Monday, December 28, 2009

All We Got For Christmas Was A Welding Mask And A Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. It Was Awesome.

I hope everyone had a nice Holiday.

We hosted our family's annual Christmas Eve party again this year and aside from the nasty weather and minor church snafu, it went well. My in-laws spent the whole day with our kids playing in the indoor waterpark at the hotel where my BIL and his girlfriend were staying. Which in turn gave me the whole day to prepare food and clean the house all by MYSELF. It was wonderful!

Uncle B found out how not fun Christmas Eve mass is with 2 tired children and1 tired Grandma. Poor Binny and Grandma were falling asleep on each other so they all left 20 minutes into the service. Once everyone ate, they all started to liven up again just in time for presents.

Due to freezing rain, Santa didn't have time to stop and personally hand deliver the gifts to the children this year, so he just dropped the big red bag on the front porch and flew off back into the night. Or perhaps the Gardener thinks the girls are getting too old for the whole Santa thing.

Besides bringing lots of presents, Uncle B introduced all of us to his girlfriend, B. We all like her, especially the girls. Even Binny who was a bit suspicious at first warmed up to her after a few days together.

In keeping with our Cut The Crap Christmas, instead of going overboard on store bought gifts this year, Grandma N gave the girls her dollhouse from when she was a child. This 50s dollhouse is incredible. The house itself is made from sheet metal and the furnishings are all hard plastic, complete with a stand up ashtray!
The Gardener's parents always get us each a gift, and this year it was a welding mask for the Gardener...
And a Jack LaLanne Power Juicer for me! The girls and I were so pumped to try it, we juiced every fruit and veggie in the house. *Note to self, broccoli does not make great juice.
Hope you were all on Santa's nice list!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

The food is made and the driveway plowed, just waiting for our guests... and Santa.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wardrobe Wednesday

Not sure yet what the girls are going to wear for Christmas, hell I don't know what they're going to wear today, but I thought this photo of Mae decorating the tree in her jammies was appropriate for this week.More Wardrobe Wednesday at Heathen Family Revival!

*I'm feeling better today... but I lost my voice and now I sound like the annoyingly squeaky Rachel Ray.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Random Tuesday Thoughts time again, head on over to the Un-Mom for the rest of the links.

I somehow managed to make it through Thanksgiving and a trip to Arizona with a great sum of my time spent in a Hospital or hospital-like places without getting sick, but NOW all of a sudden my body is choosing to revolt on me just 3 days before Christmas. Sweet! I spent all day yesterday trying to fight off this damn cold with major doses of vitamin C and Zicam swabs until one of my FB (FaceBook) friends informed me that the Zicam swabs were pulled from the market due to people losing their sense of smell. Lovely. I switched over to the rapid melt tabs instead but they taste awful and the directions clearly say not to chew or swallow and also not to eat or drink anything for 15 minutes. Does licking my own butt to get the taste out of my mouth count? Yuck! In spite of my best efforts to zap my cold right away, I think I am now beyond the let's wait and see if this passes stage. I woke this morning at 2:30 with my usual illness-induced insomnia (combined with a sore throat and a stuffy nose) but at least it gave me some quiet time to blog in peace. I'm hoping that this is one of those quick bugs that will be gone in a few days. Christmas is no fun sick!

Grandpa Conrad went home yesterday! After a week in the hospital and 3 weeks in rehab, he is finally back home with Grandma Dee and doing well. How's that for a Christmas gift?

The other night as we were setting up Monopoly, Binny said, "I want to be the garbage can!" Huh? Oh, you mean the thimble.

Thursday night is our big Holiday party here and of course I'm no where near ready. I still have cleaning to do, groceries to buy, presents to wrap, cookie gift boxes to assemble and decorations to hang.

My Holiday cards finally arrived! This year I decided to make my own card using Photoshop and decided to go bigger than usual and chose 5X7 cards. I figured I could save myself some money by not ordering the pre-made photo cards and just pay for prints and use my own envelopes. Then I realized that 5x7 prints cost quite a bit more than 4x6 prints, like a dollar- fifty more! After that expensive realization, I did a quick Google search and found a site that prints 5x7s for 12 cents a piece, plus they give new customers 50 free! My cards ended up costing me just $12 even with the $10 charge for shipping and handling. The quality was exactly as I had hoped and way better than Walgreens.

If you missed out on my cookie and peaches giveaway last week, you have another chance to win some home made cookies. Not from me Silly, didn't you see the list of things I have to do yet before Thursday? Another giveaway or infecting my blog readers is not on the list (Secret Mom Thoughts, your cookies are safe as I packed and shipped them before I started my sneeze fest.) but my bloggy friend Wild Child is hosting a cookie giveaway on her blog, Naked Opinions. She is offering up a tinful of the most beautiful Springerle cookies I have ever seen. In all honesty I have never actually seen a Springerle cookie other than in the Martha Stewart cookie issue a few years back but I just assumed they were way too much work to make so I never even considered making them myself. Perhaps next year a day of cookie baking with friends sharing our favorite recipes would be in order. What do you think Wild Child? With you and your Springerle molds and me and my double boiler we could really crank out the Holiday treats. Anyhow, hop on over to Wild Child's blog and sign up for her giveaway!

That's it for me today. I'm off to blow my nose and clean bathrooms...

Don't forget to drop by the Un-Mom for more Randomness.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So Long Leroy!

Your eyes are working correctly, that is in fact a photo of my Binny in praying position. That can only mean one thing....... Why yes, the Public School Holiday program was last Friday.

My long time readers will remember that last year I threw a bit of a stink* over the program because of some of the content. I was disappointed that the music teacher chose only Christian songs to celebrate the Holiday season and conveniently left out songs that represented any other religions that happen to celebrate this time of year. In addition to the Christian slant, the play portion of the program included a character named Leroy, wearing denim overalls and a John Deere hat, dancing around the theater while the 8 year old singers on the risers sang Leroy The Redneck Reindeer.Even with the inclusion of Binny's class singing Go Tell It On The Mountain (...where Jesus Christ is born), I have to admit that this year's program was a HUGE improvement over last year. There was no acting thrown in between songs and most certainly no mention of Rednecks, just each grade singing 3 mostly non-religious Holiday songs. Mae's class didn't even sing a religious song at all. After last year's Jesus and Redneck extravaganza, I tried to set up a conference with the music teacher this year to discuss my concerns, but the day before our scheduled conference, she had to cancel. She wrote me a note requesting to reschedule but never returned my calls. Whether or not my complaint to the principal had any influence on the the changes, I was pleased that the music teacher decided to make the changes, period. No, it wasn't void of Christian references but the teacher made an effort and I appreciate that and agree to compromise as well.

On our way out of the building I spotted the principal in the office and decided to turn back and give her my opinion on this year's program. At first as I explained to her who I was (Last year we only spoke on the phone, not face to face.), a concerned look came to her face but as soon as I told her how much I enjoyed the program and more importantly the changes, a smile returned to her face and I'm sure she also felt a sense of accomplishment that she's doing her job.

* Links to the posts I wrote after last year's program:
My initial post.
Follow-up after another blogger challenged my first post.
Follow-up after I spoke with the school's principal.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Giveaway Winner

First off thank you all for entering my little giveaway and again THANK YOU Freckle.

The random number was 5 but I couldn't figure out how to do the screenshot thing and put it in this post before I lost the page with the random number on it, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Damn computer. Anyhow, the random number was 5 and the winner is... drumroll please... Secret Mom Thoughts.

Now for the prize:

You knew that was coming, didn't you?

And what would this time of year be without cookies? Well it would cookieless that's what. And cookieless is no way to live. So along with a pint of peaches, I'm throwing in a tinfull of fresh baked cookies and some of these too. I hope you're not on a diet hungry Secret Mom Thoughts.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wardrobe Wednesday And A Giveaway

Several months ago (I think it was way back toward the beginning of the year), my bloggy friend Freckle offered a giveaway on her blog. She promised to make something then pass it along to another blogger. I entered and guess what showed up at my house last weekend?
Freckle and her friend Shady Lady are always blogging and FB (Facebook) posting about knitting so I kind of hoped had a hunch that she would send one of her beautiful creations to me. Just seeing the envelope in the mailbox with the words Merry Christmas on the front sent me running into the house to open it. I ripped that baby open and immediately loved it. Her timing was perfect considering that the hat arrived on the coldest day (so far) of the year. I haven't had an opportunity to wear it yet because the girls have decided that they also like it and snatch it out of the hat and mitten basket before I can get to it.
side note: Mae lost another tooth yesterday! This time it was one that was ready to come out.

Thanks Freckle! Now, if I remember correctly, I am supposed to pass on the giving by sending something I make out to another blogger and continue the handmade gift giving. I can't promise that my gift will be as lovely as Freckle's but it will be handmade by me. So, from now until midnight tomorrow night (Thursday night) leave a comment if you would like to receive a handmade gift from me and I'll randomly choose one comment and announce the winner on Friday.

Originally I think the rules were to keep the giving going by only passing this along to other bloggers so it can keep going on through Blogland, but I know not all of my readers have their own blogs (In my opinion many of them should... but I'll save that rant for another day.) and it's the Holiday season, a time to give without strings attached, so it's open to everyone with no obligation to make and send more gifts. Yeah, I'm a rule breaker like that. I'm not saying what I plan to give so you'll just have to trust me.

Good Luck!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Honest Scrap

Since I started this blogging thing over a year ago (I know! Can you even believe it?), I have been given several blog awards. Some I have passed on with great enthusiasm and some I have unintentionally ignored (sorry 'bout that Bloggers) for reasons like... I just didn't have time to blog about it, link and pass it on, or more so, anything thoughtful to say. But still each and every time another blogger takes the time to link to my silly blog, it brings a smile to my face, which I'm sure was the intention all along. Isn't that why we all make our blogs public, so that other people can enjoy them?

That said, Blogger Juli from Wellington Road passed on the Honest Scrap award to me(!) and even though I already posted and passed along the Honest Scrap award earlier this year, her sweet words have convinced me to do it again... with a Holiday twist.

I love reading Juli's blog! Besides her use of Os and Us in words like colour and favourite (Same for you Joey!) her sense of humour keeps my clicking back for more. Plus I love to read about the beautiful springtime weather she's having in New Zealand while we shovel snow and curse the cold weather here. Go check out her blog if you haven't already. Seriously, do it now, I'll wait.

*tap, tap, tap* You back? Wasn't that fun? Now on with the Honest Scrap. First the rules.

1) Must thank the person who gave the award and list their blog and link it. Thanks Juli!
2) Share "10 Honest Things" about yourself.
3) Present this award to 7 (or so) other people whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
4) Tell those 7 (or so) other people they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving the award.

Holiday Honest Scrap.
  1. Christmas is a magical time. Even if you don't believe in the virgin birth (like me), it is a time of year filled with joy, giving and love. Plus what better way to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday than by buying flat screen TVs at bargain prices and wrapping them up in Santa Claus paper? (After that outrageous outburst of un-Christian-like behavior, I wonder if I'll still have 51 (make that 52!) smiling faces in my followers box. I hope so!)
  2. This year I'm implementing a little something I like to call "Cut the crap Christmas" Which basically is my way of saying if you are over 18 don't expect a store-bought gift from us.
  3. Since I was in Arizona for a week and now way behind on my Holiday prep, I decided that I wasn't going to put out all of the decorations that I usually do, mostly because I would have to clean and dust first, THEN put out the decor. Yesterday the Gardener came down from upstairs carrying our big red and green storage boxes and said "Here, put this crap out."
  4. Fruit cake sucks.
  5. Real vs Fake is never a question in our house. As long as we still put up a tree and my in-laws still have thousands of them growing in their fields, we will continue to cut one down every year and decorate it.
  6. I should be dipping more of these instead of blogging.
  7. I haven't listened to any Christmas music yet (besides what was playing when the Gardener and I went Christmas shopping) but have watched the best Christmas movie ever made National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at least 3 times since Thanksgiving.
  8. I'm excited to meet my brother-in-law's new girlfriend. He's bringing her home to meet the family over Christmas. I just hope we don't scare her away.
  9. Mae has heard rumors that Santa isn't real from the kids on the bus. I have gently reassured her that whether she believes in Santa or not, she won't go without presents. Christmas (to us anyhow) really is for the kids, see #2.
  10. I'm always unsure which Holiday greeting to use this time of year. Since I'm not Christian or Jewish, saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" seems weird, but "Happy holidays"or "Seasons Greetings" seem too generic. I can never decide but usually go generic with Happy Holidays.
Since I already passed this one along, I won't be tagging anyone today.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cherry Coconut Bonbons

It's no secret that I love to make all kinds of treats during the Holidays. But since the economy is still firmly planted in the crapper (around here anyhow), I have decided to scale back my cookie and candy making this year in an effort to save some money. Instead of all 9 varieties I made last year, I will only be making the most requested treats. Now of course that means that the most favorite treats also happen to be the most difficult and tedious to make... but what would the Holidays be without stress?

Aaaand since I have not posted a recipe in a long time, I decided to post my recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherry Coconut Bonbons, a treat so sweet it makes your teeth hurt, but the family loves them!

The ingredients:
And of course the assistance of a cute helper... blue whiskers optional. BTW, Binny had her stitches removed yesterday and is healing nicely.

Mix together the butter, powdered sugar, coconut, almond flavoring and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy duty mixer. Seriously I have burned up several hand mixers with this recipe but the Kitchenaid seems to handle it all quite well.
Next cover the mixture and chill it in the refrigerator or if you live somewhere cold like me, you can just set it outside for a few minutes until the dough is stiff enough to work with. Then scoop out a tablespoon of the dough and flatten in your hand. Then place half a cherry in the center and pull up the sides of the dough and shape into a ball.

Again chill in the fridge or outside then dip in tempered* chocolate.What my helper was busy with while I dipped the bonbons...
And voila!

*Tempering chocolate is a way of melting chocolate so that it stays hard at room temperature. After several years of practice I seem to have the tempering process down, but the first few years were not so pretty. Here's a link to directions on chocolate tempering.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Bonbons

1 bag- 2# Powdered sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 bag- 14 oz. flaked coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar of Maraschino cherries, drained and halved

Combine powdered sugar, butter, almond flavoring and condensed milk. Chill. Take 1 tablespoonful and flatten in your hand. Place cherry inside and roll up, completely sealing the cherry inside. Chill.

Melt and temper chocolate in a double boiler and dip bonbons in the chocolate. Cool on waxed paper.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Photos

The Gardener's version of the Pope-mobile, or as our neighbor called it, the snowglobe.

Current outside temperature: -3F

The road out in front of our house is so frozen that when cars drive on it, it sounds like they have ice skates on instead of tires. Brrr!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

*tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on? Oh, there you are. I didn't seeing you past the big pile of laundry, the still not up yet Holiday decorations, snow pants, boots and dripping wet hats and gloves. It's looking like a good day for randomness, so let's get started...


First off, I'm home... and cold! I arrived back home Saturday evening (without my wool coat) and noticed that in the week I was hanging out with seniors in Arizona, the weather here took a serious turn to the frozen side. I heard rumors that it snowed last week, but by Saturday most of that light dusting of snow had disappeared. I always look forward to the first snowfall for the pure beauty of it all... and the opportunity to take about a thousand unusable photos of the girls for our Holiday card. It snowed again yesterday and a few inches at that! I did take my camera outside to try and get a photo for our card but I wasn't completely satisfied with the results. Plus all bundled up like that may not be the best way to show off my kids once a year for the few remaining family and friends that don't read this little blog of mine. And after the chaos that Mae's Thanks for the well wishes, I'm all better now card caused, this Holiday card (Christmas card, X-mas card, seasonal greeting, whatever you want to call it.) of mine is stressing me the hell out. I'm sure I have many photos on my computer that would be just fine but still I keep trying to get that one elusive shot of happiness and sisterly love.Not it?

Perhaps today and tomorrow's snow dumping (of 10-12 inches!) will get the creative juices flowing, or at least make a pile of snow big enough for my children to ride down in a sled.

I did however manage to take a photo for my Grandparents Christmas card although my Grandpa was more focused on standing and remaining standing without the help of a mobility device, so he didn't smile. Oh well, didn't stop me and Grandma Dee from ordering a pile of photo cards the night before I left. Don't they look all Christmassy in red?
Grandpa's still doing great at the rehab. He's getting stronger every day and continuing to play his keyboard for all of his visitors and nurses.

Binny's chin is getting better too. The blue whiskers will come out on Friday! Looks like she won't have much of a scar either but even if she does, oh well. It seems that almost everyone* has a story of an injury requiring stitches from childhood, including the guy I sat next to on my flight home Saturday. I don't usually get into airplane small talk but this conversation took place on the curb outside the baggage claim area as we were both waiting for our rides, so technically not airplane small talk, but next closest thing. Anyhow, he asked about my family and I told him that while I was gone last week, Binny split her chin open on the side of the bathtub. He says "Oh I did that too when I was a kid." Of course to continue the small talk, I asked him about it. Reluctantly he told me that it happened when he was 5. Right after he finished peeing into the toilet, his mom helped him pull up his pants and apparently didn't know her own strength because she pulled his legs right out from under him and in turn he smashed his chin on the porcelain toilet bowl, requiring stitches. After that painful picture I'm starting to think that this whole thing is just a rite of passage and if this ends up being the worst of it, we're pretty lucky.

*Leave me a comment about the time you damn near cut your middle finger off with a steak knife while trying to open one of those SAFE-T suckers minutes before your parents were ready to leave for an evening out... babysitter already at the house! What, that didn't happen to you? Perhaps that was just me. Either way I'd love to hear your stitches story.

And don't forget to stop by the Un-Mom for all of the other randomness that's wandering around in Blogland today.

Friday, December 4, 2009

10 Observations After A Week Of Living In The Land Of Seniors

1. Bingo somewhere every night of the week. If you are under 55, be prepared to explain which retiree is your grandparent or run the risk of having your tires slashed. Also be sure not to wear an outfit that clashes with your Bingo bag.

2. Dinner at 4 o'clock and an inordinate amount of snacks in between meals. I swear I must have put on 5 pounds this week.

3. The handicap parking spaces are the first to fill up. Be careful, there's a reason the doctors hand those out... That said, I am in love with the little man in the chair license plates on the back of my grandmother's car. No more parking way in the back of the lot.

4. If your hair is a color other than white or old lady blue, you look out of place.

5. It's never a bad time for a coffee break. And while you're making a pot you might as well get the cookies out too.

6. Old people loves those annoying little yappy dogs, they especially like to give them cute names like Tinkerbell and Precious. Not so precious at 2 AM.

7. Repeating yourself at least once is almost a given each time you meet a new person. Don't worry, they won't remember your name anyhow. "What's your name Dear, Sally?" No, Ali. "Ellie? You know I have a granddaughter named Ellie." Not worth explaining it any further.

8. Upon learning that a friend is ill, the rumors start flying and by the end of the week the friend is rumored to have had multiple surgeries, died, and even moved away. Seriously, we've heard it all. Again even if you try to set them straight, someone is bound to screw up the translation.

9. Answering the phone and ending up in a conversation like this. For the millionth time, I AM Dee and Conrad's granddaughter, not the cleaning lady, and yes I do need to know your name!

10. I still find it pee your pants funny when old ladies swear. My Grandma was telling us about how the church was extra hot one Sunday morning and it made her ill, and I quote... "That damn church!"

Heading back to Wisconsin tomorrow to survey the damage on the home front. The Gardener called today to ask for the emergency number at the clinic. Binny fell while taking a shower and split her chin. Never a dull moment...

Updated: Binny had 5 stitches placed in her chin. She called to tell me all about her new blue whiskers. Can't wait to squeeze those girls... and the Gardener.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Real Quick

Internet is still spotty but since I have a few minutes on line, I wanted to check in. Grandpa is doing great. The oxygen came off last night and he hasn't needed it since. He was discharged from the hospital at about noon today and transferred to our first choice rehab center. We are all very happy and relieved to finally have some ideas of how the next few weeks will go. He didn't have time to eat all of his lunch at the hospital so once he arrived at the rehab, they offered him lunch. Today's lunch was a choice of Lobster tail or pork enchiladas and turned his nose up at both. The kitchen made him a plain cheese sandwich on wheat bread and he was very happy. Said it was the best damn cheese sandwich he's eaten in a long time.

Besides passing the food test, his rehab is quiet and clean and beautiful. He was disappointed that there was no piano but I'll try to smuggle in his keyboard tomorrow. I think once he can start playing music again, he'll start to improve even more.

My mom goes home tomorrow but now that we have Grandpa settled in, it will be good to have a few days with my grandparents all to myself. Plus both Grandma and I love to watch the Golden Girls reruns at night. And Bingo again Thursday night! I also want to get outside with my camera too, but until now we'd been spending way too much time in the crappy fluorescent hospital lighting.

So in all, things are good and getting better. Oh and the weather is gorgeous!