baker.  This year, my 8 yo daughter, and I will be making a cream puff topiary.  Our plan this Christmas Day is to have a "silly/fancy supper" complete with fancy dresses, pretend wine, fancy desserts, etc.  My kids don't eat any real food, so I decided to make "Chinese turkey" for myself and some fancy form of chicken nuggets and french fries for them.  It's all in the arrangement. I'm thinking of of how I'll arrange it now.  Perhaps in a crown format.  It's all in the presentation.  And  have a story to prove it.

This summer I was in charge of a cupcake decorating station.  Rather than spend too much money on supplies and allow everyone to go nuts, I created three designs and a "freestyle" category.  I posted photos of examples that I have created earlier in the day.  It was a huge hit.  I received compliments from Moms too. The kids liked being shown how to create interesting cupcakes. I listed instructions too. Parents got a chance to interact with their kids helping them make fancy cupcakes, without having to go through the hassle if thinking about all it.  Personally, I thought all this baking design stuff was passe given all the TV shows dedicated to it.

A confession:  I ordered cupcakes from our grocery store, Jewel, and asked them to decorate with plain chocolate and white butter cream.   After doing the math, ordering from Jewel was about $5 more than had I baked and iced them myself.  Well worth it to me as I used 48 cupcakes.  I initially bought all the ingredients at Aldi and was surprised by the price.  So I returned all that stuff and ordered from Jewel.  Smartest thing I've done in awhile (remember I was in school this summer).

Panda bear. Crushed oreos coat the outside of the icing.  Mini oreos for ears, whit choc chips or M&Ms for eyes and nose.

Circus Cupcake.  Not a great photo, I know, but you get the idea.  It looks too simple, but the kids loved this one.  Non pareils on white icing remind of the circus so I took that inspiration and added animal crackers. 

The last one not shown was "worms in dirt".  A good ol' standby.  The cupcake icing was rolled in crushed Oreos (generic work great) which I stored in square tupperware and it was perfect.  One package makes a LOT of crumbs.  Use half.   Gummi worms are added as the worms.  Cut them in half with clean sharp scissors - they will be too long otherwise.  Kids kept swiping the gummi worms and eating them outright. So have extra on hand.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Twist on Cookie Recipes

In this household we like to have fun.  I am a good baker but my kids are not very interested in baking unless I make it interesting. The Christmas Season is not right without a mother load of baked goods.  I have fond memories of my mom baking around the holidays and the glorious creations that came out of the kitchen.  She went to town:  kolachke, pecan cups, rosettes, pizelles.  My repertoire is a bit different and I strive to get my girls involved.
If it can be skewered, it's much more fun! Cookies on a stick!  Cheap bamboo skewers can be bought anywhere:  Dollar store, grocery store, etc.  This recipe is super simple. A few updates make it even more fun:

1 bag of pretzel rings (Jay's Brand or Aldi are the only brands I can find in ring shapes)
Hershey's Kisses - unwrapped
M*Ms - use Mint, plain or peanut butter

Oven at 375 degrees
Cut skewers in half using kitchen sheers

Place skewers on cookie sheet. Place pretzel ring on top of the skewer.
Unwrap Hershey's kisses (great job for the kiddos) and place in the hole of the pretzel ring
Bake for 5 minutes
Take M&M and smoosh the chocolate down onto the skewer and spread it out within the inner pretzel ring.  (be careful to not accidentally burn your arm on the hot cookie sheet).

Allow to cool completely.  This will take awhile at room temp, so I give it 10-15 minutes at room temp and then put the entire cookie sheet into the fridge.

For a charming presentation, get some floral foam, cover it in foil and arrange the skewers by inserting the bottom of the skewer into the foam. You can also cover the foam after you've arranged the cookies using some wadded up foil or cotton balls.

I hope to post more simple practical twists soon. 

*Blogger keeps rotating my photo. Sorry it's sideways.  :-(

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Biotch is Beck!

Well Gang, there are new hopes and dreams on the horizon.  So is that where I've been?  Hoping and dreaming my lame ass away the last 9 months?  Incubating?  Negative,  nerds.  I've been striving and going the distance making my life what I want it to be.   But for you that don't know I'll provide a brief history

Aug 2010 - I put my house on the market (epic), contract signed in 3 weeks only to be cancelled 3 weeks later.  Fixing stuff in the house, replacing the bathroom floor after a leaky toilet.  Suffering, stress!  Doing something that's good for me but sucks to do.  Finally it's under contract again in early Dec.  

Oct 2011 - I step away from competing in the Crossfit USA Weightlifting invitational because of all the stress and commitments in my life. I attend the competition as a treat to myself for turning 39. Yay.

Dec 2010 - Holiday season. Aislin (4 yo) gets sick and is misdiagnosed with a strep infection and UTI.  She has a rare disease called Kawasaki Disease and is in the hospital for 2 weeks. 
I'm at the hospital day and night (taking turns with her Dad).  Friends from Pilgrim school step up like heros and make us meals and bring the girls gifts, help me secure an apt by putting their necks on the line (thanks Mark Zlotkowski).  Huge LOVE, capital, is sent my way.   They were very concerned about Aislin - and Indigo and me and covered me in hugs and kisses and rolled up sleeves.  God bless them all, they got me through.  I learned a valuable lesson in receiving love. 

Dec 13ish - My good friend, Zeke, drops dead on his bike cycling to a meeting.  I miss his memorial service because I'm with Ais in the hospital. He'd approve.   I still miss him when I pass his old apt or the spot on the street where he collapsed.  It has weird energy.

Dec 31 - I move for the first time in 13 years.  In the rain.

January 21 - I enroll in Organic Chemistry and Anatomy and Physiology II preparing for enrollment in highly competitive Nursing School.   Like a deer in the headlights

Ais is still on the mend. Her labs are normal in Feb 2011

March 2011 - I break up with Crossfit.  Many reasons.  But a big financial saver and my schedule was not open when the gym was open.  I need a gym that works for me not just take my money.  Especially when it's so expensive.

May 2011 - school's out.  I made it!

May 16 - Begin an intensive interim semester (16 weeks completed in 4 weeks) for Anatomy and Physiology I.  1 hour commute each way at rush hours.  Kids are still in school so I save on the babysitting costs and minimize time away from them. 

May 23, 2011 -- My friend, Ellee, and I swell up with verve and tackle a new strength program head-on.  New gym but our own - self-driven, program with some 70s-big influence .  Heavy, heavy weight, metcon 2x a week. Pull ups. Strict, dead hang.  No swinging. You and the bar.  

The entire time I was working out the details of my divorce including child care, finances and planning for the future of my family.  

Phew, now I can start posting that fluff you all are so happy to read! There have been some fun journeys along the way.  Interesting people and sites.  Heartbreak, betrayal, confusion and outright exhaustion . Overall I feel like I'm coming up to the surface for some air and want you to tune-in for the adventures to come.   I've missed you!