Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Endings & Beginnings

We've been busy. As I'm sure you have, too. We're still hosting Christmas company and staying in our jammies way too late. Santa brought us a Wii and the first words out of my 8 year old's mouth every morning are, "can we play the Wii?" There are still a ton of baked goodies and Jesus' birthday cake leftover. There's a few more pieces of turkey in the fridge from our big day after Christmas dinner. The house is still a mess. The laundry is multiplying by the minute. There is still snow on the ground and the decorations are still up.

As much as I'm itching to clean and wash and put away and start anew I know I will miss the excess that makes my home so festive. We'll be back in school and in our routines and the snow won't glisten from Christmas lights anymore. It will be my first winter where there's really a winter. I have a long list of projects for our new home that have been waiting patiently for me. Painting and decorating. Changing light fixtures and organizing. What a busy time of year. I'm already thinking of what I'll do differently next Christmas.

I'm hoping and praying that 2010 is a great year. No major car troubles (bah humbug), healing of my husband's rotator cuff, unpacking the rest of the house and maybe a vacation or two back home. What are your hopes for the new year?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Almost Done

The stockings are hung. The presents are wrapped. The house is (mostly) clean. I've been baking all day in preparation of wowing my neighbors with my wicked baking skills. Oh, except for that "high altitude" thing which equals flat cookies. My mom flies in tomorrow from San Diego and my hubby's family flies in from Cincinnati on Saturday. All that's left is wrapping up the kids' Christmas jammies, making buckeyes and a bit of grocery shopping and we'll be ready for Christmas!! This is my favorite time of year as I remember the magical times during my childhood and try to make the days memorable for my kids.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Teachers Gifts

Each year I'm a bit stumped as to what to give those who take care of my kids. I think all the apple themed teacher things are super cute but I know other moms think so too. I'm guessing that after the first year of teaching, teachers have hit their limit of apple/ruler/chalkboard resin collectibles. With the economy being as it is, our car deciding that it's needed mulitple major surgeries over the last couple of months and my kids needing actual winter clothes I decided to be inventive (read: cheap). And I went with the edible thing so that I'm not contributing to the never ending pile of "stuff" that we all seem to accumulate.

Here's what the kids are giving out: a Christmas mug with a packet of cocoa, chocolate dipped spoons with crushed candycanes and candied almonds. Wanna see how I did it? Lucky you I took pictures.

First thing: get all your stuff together. A bunch of almonds from the bulk bins at your local whole foods or equivalent. The recipe calls for unblanched but I just get the regular roasted, UNsalted kind. Sugar. An egg (I like to get the cage free kind because I'm all sensitive to the chicken's happiness and whatnot). Cinnamon. Ground cloves. Nutmeg.

Set your oven to 300ºF.

While your oven is warming up, separate your egg cause you're only going to use the white. As best as you can, get a Tablespoon of that egg white and plop it in a bowl. Get 2 cups of your almonds and dump them in there and stir, stir, stir until your almonds are all shiny and covered in egg goop.

Ya know, I 'fixed' this picture at least three times but it's not cooperating, so if you want, you can tilt your head to the side to make it look right. Next, add 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and 1/4 tsp of cloves and stir it all together.

Pour your dry mixed ingredients over your shiny almonds and stir well, making sure every little nut is covered in sugary goodness.

Dump them onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I like the Silpat because it means less cleanup for me!), making sure that they're in a single layer.

Pop them in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

While you're waiting, you can either go on to the next part of the recipe or do something way more fun like facebook, read an issue of People, or read my blog. Just a suggestion.

When they're done, let them cool if you can resist and then store the ones you're not giving away in an airtight container.

Here's how we're going to make the spoons. They're super easy. Easy peasy.

You'll need a microwave safe glass container, plastic spoons (or metal if you have money to spare), baker's chocolate and/or chocolate chips and a box of candy canes.

Take out a couple of candy canes and unwrap them. Stick em in a ziplock bag. Get a rolling pin, meat tenderizer, mallet, Wii controller, whatever, just something to whack the heck out of the canes. Smash them to bits, but not too much or you'll just have candy cane powder. You still want the pieces to look pretty when you're done. Pour your candy pieces into a bowl and have a spoon ready to sprinkle the pieces onto your chocolate spoons.

Get another cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and line it with wax paper.

Put your chocolate in your glass bowl and microwave at 50 power for a minute. Take it out and stir it. Yes, even if it's not even close to melting, stir it anyway. Stick it back in the microwave for 30 second intervals stirring each time. The chocolate will NOT look ready even when it is. Just stir stir stir until it is smooth and glossy. If you overcook it, throw it out. It's done. You need more chocolate. Toss a piece into your mouth for good measure.

Dip a spoon into the chocolate lava and use an extra spoon to get some onto the neck of the spoon. Tap off the extra and move it over to the candy cane bowl, sprinkling the broken mixture onto the wet chocolate. Put your spoon onto the cookie sheet and move on to the next one.

Here's what mine looked like when I was done:

Stick the whole pan of spoons in the fridge for 15 minutes to set the chocolate. Let them come to room temperature before you wrap them up.

Here's the mugs, the cello wrappers for the almonds and my box of cocoa before assembly.

I took each spoon and wrapped it in plastic wrap, tied off with metallic green curling ribbon. The candied almonds are neatly wrapped in their bags and everything fits nicely in the mugs!
Happy gift giving! If you decide to borrow my idea, will you let me know? Wonder if my kids teachers read my blog...

Sunday, December 13, 2009


My awesome husband is on a crazy diet. Someone asked if it was his earlobes he needed to lose weight in, because she couldn't see where it could possibly come from. Funny thing about the military: they want you to like, be in top notch shape and stuff. Psh. So my dh has until the end of the year to do his official weigh in to show his boss that he is x pounds or less. Could there be a worse time to try and lose weight? All the delicious goodness that is abound makes it hard to resist. He's been doing GREAT! Me? Notsomuch. When Bill diets, I end up not eating. What's the point of cooking for just myself? My kids don't eat real food, so they don't even come up in the equation.

Ok, so I eat. Just not well. A trip to Sprouts resulted in my bringing home a bag of chocolate cappuccino covered almonds. A handful of those and a cup of coffee makes for a great breakfast. Hummus and pita chips? Add a Pepsi to it and there's my lunch. I managed to drag something out of the freezer and heat it up for dinner, or find the need to go shopping and stop by McDonald's for my nourishment. It's not that I don't like to cook. I'm lazy. Why go through the trouble of cleaning, prepping, cooking, eating and cleaning if I don't have to? Months that Bill is deployed I live on cereal and frozen dinners.

We weighed ourselves. He, of course, did so to see where he was in his dieting progress. I did it just because I was curious. He's been disciplined and eating nothing but lean meats, tons of veggies and some fruit. Drinking water and black coffee. I've been drinking sodas and creamed coffee, chocolate and nachos. We lost ten pounds. Each. A calorie is a calorie. I just didn't eat enough junk to put weight on. He ate a ton and burned it off.

What I've been eating is way more fun, but for some reason he's had a lot more energy. I can't wait until he's off this diet and I can start eating like a normal person again.

Monday, December 07, 2009


It's too cold to blog.

My San Diego blood isn't thick enough for this craziness.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Get Away

We went home for Thanksgiving. Home to San Diego. And we drove. That should preface our funny, wonderful vacation. We pulled Trey out of school two hours early to get a bit of a head start down to Albuquerque. Bill found an Air Base down there which always means cheaper hotel rates. We finally found an open gate to get into the base around midnight and as the kids slept in the car, Bill ran in to check in and get keys to this very unassuming looking military hotel. When he finally came back to the car, he told me that we had to drive to our house. Uh...the hotel is right in front of us. We weren't staying there. We were staying in a house. I'm still confused. We're paying for military lodging, right? Yes, but they've converted the older base houses into temporary lodging facilities and we'd be bunking in a two bedroom HOUSE for the night. Well, dangit, why wasn't this an option when we got to Denver??

Sure enough, the front door lock had been replaced by a card reader and we walked into a typical two bedroom 1950s military home, fully furnished, linened and stocked with dishes. It even had a full size washer and dryer. Too bad I was so tired that I didn't really care. Bill cared though. He cared enough to rebook our room for the route back.

We got on the road Saturday morning around 10 and finally arrived at my mom's just before 11pm. The 40 is a very boring drive that I'd forgotten about since we hadn't driven that route in twelve years. Even with the DVD player, the kids were bored. I was bored. Bill was bored. Our car was bored. We put "Cars" in the DVD player to compare the movie to where we were driving. Yeah, I chalk that up to being educational. I'll take what I can get.

While back home we caught up with friends that were terribly missed these last four plus months. We hit Knott's Berry Farm during their Veteran Appreciation Month (i.e. free and deeply discounted tickets...although they sure made up for it when we paid $52 for burgers and fries for a family of four--OUCH!). We hit the beach. To make it a true So Cal beach time, we went to Rubios for fish tacos, er...or Bill got the fish tacos, I got chicken, and took it to the beach to eat with the salty air complimenting our Southern California meal. The kids searched for seashells while playing in the water. It was so awesome to be home during the freakishly hot heat wave that hit. I think I finally thawed out from all of this cold Denver weather.

And then there was Thanksgiving.

For the last ten years or so we've had a tradition of having dinner at my mom's best friend's place. They've been friends since the early 60s and our families have all grown up and are growing up together albeit here and there and mostly on holidays. The other two kids who were at Thanksgiving this year are Trey and Leah's BEST FRIENDS on Thanksgiving. But only on Thanksgiving. During the rest of the year, they're remembered and are actually more like cousins, but for that one day they are the bees knees. They needed no warming up time, small talk or mindless chit chat before they all ran to the back bedroom and started to play. After about a half an hour I hear Trey cry. Not just a cry like his feelings are hurt but a hyperventilating, oh-my-Lord-I'm-going-to-die cry. Well, Trey tends to be slightly dramatic so I didn't freak out when he started. He ran out of the room holding his mouth. I deduced that he'd somehow been hit. I pulled him into the bathroom and shoved a wad of toilet paper up to his lips to get him to calm down and catch the bloody spit that was starting to accumulate. And then I saw it. Or rather, didn't see it. He'd lost a tooth. Hooray!!! The only way this kid has ever lost a tooth is if someone else extracts it. I'd been nagging him for two months to get that tooth out. Turns out, the other little lady who is just four, was involved in a three person pillow fight with Trey and she accidentally knocked it out. Now, where was the tooth?

I went back in the room to three frightened faces, explained what happened and said, "I have a game for all of you to play!! We're going to play, 'let's find Trey's tooth!'" Yay! They were excited to look for this treasure and I hadn't even offered a prize. Trey was quite the stud for earning a war wound so early in the day.

Trey's Jack-O-lantern smile

Besides three generations of family friends getting together, another great thing about this home is that they have horses. And chickens. And cats. And dogs. At one time there were ducks and a goat, but the coyotes took care of the ducks and the goat went to live with a family that didn't care that he head butt EVERYTHING. The chickens were the main attraction this year since there's a new rooster in the coop named, Favio. Favio the rooster. He's boisterous and loud and thinks pretty highly of himself. Trey got to pet Favio and try to catch the hens while in the coop with my mom's friend. As I walked twenty steps away to get a picture of Leah on Kahlua the Horse, I hear Trey crying again. What now?! Favio attacked Trey. Trey wasn't hurt, just stunned that a rooster tried to eat him.

I proclaimed it a great day for a couple of reasons. 1) To distract Trey from any more crying. 2) It WAS a pretty memorable thing. I mean, who loses a tooth AND gets attacked by poultry in one day? If he was old enough to write a "What I did on my Thanksgiving vacation" I think he'd get an A.

There are two boys at this table. Really.

Two days later, after a week of wearing flip flops and capris it was time to pack up and head back to the Rockies. As soon as that Freak Heat Wave hit, it left again and was replaced by the most torrential rain I've seen in San Diego in probably ten years. It came down in sheets. After goodbyes and a drenched Bill got in the car, we started out the driveway. With rain pouring down the windshield, Bill turned on the wipers. And then one of them came loose and flapped back and forth along the window. We pulled over immediately and my poor hubby braved the rain again to reattach it. And then it happened again. And again. And then both sides came off. It was so random and such bad timing that it was funny. I mean, it could have been sprinkling but no. The streets were starting to flood and the gutters were white and foamy with so much rain pouring into them. Bill pulled into a Wal Mart parking lot after lots of praying for no cars to come near us and Bill drove almost blindly along the drenched roads. Two new blades (even though we just replaced them two weeks ago) and two new Chargers jerseys later and we were finally on our way to New Mexico. He'd wanted to leave at 6am that morning. I told him he was smoking crack and I'd rather leave at 8. With all of the excitement, we didn't get going until 10. ::sigh::

We hit Flagstaff just around the time we needed a hit of Starbucks and pulled over. By the time our coffee was ready and it was time to get back on the road, it started to snow. A ton. It blew in horizontally, towards us. For all non-previous-snow-driving people, it was like the ride Star Tours where you hit warp speed and the stars start stringing by you. Oh yeah, who was driving at this point? Me. The non-previous-snow-driving person. We got to our hotel/house around midnight again and FINALLY made it back to our house Sunday night.

What a funny, unpredictable, wonderful Thanksgiving. Oh what will this Christmas hold? I'm almost afraid to ask.