Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

The Christmas decorations are almost all put away; the tree is by the curb awaiting the yard waste truck. Even though our house is returning to its normal appearance, the memories of Christmas are still alive and well.

We had a fantastic Christmas this year (and hope you did, too) and are feeling so blessed that we saw many of our family members over the holiday. Eric's parents arrived on Christmas Eve. We played games, chatted, ate our traditional Christmas Eve dinner (aka breakfast for dinner ... this year, we had Eggs Benedict), and read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" as a family before going to bed.
Reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas"
Leaving cookies and milk for Santa


We awoke Christmas morning to find that Santa was very kind to us. Our stocking were overflowing with goodies, and we had more than enough presents under the tree. The kids were charged with excitement and could hardly contain themselves. Annika offered to "help" everyone open their gifts ... she's such a giver!! There was plenty of mayhem going around, but it was such fun to see both of our kids really getting into the excitement of the day.

Conor unwrapping his loot

Annika modeling her new husky hat/scarf combo

The prized gift of Christmas ... the kids are learning a great lesson in sharing with this one!

By late morning, Eric's folks were on their way home and we began preparing for wave 2 of Christmas ... my side of the family. We hosted both of my brothers and their families and my mom. We had a feast fit for a king (including an amazing prime rib that my brother Troy made).... ok, maybe the yorkshire pudding wasn't quite up to snuff, but that's what happens when I forget to put the flour in until after the pan is in the oven and then we try to whisk some in to save the mess. (Thanks to my sister-in-law, Staci, for jumping in so fast and helping with the frantic whisking! I think we could enter any synchronized whisking contest this side of the Mississippi and take 1st place!)

After dinner, we opened more presents and solved all of the world's problems (and probably created a few new ones!)
Annika unwrapping her gift from her cousins, Kat and Ian

Annika demonstrating how to use her new "bin-nock-cleeears"


The only downside to Christmas was Eric getting called into work at 9:00 PM. A windstorm had come through the area Christmas morning and it caused some power outages/surges in the region... one of which was at the company Eric works for. He and the ISP guy wound up putting in plenty of hours trying to get the systems all up and running again before people had to return to work. Fortunately, he was called at 9:00 PM instead of 9:00 AM on Christmas.... this kept him home for the day's festivities, at least.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Did Somebody Order Sourdough?

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was sourdough bread ... not only from scratch, and when I mean scratch, I mean SCRATCH. We not only made the bread—we made the sourdough starter, too. I've made sourdough items plenty of times, but never with starter that I created. I wouldn't classify this project as a huge success.

The first time I attempted to proof the starter, I kept it in our gas oven (no, it wasn't on!) to keep the starter warm. Unfortunately, I think it kept it too warm and the starter completely stalled.... and looked really gross. My sister looked at it and said it looked like someone barfed up graham crackers. Eww....

My second attempt at the starter was more successful. I kept it in a Mason jar on the counter and put aside the worries that my kitchen was too cold for the starter to take root. I learned the hard way that my warmer option wasn't really an option. I also let the water sit out on the counter, out of concern that the chlorine in our water was part of the first starter's problems.


After 5 days, the starter was ready to transform into bread. When I made the dough, it was WAY too runny; not sure what I did, but it was more like sludge that dough. Hmmm... So, after the rising period, I realized it simply wouldn't work as is. I added some more flour and hoped for the best.


Unfortunately, I had a bit of a time crunch and couldn't let the dough go through another full rising cycle, so the bread wound up more dense than I think it would have had it had more time to rise.

With all that in mind, here's the final result! (It sort of reminded me of communion at church when the church uses actual bread instead of the more commonly used wafers.)


Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cramming Christmas Prep into One Week

This has been an unusual Christmas season for our crew. Originally, I planned on taking the kids for their Santa picture on December 4th. Unfortunately, that was the day that flipped everything on its ear. That's the day I received the phone call telling me my dad passed away.

Instead of the day I had expected, I found myself in a series of events that I hadn't expected, signed up for, or knew were ahead of me. Since that day, my sister and I have repeatedly said that we need a "Death for Dummies" book because the learning curve was astronomical. The morning of the 4th, I received the call from my brother telling me the news and proclaimed, "Hold on, I'm coming over!" To that, my brother replied, "Where are you going?" I said, "Your house, you dolt!" (OK, I didn't really said the dolt part, but I did think it.) To that, he said, "I'm in London." OH YEAH!!! I'd forgotten that he was on a business trip and then the reality of me being the only local sibling sunk in. I made a few required phone calls, quickly dressed, and drove to our dad's care facility.

In the lobby of the care facility, I was met by the funeral home representative and the care facility's director. The three of us walked to my dad's room; along the way, I was greeted by a few mourning care providers. It was really touching to see how many of the people who work there were moved by the passing of one of their residents. They care so deeply about the residents.

Upon reaching my dad's room, I was greeted by a police officer who had been standing watch over the body. That was when the business of death seemed to kick into gear. I released the officer from his post; the director and funeral home representative and I went over the required paperwork and questions, and then my dad was transported to the funeral home.

After he was gone, I stood in his room and wondered "now what?" It felt weird just to leave, so I made his bed. It was something I could do. So, I did it.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of funeral planning and family conversations. It's true; death does bring people together. During the week of preparation, I spoke with my siblings almost non-stop. My brother Troy returned early from London (gratefully) and was able to take on some of the tasks on our to-do list. We met with the funeral home staff and went through a lot more paperwork, picked out an urn, etc. etc.etc.

One of the weirdest experiences of the week was going shopping for a shirt and tie that our dad could wear as part of his final attire. We'd saved a suit of his when he moved out of his house a few years ago, but neglected to save a shirt and tie. I went to the local store and picked out the necessary items. I felt very compelled to pick just the right tie ... just the right "I was a conservative, Republican, career IMB guy" kind of tie. At the checkout counter, the gal asked if I wanted a gift receipt. Definitely not. Nope. Not even close.

We packed up our crew and headed down to Portland this past weekend and had a whirlwind of activity. We had a rosary and funeral at the local Jesuit community (GORGEOUS!!!) and then a crypt blessing and reception at the mausoleum and then an open house at my cousin's house on Saturday. It was a very busy, but nice day. We shed tears, laughed, shared stories, ate, and drank wine. All-in-all, it was a very nice send off for our dad. He would have loved knowing everyone was together.

Upon our return home, I hit the ground running trying to play Christmas prep catch up. As soon as the car was unpacked and the washing machine was going, I started my holiday baking.... spritz cookies (two ways) and nut clusters. The next night, I made fudge. The kids and I even made dough ornaments to give to Annika's teachers and to hang on our tree (stay tuned for that blog post).

Christmas is a time for reflection and togetherness. This year, it is also a time for panic and high-speed preparations. :)

And to all a good night!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Decorating for Christmas

Apologies... this post is a bit out of chronological order, but the pictures are so cute that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share them. Two Sundays ago, we dug out the Christmas decorations, put lights on the house, and bought/decorated our tree. It was a whirlwind day of decorating and it definitely brought the Christmas spirit into our house.

Eric and Annika putting lights on the house

Conor supervising the lights process

Almost done with the lights

Conor looking on

Decorating the tree (like Annika's space helmet??)

Annika showing us the angel she made at school last year

Conor and Annika in front of the tree

Annika putting the Santa hat on yours truly

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies

This year's Christmas preparations have taken on a bit of an odd mojo. My dad passed away last Sunday and the planning for his funeral has taken a top priority in terms of time management. While my dad's funeral is a big deal, we don't want to lose the feeling of Christmas and all of the festivities that go along with it. We do have our tree up (stay tuned for that post) and Annika and I were able to get a batch of gingerbread cookies made ... it took us four days to accomplish, but we did it!

Annika applying the royal icing to her cookie ... "moderation" is not in her vocabulary

A gingerbread cookie isn't complete without sprinkles!

Did we mention the sprinkles??

The cookies I decorated

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Painting Christmas Tree Ornaments

A few weeks ago, I saw a catalog that advertised glass tree ornaments and glass paints; it took me all of about 2 seconds to decide that would be a fun project for our little crew. Yesterday seemed like the perfect day to embark on our art project, so I covered the kitchen table with newspaper and we got right to work.

The kids had a BLAST painting their ornaments. I figured they'd do one ornament each.... nope! Each wanted to do as many as possible, which wound up being 3 each because we got a package of 6 ornaments.  They learned how to mix paint colors and employ a variety of techniques as they painted their masterpieces.

Conor exploring his medium

Eric and Annika working on her ornament

Eric teaching Annika how to spin the ornament to make lines of paint

Conor

Conor decided to make himself a piece of living art

"Yoot Mama!"

Silly!

One of Conor's ornaments

One of Annika's ornaments

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Today's Breakfast Conversation

Our morning routines are pretty darned set in stone. Routine is basically the only reason we can get out of the door each morning. One of our "this happens almost every day" is Eric makes what we've named "cheesy eggs" for breakfast. What are cheesy eggs? Scrambled eggs with some cheese on top. (shhh! Don't tell... it's our secret family recipe!)

Annika has recently and arbitrarily taken to disliking having salt and pepper in her cheesy eggs. So, this morning, Eric left out the seasonings. As he handed a plate of eggs to Annika, she said she didn't like them because they were too spicy. He replied that he left the salt and pepper out this time. She looked at him and asked, "So, what's in them that I don't like?" (Mind you, all of this is without her taking a single bite of the food.) Eric replied that there were only eggs and cheese, nothing else. She looked at him, smiled, and said, "Good job, Daddy!"

Friday, December 2, 2011

Conorism

As Conor was finishing up his yogurt ("yodote"), Eric offered to help get the last scraps onto Conor's spoon. Conor is well into the independent phase of his life and professed "Muh-ho-do-it", which is a combination of his two favorite phrases "Muh-ho-dit" (translation: I want to hold it, please) and "I do it" (translation: I'd like to do it myself, but thank you so much for offering your assistance.)

OK, I might have taken a wee bit of creative license when translating his phrases. "I do it" is probably more properly translated to "Get away! I've GOT IT! Step away and no one gets hurt." ;)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Moustaches

Some of the men at my office participated in Movember, which is a clever way to raise awareness about male cancers and raise funds to help pay for research. In order to give women a way to participate, one of the guys brought in stick-on moustaches that we could wear for a day. Unfortunately, none of the women wore them, so there were plenty left over. So, I turned two into something fun for our kids.

They had a great time with their moustaches until Annika decided hers was too "tickly" and pulled it off. Conor wore his a good chunk of the evening.... although, not always under his nose. It migrated to his forehead for a bit and looked mighty entertaining, I must say. Kind of like the 70s gone wrong!



A Babe Was Born in Bathlaham

As promised...

video

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dressing Up

Last night, Annika decided that everyone needed to be in some sort of costume. She got the bee in her bonnet that she needed to be a ballerina and the rest of the family's costume requirement quickly fell into place.She ran downstairs and donned her pink tutu, which was quite a statement considering she ditched her shirt and was running around only in her plastic high heel shoes, blue underpants, and pink fluffy skirt. It was a vision!! After some doing, we convinced her that she needed a shirt to stay warm. (She initially professed that she wasn't cold; I countered that with "but you have goosebumps", to which she replied "No I don't; those are my bones.") The Gonzaga U. basketball shirt, just like the rest of her ensemble, was her doing... we took no ownership of her attire. I must say, though, she's making quite a statement. (Especially once she swapped out the plastic high heels for her purple tennis shoes and Barbie roller skates.)

She put rubber snakes on our dog, who was just trying to take a nap (he is one patient dog!). Convincing Annika that our cat wouldn't appreciate a costume took some doing on my part, but we were finally able to avoid that potential bloodbath when she agreed that we could pretend his white fut was his ghost costume.

For a little while, I wore our ghost headband, but Conor quickly confiscated it and deemed it his. (What can I say?? He's almost 2 ... everything is his, according to him and he looked so darned cute, I couldn't help but let him keep it on) 

Our roller skating ballerina - she's destined for Cirque du Soleil!
Conor sporting the ghost headband and cardboard binoculars ... he's ready for anything!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep

The night before Thanksgiving, I went into turbo mode to prepare for the next day's festivities. Of course, part of that time included making pumpkin pies. Our sweet niece, Emily, who was staying with us for her break from college, offered to help out. I put her in charge of making the pie filling while I made the crusts. Divide and conquer, baby!!

Emily, being the amazing big cousin that she is, let Annika and Conor help her complete the task. And hoisted each kid up on her hip so they could have a chance to participate.

I must say, the pies turned out wonderfully ... probably because of the extra love and energy that went into them.

This was our version of a quilting bee; it was a pie bee!!!

Emily and Annika working on the pie filling

Conor taking his turn with the whisk


Annika's Song

Next week, Annika's class will perform their Christmas pageant for their parents.

I am quite grateful that the school changed their approach to the wee little one's performance this year. Last year, they performed their song during the entire school's performance. It didn't start until 7:00 and was going to last way too long for our preschooler and newborn baby to survive. So, we snuck out after Annika's class sang. (Don't worry - her teachers gave the parents permission to leave knowing our 3-year-olds were like ticking time bombs that were nearing bedtime.) This year, the performance will start at 6:00 and will only showcase the preschool students. Short, sweet, and to the point. Perfect!

So, Annika has been practicing her song on a fairly regular basis... in the car, in the bath ... you name it. I adore how she says part of the lyrics. The song starts out "A babe was born in Bethlehem..." Annika says "A babe was born in Bath-la-ham...." Apparently, that's where hams go to get clean. She also finishes the song with the world's most enthusiastic "Allllllll-le-luuuuuuuuuuu-ja!!"

(Stay tuned... I'll try to get a video of her singing the song)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Apple Cup 2011

To mark our 10th anniversary, Eric and I went to Apple Cup. Not only did we go to Apple Cup, but we went with some of my siblings, their spouses, one niece, and one nephew. Before the game, we did a little tailgating... nothing fancy, just a little friend chicken, a veggie tray, and some wine.

About 30 minutes before kickoff, we headed to the north entrance of the stadium. There are a lot of great things about our time at the game, but getting into the stadium was not one of the things in that category. We dutifully waited in line to go through security and then give the ticket takers our tickets. Unfortunately, not everyone followed that method... especially the party buses that let off their bajillion passengers (ok, not quite that many, but you get the idea) right at the front of the line. The people who were in line never moved forward because of the bus passengers. Eventually, people started surging forward and pressing toward the ticket gates (this is when I also lost my scarf, which bugs me). It was highly uncomfortable, but we eventually made it into the stadium and our seats (after missing kick-off and the first 6 points of the game)...

We had a BLAST during the game. The seats were really good and it didn't rain on us (amazing!!!) but the real fun was spending time with our loved ones. We played musical chairs during the game, so everyone got a chance to sit next to everyone else. Double bonus - the Huskies won!! Go Dawgs!


Staci and Anna pre-game

Me, Staci, and Anna waiting in line at the porta-potties

Anna and Robert

Suzanne, Anna, Robert, and Randy

Troy, Suzanne, and me

Suzanne and Randy

Oh, those crazy Dawg fans!!

Randy, Suzanne, Troy, and Staci

Troy and Eric

Randy and Robert

Monday, November 21, 2011

Daddy = Jungle Gym

This weekend, Eric and the kids had a ball playing together. As soon as he started the fun, it took on a life of its own. I have to applaud Eric for many of his traits ... one of the top, by far, is his approach to being a father. He is gentle with the kids and turns just about everything into some sort of learning experience for them. They know that he's their guy ... especially when it is time to break out the fun—not to mention the rough and tumble.

It makes my heart leap with joy when I see the kids and Eric spending time together and their play time a few days ago was no exception.

Buca wasn't going to be left out of the fun

Annika showing Eric how to be more flexible

Ride 'em, cow kids!

I think Eric is trying to tap out at this point, but I have the camera and refuse to enter the wrestling ring.

Final score: kids = 2, Eric = 0