Saturday, December 15, 2007

Winter Break! Winter Break!
With a mischievous wink, Max woke up and said, "It's time to get ready for school." Not! Ah, sweet respite. Precious furlough. Dear liberty. Treasured time for loafing, lounging, and luxuriating in festive frivolity!

Last week our days were quite full, and while I hardly want to recall all of it, I can say we baked, studied, experimented, sewed, wrapped, mailed, cleaned, prepared, repaired and played. Consequently, the house got very messy, but we made some recovery progress on that front... sigh.

Alex and Max have delved in to the realm of styling product. They used more mousse in one session than I've used in 4 years... they were going for hold and form. I realized what they needed was gel, not frothy, lofty foam. They also needed their Dad. Back in the day, Geoff knew styling product, color, spikes, fast-hold... He coaxed Max's hair into an obedient, high-rise Mohawk. At school Max was greeted by a collective "Cool!" from his classmates and teacher.

At school we enjoyed the annual Holiday Pageant, where cultures and holidays of the world are celebrated in song and dance, followed by class parties with lots and lots of food and merry making. Alex conceived an idea for a seasonal brownie, and I admit I was skeptical. I remembered that Alicia Paulson, of "Posie Gets Cozy" had been experimenting on just such a concept, so we consulted her. As busy as she is, we got a prompt reply. She still hadn't found a successful recipe and results, but Alex was undeterred. We should send her Alex's recipe, because it was a huge success! Surprisingly, not too sweet, easy on the peppermint and a good brownie... not too dry, not too gooey and sufficient dark chocolate for a hint of sophistication. Mercy, but my boy can bake!

The boys looked so handsome, dressed with extra care for the pageant.

This reminds me, we should try to set ourselves down for a holiday portrait. We haven't done that since 2004.

My favorite Christmas cards are the ones that arrive with a family picture and a newsy letter. I love those. Send me some, won't you, please?

Sewing, shopping, wrapping, packing and shipping. Repeat.

Maria hopes that every gift is hers and now that she is catching on that these gifts are being sent away, she wants to help with the wrapping. Yep.... some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without. I try to giver her jobs or distract her, but she knows when she isn't being fairly promoted and recognized for her sweet skills and when she gets really mad she runs away with my tape!

Somehow, we make progress, and we have special moments, like having Geoff home last night. And today we'll get more done. It's all good.

Happy Birthday Holly! She's the Queen of the holidays! I wonder what they are doing today.... hmmmm, must be time to look busy, make calls, more sewing, shopping, wrapping, packing and shipping, playing, loafing and laughing!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Completely addicted to these!

Don't send a lame Starring You! eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

And for even more hilarity check out what my brother and his wife did: It's A JibJab Life! Every time you watch it, an angel gets its wings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Back to The Cutting Board

We bake during the holidays, and we decorate too, but there is one family tradition we have not visited in 7 years, not since we discovered Max is sensitive to artificial dyes and additives. It's a tough allergy to cope with, since the stuff is everywhere. I am always looking out for options and opportunities. Last year we found candy canes with natural food dyes, and one year we even found undyed cotton candy at Disneyland... that was amazing. It's not that candies and sweets are a necessity, but when you are deprived of them they become 100 times more enticing, and there are even regular "healthy" foods that add dyes, so suck.

Ahh the Mother of Invention... where there is a need to feed, a mom finds a way. Don't gag. We actually iced our cookies with broccoli. Yup. Broccoli in a blender, with milk and confectioners sugar, and a drop of vanilla. Weird, I know, but it looked good and tasted good, and I think if we were icing Christmas tree cookies it would have been really cool looking, because of the broccoli-pine needle bits!

And best of all Max got to enjoy and eat the classic Christmas cookies seen in so many family photo albums from Christmases long ago. We made the icing thin enough to paint on the cookies, which is a really, really fun way to decorate them.

From strawberries we made pink icing, and they didn't need vanilla, because the natural strawberry flavor was so yummy.

Purple icing? Blueberries make beautiful, delicious purple icing. A few years ago I found a company that makes a few sugar sprinkles in natural purple and orange... we've rationed these expensive treats until now. Maria was a little heavy-handed in her method. Art can be so subjective!

You can hear me laughing, right? This was just busting me up.

We had so much fun. We made such a mess. We had so much fun.

Hey, I just heard from Jennifer and she did some pondering and head shaking, and when she finally came out of her shock, she decided she really could use a digital camera. Isn't that great? She doesn't have a digital camera. Jennifer this little camera is going to change your life!

And Laurie? Laurie, get ready for some fun in the kitchen! Honestly we all love the apple tool and the other goodies are all favorites too, so I think your family is going to have a great time. You know, in about 3 or 4 days you should buy a huge bag of apples, wash them and be ready to play.

And the Prizes Go To...

This could be the last contest... it's so stressful. In an alternate economy there would be 43 winners. Thank you so much everyone that came by and hung out, everyone that took a chance. I've had a good time meeting new people, and I always enjoy exchanging thoughts and laughs with my longtime blog sisters... are there any brothers out there? Just wondering.

Two names came out of the hat sack: Congratulations "Infinity More Monkeys!" Would you please let us know if you would like a (refurbished, but still really awesome) Sony digital camera... it comes with a charger, handbook, strap, memory thingy... geez, I should have got Geoff to write something fancy! Or, perhaps you are leaning toward some kitchen favorites, like the handy, little serrated peeler and the always awesome apple peeler, corer slicer... I just started wondering what it would do with a potato.... cool... When Jennifer chooses, then we can cheer for the runner-up from "Old School Acres!"

OKay... something's come-up, so I'll talk to you all later...

Maria said "Oh, no. I spilled a little."

Then she realized it was no problem, and says "Cat tea party!"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Last Chance

Be careful what you ask for... now that's a lesson that comes around periodically and reminds me that sometimes we do get what we ask for! Day 1 of the contest brought 42 comments, and only 3 of them were Kim's! I don't think anyone has worked harder for a fellow blogger than Calamity Kim worked on my behalf, and no, I did not bribe her. She's naturally sweet that way. I just loved hearing from everyone, discovering new blogs and finding out what interests other bloggers and blog readers. I realize some things: It would be scary to get hundreds of comments and it would be ridiculous to get thousands. I am looking for connections and friendships, not overwhelming popularity. I felt eager to make an exchange with everyone that left a comment, and I realized that introducing myself to 50 or 80 or 20 more people is a daunting task on top a day that is already full. Each of you is special and talented, and I loved finding new blogs, but I would feel terrible if I had to skim comments and neglect comments, if they came in such huge quantities every day. How do those other bloggers do it? Mercy.

Well, it's not too late to step-up and introduce yourself before the end of this contest deadline. I doubt there's 40 more people lurking out there, but you should know I am excited about the cool stuff we have to give away, and I wouldn't want anyone to miss an opportunity at winning oh, say, a digital camera... or one of my favorite kitchen tools. Didn't I mention Geoff loves electronics? Yea, he and James went to a sale on Sunday and he came home with this cute little pink, digital camera.
"What?" I asked him incredulously.
"For the contest," he says. "It's refurbished, but I thought, one of your readers might like a pink digital camera."
OKay. I probably haven't ever mentioned that he is more generous than I am. It's true. He's very, very generous. And I am very, very lucky. Tee hee.

Here's how it's going down: All names that come in before I log-on tomorrow go in the hat, and in the morning we are going to pull out 2 names. The first person gets to choose either a Sony Cyber-shot 7.2 Mega Pixels Camera or a Chickenblog Favorites Kitchen Pack, including the apple peeler-corer-slicer. Runner-up gets, you know, what the first person didn't choose, which is still really cool, trust me!

There. I think I am supposed to be making dinner and looking sternly at children who are supposed to be doing homework. Nah... I can't look sternly at them. Do you know what's happening right now? Maria is sitting beside me and going through a stack of books, one page at a time and talking to the pictures. William is working on grammar. Alex is reading to Max... they are engrossed in Eldest, and Alex reads it to his brother every night. The house is peaceful, warm and comfortable. Good stuff.

Oh dear... more ways to avoid cleaning the oven and dusting the knick-knacks...

Non-Crappy Starring You! eCards on JibJab

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Do you Hear What I Hear?

Sometimes I wish I blogged with audio. Geoff says it's possible, but I'll excuse him from making it a reality. Anyways... sometimes, like today, you just have to know that I am laughing. Laughing out loud. LOL. Even when I am despairing about life's trials and tribulations, it's likely I am laughing.

Would you like a delicious cookie recipe? This is Anne Z.'s Aunt Rosella's Ginger Cookies recipe, which is over 100 years old. My friend Belinda shared it with me.

Ginger Cookies
Combine: 3/4 cup of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 1 egg and 5 tablespoons of molasses

In a separate bowl sift together: 2 cups of flour, 1.5 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix. Make teaspoon full balls of dough and roll in sugar, place on cookie sheet, then press down with a sugared glass bottom.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 9 to 10 minutes.

Do you read any mention of refrigerating the dough? Or rolling it and cutting out dear little gingerbread men? No. The answer is no, and if I ever was in the habit of following recipes I could have spared us this tragedy:

What you are seeing is cut dough that has been baked, melded together into a lava flow of ginger goodness, and then in a last ditch act of desperation cut again.

What the heck was I thinking?!

We like this one best, because it has a little Picasso heart cut-out. And by now, we were all laughing out loud. And sampling... mmmm ginger cookies are tasty. So, throw out my vision of us gathered around a clean kitchen, carols playing, candlelight flickering on the mantle, and us piping snow white icing on the gingerbread family. No cute buttons and bow ties. No curly locks and dear ginger grins.

The cookies are all gone. We had to eat hide the evidence of my fantasy gone wrong.