Saturday, December 22, 2007's Practically Here!

This year has been the first year I have ever heard Ronnie say "I'm actually in the Christmas Spirit this year". He's not Scrooge, he doesn't hate Christmas like the Grinch, he just always so busy at work and feels like he should be doing more with the family. This year he has had time to breathe and enjoy some of the holiday festivities. He dressed up as Santa for a few hours at work one day and really enjoyed it. He was sweating like it was in the middle of July in the Santa suit but all in all he had fun. He was a bit scared when the first 5 kids that sat on his lap all screamed in terror. Then things picked up and he even had a Santa stalker, one little boy came back at least 5 times to shake his hand or peep around the corner at him. When I brought our kids to see him Lana ran right up to him and proceeded to climb up on his lap even though there was someone already on it. She really did not like sharing her Daddy.
Ronnie helped me get our Christmas cards out. And he admitted he liked the fact that I take the time to make them all by hand, even though he used to complain about it. This year the cards were probably the most time consuming ones yet. I first made a 12x12 scrapbook page, then did some work in Photoshop, then cut out letters, then it seemed something was missing so we added the date on the inside. The part that sucked up the most time was gluing on the letters. Now I need some ideas for next year, anyone have any neat ideas?

Last night we finished up the gift baskets. Ronnie was right, we should have just bought gift cards. We made 6 baskets full of our favorite things. When I say we, I mean we, Ronnie helped with everything except with the chocolate covered Oreos, I thought he would eat them as fast as we could make them, they are his favorite. I guess I'm glad I made the baskets this year because it made me bake more. I haven't really baked much this year. I've only made two batched of cookies so far and that was only because I had to bake some for Young Women's and there I got an idea for some cookies for Lana's preschool. They are on the letter M and these mice cookies were just perfect. (thanks Tori)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gingerbread Houses

Last night the family got together to make gingerbread houses. We had five different gingerbread kits, but we only ended up making four of them. We started out the night with pizza which was great because we needed the cardboard boxes to put the house on. It worked out so perfectly, but I can't take credit for that. I didn't have that much forethought in this event; I just didn't want to cook dinner. The mixer was whirling busily making icing, when I heard an odd noise. My whisk attachment didn’t make it through the night. Fortunately it decided to break on the last batch. We all decorated to our hearts content and the kids had a few snack along the way.

Last year during our gingerbread house decoration the kids decided to decorate themselves. Same thing happened again this year, so I guess we now have a new tradition. Next year I think everyone should wear Rudolph noses while we decorate.

Click to play Gingerbread+Houses+2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Buying Beer

I bought some beer today. For most people this is nothing new, but for me it was a first. I don’t drink it there for I have never bought it. Why did I buy beer you ask, well it all started when Ronnie was trying to figure out what gifts to get his 6 managers for Christmas. We were thinking we would just copy what Ronnie has been given buy his past bosses like gift cards for P.F. Chang’s or Claim Jumpers or Cheesecake Factory (I’m getting hungry). Then like always I have to take something easy and turn it into something that requires so much more work. I said, why would you want to give a simple little gift card when I can put together something so much more personal? He gave me the look, the one I get when I redid our Christmas cards five times until it was just right, or like the time when I said the cupcakes for Kyle party are going to be plain store bought ones and then we rushed around until I found the perfect ones the day before the party and then proceeded to make our own cupcake toppers, yeah that look. I said what, it’s not going to be a big production…lol. Even that makes me laugh because I know myself all too well.

So my ideas for the gift baskets are a few of our favorite things (like the song) of course I’ll have to come up with some new lyrics to make it match the gifts. Some of the gifts will include homemade bread, white chocolate popcorn with macadamia nuts, truffles from Trader Joe’s, white chocolate covered Oreos (decorated of course), hot cocoa, and some smaller amount gift cards to like Cold Stone. So as I’m looking for an easy bread recipe that uses whole wheat. I stumble upon a beer bread recipe, which brings us to why I was buying beer. I read that Ale is better than Lager when baking it in bread. I have no clue if this is true or not but it was something to help me decided which one to buy. So Ronnie and I are standing in front of the beer aisle reading labels trying to figure out which one to buy. Ronnie knows his way around beer so he pointed out the Ales to me and told me that we ate at a restaurant where one of them was brewed at when we lived in Colorado. The packaging was really cute and it said the brewery was wind powered and employee owned how you could go wrong? So in keeping the gifts personal of course I pick the Fat Tire which is brewed in Ft. Collins, CO. It’s not like the people receiving the gift baskets are even going to know it is beer bread made with beer brewed in Ft. Collins, but I will and that’s all that matters.

We get home and make our first loaf in no time at all. Then we tasted it and Kyle wasn’t sure he wanted any and then I explained that the alcohol cooks away…yada yada yada and then he was all over it. I think he could eat his weight in bread. Once we were at a steakhouse and they have little loaves of bread they give you with your meal and afterwards the kids get some ice cream, well Kyle didn’t want ice cream he wanted more bread. He has also been quoted saying “Gravy is better than cake!” he’s not your average kid, that’s for sure. Lana thinks the beer bottles are root beer and really wants to drink some. I had better make the rest of the loaves soon so I can get rid of the beer, she can get into anything.

This is by far the easiest bread recipe ever and it tastes pretty darn good too.

Farmgirl Susan's Almost Too Easy Whole Wheat Beer Bread Recipe
Makes One Loaf

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
14 ounces beer (or 12 ounces beer & 2 ounces water)

Optional glaze: 1 egg & 2 teaspoons water, beaten

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and mix just until combined. Batter will be thick. Spread in a greased 8-inch loaf pan, brush with egg glaze if desired, and bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool 10 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Random Christmas Things

Santa is Dad?

Ronnie thought it would be fun to dress up like Santa at work and take pictures with the kids that came in with their parents to shop. I thought that sounded really cute and very unlike him. He is usually such a Scrooge around Christmas time because he has to put in so many hours, but not this year. He is actually going into work on his day off to do this. I got a call today from him saying that he doesn’t really like the Santa suit they had on hand and I offered to find him a different one. After first looking on the internet I concluded it was going to be hard to find him a nice looking suit for the money he wanted to spend so I turned to my secret source (my mom) who suggested a guy from our church who works at a costume shop. Problem solved, my husband will look like a very nice Santa and gets to stay under budget. Now all I have to do is to come up with a story to tell Lana why her dad is dressed up like Santa.

Work Holiday Party

Every year the dreaded day comes when Ronnie informs me of his work Christmas Holiday party. This year it’s a little different in that he is actually more in charge of it than in years past since he is finally the big boss man. He has said he doesn’t want to have a lame Christmas party, which they usually are. Sam’s Clubs have to have their parties in the store which makes for a great venue…NOT. Most of them are adults only (no clue as to why), but Ronnie’s party will be kid friendly, not because he wanted it that way but because that’s the way it’s always been at this store. I probably will not take our kids because of the time it occurs, after 7:00pm something happens to our kids that is indescribable. Ronnie works in Cub Scouts with a guy that does magic, a nice connection to have. So he has enlisted the help of the magician in efforts to make the party not so lame. In the past parties I have been to there have been high school choirs, strolling carolers, amatuer stand up comedians, and high school drama classes that have been our source of entertainment. While this “entertainment” is going on people are eating dinner and talking, I always feel so bad for the entertainers that I end up in a lousy mood. The magician is going to wonder around from table to table doing tricks so hopefully people can put their fork down and zip their lips for a few minutes to see a magic trick and all will go well. Let’s all cross our fingers that it isn’t lame.

Christmas Cards

In my feeble attempt to de-commercialize Christmas I try to make our Christmas cards. Each year as soon as the cards are in the mail I start to think what I will do next year. I usually go through many ideas before I settle on one. Ronnie gets so busy around Christmas and can’t help make them unless I get started on them early. He even gave me a date once, Oct 31st, which I have yet to start making Christmas cards that early yet. The cards have been in getting ready mode for about 3 weeks now, the mode where I have the idea in my head just nothing tangible yet. Last night we made our first card of the year. Once that is done then we can start an assembly line and crank them out in no time. I try to keep one of our cards each year so we can look back and see what worked well and what didn’t work at all.

2002 Christmas card (I think, I don't see Lana's name so I"m guessing at the date)

2005 Christmas Card
(by far my favorite, but never try this with a 2 year old)

2006 Christmas Card (it folded up into it's own envelope)

Caught a Cold

Hurray I got a cold early this year. I always get one, and this is perfect timing, right before the crazy part of the Christmas season. Hopefully my immunities will fight it off fast and I will still have lots of immunities built up to ward off anything until after Christmas. Last year I got sick two weeks before Christmas and it was horrible. I got well and ran around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to tie up all the loose ends.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gastropoda as pets...Ghastly

We are not pet people. Our children had fish for about a year and then I was tired of them so now they are gone. I have a hard enough time of keeping up with the kids activities and cleaning up their messes I don’t need anything else on my to do list. So we enjoy other people’s pets. Lana is very lucky that her preschool teacher has a kitten and a hamster for her to play with. Kyle gets to pester enjoy my parents two cats and any other cat he may find wandering around our backyard. I think that gives the kids enough pet time to grow up normally; I don’t think I am depriving them of anything in their childhood.

Lana has however grown a fondness for snails. It started out with earthworms. In the summer we would find earthworms that crawled up on our sidewalk when it was wet from the sprinklers. Some of the little guys didn’t make it back to the lawn before the sidewalk started to heat up and they were kind of stuck. Instead of stepping on them to put them out of their misery I would just pick them up and throw them back on the lawn. Lana had shed a few tears over the ones that we didn’t get to in time, but the tears didn’t last long as she would find something else to be interested in. Then in the fall the worms stopped appearing and snails took their place. She would pick them up on our way to take Kyle to school and then when we would return home much to my dismay she would still have them in her hands. She would collect even more snails on our way back into the house. After trying to convince her that the snails needed to be outside with their snail family I finally caved in and got her a cup to put them in. For days she kept asking me “why won’t they come out of their shells to see me?” I finally told her they are probably dried up and are stuck in their little shells so we need to put them outside so the sprinklers can rain on them. Well the snails did not make it outside; instead she put some water in the cup. Then to my surprise the snails were soon out of their shells crawling up the side of the cup. Every now and then I would knock them down to the bottom of the cup so we wouldn’t have snails running rapid in the kitchen. Then one night Ronnie and I were cleaning and he asked me what to do with the snail cup and I said let’s throw them outside and tell Lana they crawled out. Lana didn’t cry or scream when she heard this, instead she marched her little self outside and proceeded to gather up new snails to place in her cup. Then she put some water in the cup and got a book to put over the top of the cup. Ever since them we have had snails. They have been the centerpiece during breakfast, lunch, and dinner and they were even at our Thanksgiving dinner. I know it’s mean but I’m okay with this pet because if they don’t get taken care of I’m really not going to feel bad for them, they are just snails, some (odd) people eat them for dinner and here we are eating dinner with them. If they die tomorrow they have lived a good life, for they have made a little girl very happy.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Lighting Up My World

Before Ronnie’s parents left they helped us trim all our shrubs and put up the last of the Christmas decorations. For about three years now we have gone with red and white lights on the outside of our house. This year I wanted to change over to LED lights, but after going to four stores and not finding what I wanted I decided to just put up the old energy sucking lights. We didn’t put up as many this year because last year we kept blowing the breaker every time I would blow dry my hair.

One night as I was driving up to the house it dawned on me…our house has needed to be painted since we moved into it and yet every year I still insist on lighting it up for all to see. Every year I tell myself and have even said it out loud that I’m going to get my house painted this year, and then I start on another project inside the house instead. Avoidance is a wonderful thing.

One thing I could not avoid was this house in my neighborhood. Take a look at it and tell me if it is better to live next to a house that needs a new coat of paint or is it better to live next to this. Granted this is not actually a house it is a business but someone does have to live right next to this and it is in my neighborhood. The picture really doesn’t do it justice, what you can’t see is that the roof is black and the trim is red and of course the rest of it is pink even the walls surrounding it. The house was white with red trim and a black roof so maybe they just haven’t finished painting the trim yet. Who knows it might end up a even more horrifying color than red.