Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Week in Review

Hold onto your Santa hats. I am about to take you through a mad dash through our Christmas week. 

5th Annual Cookie Frenzy 

We crowded our little kitchen with family and friends and baked up a storm. My niece had three of her friends come over with her - 13 year old girls are a funny bunch :) 

Our Pinterest Cookie of the Year was the Hot Chocolate Cookie Cups. I like to include a fun new structured cookie with our old favorites. We started with sugar cookie dough baked in mini muffin pans. After baking, the centers collapse to create a well to fill with the chocolate.
My father-in-law (the carpenter) was tasked with making the handles from pretzels. I don't think he was joking when he said we should have given him the pretzels in advance and he would have cut them on his band saw at his shop.  The "foredog"waited patiently to do quality control.
Here is the finished product product. A sugar cookie filled with chocolate ganache topped with mini-marshmallows - what could be bad about that??
Another new recipe we tried was the Frosted Peppermint Brownie Cookies. They were a hit!
Then on to the old standbys, including Cornflake Wreaths (basically a Rice Krispie Treat made with Cornflakes and shaped into wreaths). My nephew arrived after his wrestling practice and we put him to sticky work. (Nephew Brag - He is currently ranked 6th in the state in his wrestling weight class).
And of course with my nephew on the scene, something like this is bound to happen.  There is nothing my husband likes less than "sticky". He is the best sport :)
One of my all time favorites is Peppernuts. I got the recipe from a Mennonite friend a zillion years ago. When baked they end up looking like dog kibble, but I love them. They are are flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts and raisins.The are not super sweet unlike the rest of the cookies we made.
My husband's favorite is the Linzer Cookies. I love how pretty they are.
My niece hung out with us, but the only baking she did was finishing up her little bun  - set to arrive a few days after Christmas.
The fruits (cookies) of our labor. As always, people took home samples and the rest went to our various Christmas get togethers. One thing I did this year that turned out well. I picked up some cute containers, which I gave to my husband's aunts and grandma. We had them divvy up the cookies to take home. That way they took only what they liked in the amount they wanted. 

Secret Santa

One of my favorites things this Christmas season was our Secret Santa exchange with my Lovely Ladies Group. We mailed packages to our person and opened them all on the same day. It was so much fun shopping and then seeing what everyone received. There are some very creative and fun ladies across this country of ours.  My gifts arrived from Mary at Runs to Get Waisted. I could barely wait to tear of the packaging.
Homemade vanilla extract - it still needs a couple weeks to steep, but I am super excited to try it - it smells amaing already. Big Foot bandaids - how fun - is it bad that I am eager to use them - I might give up and fake an injury :)  Finally, an Oregon shaped cheese board - Mary knows how we love our cheese. Such a lovely gift from the Pacific Northwest.

Last Minute Christmas Shopping

I got a late start on my Christmas shopping this year, but was mostly done a few days before Christmas. There were just a couple things I needed to grab Christmas Eve morning. Looks like some serious price gouging on some boxes :)
I went super early to avoid the crowds and parked away from the store to protect the new car. I was not too excited when it started to pour while I was in the store. But at least our pretty white car didn't sustain any hurried shopper dings on my watch.
There were a few things I didn't buy....  Although this mug did remind me of a couple people :)
 I might still have some remorse for not bringing this home...for myself.
I was slightly traumatized by this toy. It reminded me of my husband and I driving down the highway when we passed a livestock truck. I burst out crying when I saw all those piggy faces. My poor husband could not pass that truck fast enough!  I admit I enjoy eating meat - I just can't see its face first :(

Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt

A new activity we tried this year was a Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt. We like to do scavenger hunts on road trips so it seemed like a must do. I printed this list here.
We had a good time...and Aunt Anna loses another game. The only complaint about this scavenger hunt was that it got pretty intense trying to find everything. It was easy to forget to enjoy the lights.

Millie was less than thrilled with my attempt to make her festive. But that is what dogs are for, right?

Christmas Morning.

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake is a must for Christmas morning. These are fresh out of the oven. Later they are drizzled with icing.  Other Christmas morning must haves are Monkey Bread and a Hash Brown Egg Casserole with Christmas Eve ham cooked in the crockpot overnight. 

Millie and Zommie had a stuffed stocking. I know the toys won't last long, but couldn't resist.
Millie got a new bed. I hopeful that she has outgrown chewing and won't eat it like she did the last one. She loves her giant tennis ball.
A few minutes later....
 The next day....

Stocking Stuffers

My husband and I just bought a new car a couple weeks ago. We agreed to just fill a stocking for each other instead of exchanging big gifts.

My husband took the stocking to a whole new level. He put a few things in the stocking the day before Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas morning the whole stocking was gone...replaced by a note that lead me on a scavenger hunt that included clues and small gifts. I loved everything about it!  I didn't even mind when he said he got the jacket cause it would be "good for exercise" :)
Eventually. I found the stocking-stealing culprit in the cabinet...The Grinch. Incidentally, the Grinch is a pair of cozy PJ pants (I am going to have to do well on my New Year's Resolutions to make them a better fit though for next year.)
In addition to the piggy slippers I got on my stocking scavenger hunt, I got these cute piggy slippers from my sister. This was the year of the slipper. I think our new floors gave some people ideas that I would have cold tootsies this winter. I got a third pair of slippers (not pigs) from my MIL.

Stikbot Invasion

I found these little poseable figures and gave them to my husband, niece, and nephews. I was a little disappointed in their suction cups, but we have already had tons of fun sending each other crazy pictures. There is a social media app element, but we have stuck to texting and Snapchat to send pictures to each other.
I confess, I was a little disturbed when we got this Snapchat. My niece got all the way to the bedroom taking pictures throughout the house along the way.  Meanwhile, our "guard dog" said absolutely nothing until she finally noticed my niece at the bedroom door.
My niece and her husband gave us a movie gift card. So we did what any nerds would do spent a rainy afternoon watching Star Wars The Force Awakens again :)
Christmas was a gorgeous sunny non-wintry day. Millie took her ball to the farm to play with her new friend, Buddy. Neighbors of my in-laws found this beautiful pup out in the country. They couldn't find the owner - maybe it was dumped like so many dogs before it. The neighbors didn't want it and now it has a great home at the farm :)
After the fantastic weather Friday came the rain...and more rain. In 48 hours we got about 10 inches of rain. My sister's basement flooded. We left there at 2 a.m. Sunday and went back Sunday afternoon to tear out their carpet. The floor was dry when they went to bed Sunday night. Then by Monday morning they had a couple more inches of new water. What a mess!  Did I mention they have company from out of town and my sister's first grandchild will be born tomorrow??

I did a few minutes on hose duty...basically enough for the picture :)  I tried mostly to be moral support and the guys did the heavy lifting.
I opted to use a vacation day Monday, since I wasn't sure the best way to get to work. This was one of my options...not a good one. Yikes!
Thankfully, the rain has stopped. We are near the Mississippi River, which is expected to crest on Thursday at 39 feet. That is the highest since the record setting flood of 1993. It sounds like the flood gates will be closed tomorrow morning and hopefully, the levees will hold. Our house wouldn't be impacted by river flooding, but I worry for others in our community. Additionally, the temperatures will be dropping into the 20s making it even more miserable :(

So, that is Christmas week. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. In the next few days, I need to finalize my New Year's goals.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Prep

The other day I decided to rent some Christmas movies. Love Actually was recommended repeatedly. When I went to the shelf I found this in its spot.
And sure enough...I found it here.
Guess where I found this movie.....
Turns out Die Hard is NOT a Christmas movie. Case closed. Incidentally, the movie was checked out. My husband insists that is because it IS Christmastime and it is IS a Christmas movie.
Saturday my niece came over to hangout. We made several batches of goodies for her freezer. I decided to focus on breakfast items this time. Who doesn't love breakfast anytime of the day, right?  And that might come in handy if baby gets her days/nights reversed :)

We were super focused and I apologize for only taking a couple pictures (bad blogger!) as we worked. I also don't have the recipe links with me and wanted to get this posted. I will edit it later tonight with the recipes links I am missing (please come back if you want them).

We made a ham and veggie strata. It was super simple to assemble. I was intrigued by using croutons as the bread component. Once assembled simply package for the freezer. When ready to use, thaw in fridge overnight and bake in the morning.
We made this Taco Sweet Potato and Spinach Egg Bake. The sweet potato is shredded into the egg mixture. You bake this recipe and then store in the freezer to be reheated when ready to eat it. My husband was excited that it looked super cheesy, until he learned the sweet potato truth :(  I had a piece for breakfast this morning - it was tasty and I am glad I only used half the taco seasoning. Full disclosure - I had it with a side of chocolate chip is Christmas week.
We also made a batch of pumpkin/cranberry muffins.  They are made with applesauce and Greek yogurt. They smelled so good while they were cooking. They were good, but a little plain. I would have liked more cranberries. Unfortunately, there was a cranberry shopping debacle. I had gone to the store early Saturday morning to avoid the rush. By the time we were making the muffins in the afternoon, I realized I had "lost" the cranberries I bought. Turns out I left a whoe bag of stuff at Walmart :(  We made due with the cranberries I had on hand. (And I retrieved the "lost" items later that evening.)

We also made French Toast Casserole. I didn't take any pictures because we were so distracted by how delicious it smelled while we were assembling. Cinnamon, I love you!  I wanted to keep one of the containers for myself, but I didn't. I will have to wait until my niece reviews it for me or make a batch for dinner tonight.

We wrote instructions with a Sharpie on the pans' cardboard lids, then put the pans in freezer bags.  (Thank you Mary for that tip.) Seven meals plus muffins...a good afternoon's work.

After our meal prep frenzy we took a little walk. We were hoping to get her labor moving. I went walking with my sister on the days both of her younger children were born. My labor charms didn't work this time.
I think she looks great for nine months pregnant. And those are the longest legs ever!
Another adorable inflatable.

Ornament collection continued....

I love these cinnamon ornaments. They are made with cinnamon and applesauce. I've made them a couple of times over the years. This one is several years old and still smells like the day we made it.
Millie's first Christmas ornament. And is that Hermie I see in the background? "I want to be a dentist!"
The bell is one of my grandma's ornaments. I bought the arrow a couple of years ago to remind me that my Eagle Scout husband is a member of Order of the Arrow. And who doesn't need a pink bulldog in a stocking??
I bought this guy years ago at a craft show. A local high school has an enormous craft show every December to benefit their band program.
My niece made this "stick guy for a us." He is about a foot tall and always has to be one of the last ones on the tree.
I have three of these little guys - different colors and animals. I bought them at a Hispanic festival about 15 years ago.
I made several of these snowflakes during my beading phase. Every time I get them out I want to start beading again.
Another pipe cleaner creation. The traditional Christmas Bunny :)
This little windmill honors my Dutch heritage...there are a pair of little wooden shoes somewhere on the tree too - wait maybe they are on the other tree.
My sister gave me this little toy dachshund.  The crystal in the back is from a chandelier.
Another beaded snowflake.
My niece and I found this one at a yard sale for 5 cents. Somebody put way more than 5 cents of work into it.
I made this cinnamon ornament about 20 years ago...and yes it still smells delicious.
I bought this ornament on a fun vacation to Lexington Kentucky about 10 years ago. I took my niece who was 11 at the was the perfect horse crazy girl vacay :)  My MIL loves the Secretariat movie and covets this ornament every year. I want to buy her one, but they are $50+ on eBay...and I am a bit too selfish to give her mine :(
What can you say about a singing Kermie?? 
I bought this ornament about 20 years ago - one of my first.  My oldest sister sold Avon for awhile.  They had such cute Christmas ornaments and this one remains a favorite. 
Tomorrow is our 5th Annual Cookie Frenzy. We invite family over to make all sorts of cookies. I also need to decide on dishes for our 3 Christmas get togethers.  There is a serious grocery list to be made and executed tonight. I better get busy on those decisions. What is left on your before Christmas to-do list?