Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2nd Anniversary

...and this...
... plus this...
...and this...
... equals this...
...and this...
...and this...
...and this.
The above brought to you by this beautiful photographer...
,,,who temporarily handed over her camera to sneak a hug from a handsome young buck.

The equation also equals this...

...and this...

...because getting people to pay attention on a couch to get their picture taken with G&I is quite the humorous undertaking for all involved.

Happy 2 Year Anniversary, to my Silver Fox!  Looking forward to # 12 and # 22 and # 32 and # 42, which may very well take place in a nursing home!

And a BIG thank you to everyone who helped make our day 2 years ago so very special.  We love you all!

Happy New Year to everyone else!  May 2014 be filled with love and laughter and joy and fun and beauty and grace and little ones to remind us what wonder is all about.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Sistas....and Resolutions

The sistas were supposed to get together for lunch today.

But due to stomach flu and coughs and colds and exposure to other illnesses, it didn't work out.  And if we'd had a great year of getting together and cooking regularly throughout 2013, this change in the plan would have been easier to swallow.

I believe I've told you about the sisterhood before, but in case you've forgotten, I will tell you again.

We are made up of my daughter, S, who's pic you have seen on here quite a bit, myself and these two beautiful ladies.

We are work sisters.  We all work for the same company.  And the above pic actually includes two other work sisters, who also work for this same company.  This pic was taken two years ago at S&K's wedding reception, and we all still work for Vi-Jon.  That's pretty cool, if ya think about it.

But the four of us are also cooking sisters.  And I am ashamed to admit that I don't have any pics of the four of us together in my files.  How sad is that???

W, P, S and I used to get together about once every month and cook together.  We did this for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

We even hosted a couple of ladies' teas, which I happen to just love.  But that's right, no pics of the cooking or the food or the teas in my files.  Sista W has some on her FB page, so here is one stolen from her stock of the tea we hosted in 2011...how pretty is this?  Including my daughter in the background?

We'd get together around 3 in the afternoon and cook like crazy, making a mess of every possible dish in W's kitchen and then sit down to feast on everything we had cooked. 

And then, when we had eaten all that we could and had our Emily Post (don't ask why this guest is wearing an eye patch!) or Julia Child reading (what is aspic?) we'd sit around and dream for about 2 minutes about the cleaning staff that was at the ready to clean every one of those dirty dishes. 

But that never happened, so we'd clean those dishes.  And the fine china.  And the crystal.  Cause that is just how Sista W rolls.  If the sistas are coming for dinner, we will eat on pretty dishes. 

And you know what?  We didn't get together once in 2013 and cook.  Not once.  And that is just plain wrong in my book. 

So I am hereby resolved to make a goal of cooking together in 2014.  We may not make 12 times, but dare we shoot for 6? 

And I also resolve to take pics and record these events in 2014.  We even started a blog once, but we weren't faithful to post there, so I will either post on that blog (if we can resurrect it) or here or both, but this is one of my resolutions for 2014.

Now if the sistas can just get and stay healthy enough to agree to help me with this resolution....

Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 Baking Fridays

I'm not thrilled with that name, but I am sort of excited about a plan I've been thinking about for 2014 posts.

As some of you know, I love to bake.  I love to bake cakes. I love to bake pies. I love to bake breads.  I love to bake cookies.  I love to share these baked things with people.  And I love to write and learn.

So I've looked ahead at 2014 and mapped out the Fridays like this:
  • 1st Fridays - Cakes
  • 2nd Fridays - Pies
  • 3rd Fridays - Breads
  • 4th Fridays - Cookies
  • 5th Fridays - A Major Treat
My plan is to bake the treat on Wednesday evening, have a tasting on Thursday at home and work, and post the recipe, pictures and comments on Friday.  My plan is to bake one treat that would fit the next upcoming holiday or for those months that are lean of holidays, I will pick a theme such as the season or birthdays.

Cakes!  They may include layer cakes, cheesecakes, pound cakes, cupcakes, coffee cakes, sponge cakes, sheet cakes, chocolate cakes...Oh the cake possibilities!

Pies!  Fruit pies and cream pies.  Tarts and hand pies.  Savory pies like quiche and chicken pot pie.  Lattice crust pies, because I've finally figured out how to form one easily and beautifully without the mess of picking up the filling underneath.  Even free form pies shaped without a pie pan.  Oh the pie possibilities!

Breads!  We may not often think of breads as festive or celebratory, but they are!  Quick breads and yeast breads.  Loaves and shaped breads.  Rolls both sweet and savory.  Even Irish Soda Bread for a certain holiday in March.  Oh the bread possibilities!

Cookies!  Who doesn't like a cookie?  Amaretti and macarons.  Meringues and gingerbread.  Lemon and murbteig.  Brownies and biscotti.  Oh the cookie possibilities!

I hope you will stop by each Friday next year! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ahhh...The Quiet....

It is the day after Christmas. 

Some people find this day to be sad.  Others find it to be nearly as hectic as the days leading up to Christmas, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Both have been true for me in the past, but not this year. 

This year?  The house is still and quiet.  It is 11:53am, and I am still in my pajamas.  That's right.  I just told you that I am still in my pajamas. 

Worse than that?  For the 3rd day in a row, I haven't left my house.  And it is my hope that I don't have to leave the house today.  (I do believe that I will change out of my pajamas in a little while, but if I can pull it off, I have no plans to go anywhere in a car today.)

When was the last time I didn't leave the house for even a minor errand 3 days straight?  I honestly don't recall.  One day at home is unusual.  Two days at home is remarkable.  Three days is just about unheard of for me.

Now some would be going stir crazy and biting at the bullet to get out and about.  But not me.  I have just enough introvert in me that I actually crave quiet and solitude to recharge, so I am loving this.  G is even away for a couple of days helping a friend paint his new house, so when I say it is quiet, I really mean it.  My daughter, B, and I are the only ones in the house at the moment, and trust me, B, isn't exactly an extrovert herself. 

Speaking of B, here is one of her Christmas gifts...
Can you read it?  It is a Bitstrip that A made up for B.  A drew B's name for Christmas, and she got B a great, new jean jacket from B's Christmas list, but tucked inside each of the pockets where frames of the above Bitstrip, all about how B takes over the world from the privacy of her bedroom and the power of her laptop and dreams!  This is one of my favorite presents given this year. 
Wait...now that I think about it...I have to say that A won "The Best Family Gift Given Christmas 2013" award again for the 3rd year in a row.  How does she do it each year???

There were some good runners up this year, such as...
...the shop vac that Grandma N gave to G.  <insert Tim Allen grunt here>

Or the donation of a heifer to a needy family through Heifer International - where a young cow can provide food and income as well as garden help for a hungry family in poverty.  You can read more about them at www.heifer.org .  J&G gave this in our honor.  I LOVE charitable donations given as Christmas gifts on behalf of someone else!

Or the one toy that J-man got 3 times!  Yes, that's right.  J-man got the same toy 3 times!  It is a little talking stuffed puppy.  Mimi and GG got it for him.  Mommy and Daddy got it for him.  And Nana and Pops got it for him.  Perhaps we should do a better job of coordinating our gift giving?  What can I say?  We're all a bunch of rookies at this! 

Good Christmas.  Here are a few additional pics from the various celebrations this week. 

Sunday @ S&K's
What are you gonna do with a whole bunch of hand kissing, laughter and flirting from the youngest generation to the oldest generation that occurs right as dinner is served? 

Nothin'.  Absolutely nothin'. You wait, cause you realize that this was one of the best moments for the two of them the whole holiday.  The Christmas story can wait.  The prayer can wait.  The food can wait, but moments like this?  Unplanned moments like this?  Those can't wait.  Ever.

Teething boys need cold things like yogurt popsicles to dull the pain...
...but hanging upside down in daddy's arms also helps.

Or check this out!  We are building those walking skills!
J-man with walker

Christmas Eve Open House

How could we clean and prepare for a party without G finding yet another piece of blue confetti from the gender reveal party for J-man on the floor that has been vacuumed multiple times since this event took place in September of 2012?  And G wears glasses why exactly???

The d├ęcor for our hot beverage table - where we served butter pecan coffee or peppermint hot cocoa.  The basket on the right?  Well, here's one closer up...
K might not recognize it, but this is the basket she gave me for Christmas when we were there a few weeks ago that I added a gold ribbon to and used as a favor basket to hold the bags of peppermint cocoa I had ready to give away to anyone who stopped by.  I even used one of the jars from the basket to hold candy canes if anyone wanted to use one in their hot cocoa along with a homemade mint marshmallow or two.  I thought it turned out rather nice!
G prepared this platter.  It isn't Christmas Eve for G without sausage and cheese and crackers and a few mustards.  We will have this for dinner a few times throughout the year, but never to the level of assortments we will share together on Christmas Eve.
These are Pioneer Woman's Sweet and Savory bacon wrapped crackers.  Half are filled with cheese and half are filled with brown sugar.  They are from her Holidays cookbook.  They are good, but I will probably add just a touch of mustard or something like that to give them just a bit more zing the next time I make them.
Best part of the night!  Are you ready for it?  He came!  He really came!  To my front door and while we were still awake!  I believe, I believe, I believe!!

Christmas Day
We served brisket with a copycat version of TGI Friday's Jack Daniel's whiskey glaze, twice-baked potatoes with bacon and cheese, roasted carrots with butter, beef stock and thyme, ambrosia salad and homemade croissants.  YUM!
I didn't do anything spectacular to the brisket, but man was it good!  More than one of us said that we were full but we still wanted another few bites of brisket!  I cut little garlic slots all over the non-fat side and stuffed those slots with slivers of garlic.  Then I seasoned with seasoning salt, pepper, thyme and parsley.
I put some beef stock and soy sauce and Worcestershire in the bottom of a roasting bag along with a few slices of onion for the brisket to rest on. 

I placed it fat side up so that the fat would melt into the meat as it slowly roasted, added a few more onion slices to the top and sealed the bag with a few slits in the top as the box instructs.  (Caution:  I also did a no-no as far as the box is concerned.  It said to not use a turkey sized bag for meats < 8 lbs, but I did it anyway.  Our brisket was a little over 5 lbs, and since all I had were turkey sized bags, I just lived on the wild side and used it.  As PW often says, don't be like me!)
I don't have a pic of the finished roast, but I just let it hang out in a low oven (300 degrees) for about 5 - 6 hours.  Let it rest after pulling it out of the oven and sliced it as thin as I could cross grain.  My mouth waters just thinking about how good this turned out!  Whatever J-man had on his tray, if we laid a bite of brisket down, that's what he went for!
I will end this lengthy tome of a DD with a cute pic of J-man.  Seeing all of the family and the four precious grandsons was truly the best part of Christmas.  Does it get much better than being around the wonder and joy of little ones?
I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all the people...
For unto you is born this day...
A Savior...
Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill towards men...
..in both the loud shouts of the heavenly host and the quiet reflection of wonder and goodness.
Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Story Time with Deb...Chapter 5

It's Christmas Eve!  Merry Christmas Eve!  I hope you have wonderful plans for the next couple of days, filled with family and friends and maybe a surprise gift or two!

Below is the final chapter in the advent-like story I've posted this month. 

This was Chapter 1 from the first Sunday three weeks ago.

And this was Chapter 2 from two weeks ago.

And this was Chapter 3 from one week ago.

And then Chapter 4 from a couple of days ago. 

Which takes us to Chapter 5...

Chapter 5

Back in the palace, King Nascious and Prince Reed looked at each other a long time.

“We gotta bring ‘em back,” King Nascious said quietly.

“I agree.”

“And the price is high,” added the King.

“I know.  I’ll pay it,” said Prince Reed.  “I love ‘em as much as you do.”

A tear escaped King Nascious’ eye and rolled down his cheek.

“We said that this might happen a long time ago,” Prince Reed added.

“Yes. Yes, we did,” King Nascious agreed.

“When?” asked the Prince.

“Soon enough,” replied the King.

Many years passed.  Iain and Ofelia grew up and had many children.  They also died, just as King Nascious had told them they would.  They never did return to the palace, but just like King Nascious had said, they never forgot about it.  They told their children about the palace, and their children told their children. 

They always hoped they would find that wonderful life again.  Oh, they had glimpses of it.  Every time they played music or every time they went swimming on a glorious summer day, they would remember, but it was never quite the same…never quite as good as when they had been living in the palace.  They made homes for themselves, but no home ever felt like their first home.

And one day, after a very long time, King Nascious came to Prince Reed and said, “It’s time.”

“I’m still ready,” Prince Reed replied. 

“You know you’ll have to leave this way of life and become one of them, right?”

“I know,” Prince Reed said.  “I’m ok with that.  They are worth it.”

And so Prince Reed also left the palace and joined the world outside of the palace – the world where Iain and Ofelia lived after they had left.  Prince Reed even became a baby, raised by one of Ofelia’s great-great-great-granddaughters, too many greats to count at this point in the story.  He had a different name then, because he didn’t want people to see him as a prince.  He wanted everyone to know him like a friend, like a brother.  So his name was Broman in their world.

King Nascious was so happy that Broman had become a baby that the King put a special, bright star in the sky to show everyone where they could find little Broman, because most everyone loves to meet new babies and hold them and coo over them and listen to them laugh.  Babies are just such a great way for people to start!  The King even had a large, bright choir appear from the sky break out in song for some of the people to hear that Broman had been born!

Broman grew up and he met up with Slick from time to time.  Not as friends, you understand, but they would meet up and talk, because Slick didn’t want Broman to ever bring Iain and Ofelia back to the palace, back home.  Slick would try to trick Broman just like he’d tricked Iain and Ofelia so long ago, but Broman knew every one of Slick’s tricks, so he didn’t fall for them.  Slick even went so far as to trap Broman and have him arrested!

Slick told the police to beat up Broman, and so they did.  Slick told the judges that Broman was bad, but the judges couldn’t prove it.  Slick got a bunch of people so upset that they started to demand that Broman be killed.  People made up lies about him, and even his friends couldn’t stop what was happening.  Slick was so happy to see all of his tricks working this time!  He was really going to win, he just knew it!

If Broman was like you or like me, he would have fought back.  He would have told lies about the people who were telling lies about him.  He would have tried to point out the lies and hire lawyers to tell everyone what was true.

But Broman wasn’t like you or me in that way.  Broman was very sad about everything that was happening to him, but he didn’t fight back like we would have.  He was very quiet and didn’t say hardly anything – at least not anything that could have stopped Slick’s plan from working.

And sure enough, Broman did die.   A very cruel death, the worst kind of death anyone could ever imagine, but that is a story for another time.

But Broman wasn’t just Broman.  He was still Prince Reed!  And he still had King Nascious’ dream in mind.  So while I know this is very hard to believe, Broman actually came back to life!  By doing so, he dealt that fatal blow to Slick that King Nascious had said would happen so long ago. 

Slick’s victory was very short-lived.

And you know what?  King Nascious and Prince Reed’s plan worked.  Iain and Ofelia got to return to the palace – to go back home!  Along with lots of other people!  The palace was big enough for everyone, and was more fun than ever since lots and lots of people were there.  And lots of slides were in lots of closets for riding from room to room whenever they wanted to write music or play basketball or go swimming or ice skating or enjoy a bite to eat from the kitchen. 

And this made King Nascious and Prince Reed very, very happy, too.  This was now the happiest day Iain and Ofelia had ever known.  It was the happiest day ever.

The End

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Cookies!

We had a couple of Christmas celebrations already that I will share very briefly about before I share a bit about our Christmas cookies.

First we went to Christmas Eve service Saturday afternoon.  Yes, I know, it wasn't Christmas Eve on Saturday, but the church where S&A serve and lead in worship need to offer multiple service dates, times and locations in order to safely and meaningfully give as many people as possible a place to worship and celebrate the gift of the Christ child.  It was great that A was able to join us after her responsibilities were done for that service, and it was great to worship with B, and S&K and see little J-man afterwards.  Felt like Christmas!

And then yesterday we got together at S&K's for dinner and gifts and games.  Here are a few pics of their table. 
A couple of close ups...
Know what her napkin ring is?  A little dollar store ornament (as in a dozen of 'em for $1) attached to a napkin using a clean hair band.  Ingenious, huh?

Or how about this ingeniousness?
Wrapping paper that K cut down to size with a table saw plus a bowl of silver ornaments.
I tell ya what!  Between E's Christmas table last weekend and S's table yesterday, the bar has been raised mighty high for this old gal to live up to for Christmas Eve Open House and Christmas Day!  Hopefully I have learned a trick or two from these young pinnin' ladies!
Now for a glimpse of our Christmas cookies. 
Thursday after work, we put these four Christmas doughs together:
  • Gingerbread cookies by King Arthur Flour because it just isn't Christmas without gingerbread!
  • Sugar cookies using this chocolate chip cookie recipe with two modifications - no chocolate chips and increasing the flour to 3 cups so that the dough is strong enough for cutout cookies.  See my youngest, B, says that she likes the dough for chocolate chip cookies, better than she likes normal sugar cookie dough, but she never wants the chocolate chips part.  So whenever I make chocolate chip cookies for G, I will reserve a bit of dough to make a few plain cookies for B without chips.  I think it is the brown sugar in the dough that she likes, so I basically made a brown sugar cutout sugar cookie dough.  Did any of that make sense?
  • Peanut blossom cookies just like this Land O' Lakes recipe, but with one change - or really two changes.  I am not a Hershey kisses fan, so we make them with Dove chocolates - milk for the folks who like milk chocolate and dark chocolate with almonds for the folks who like dark like S&A do. 
  • Oatmeal cookies because they are the favorite of my son, D.
And Friday after work, we baked 3 of these doughs (all but the oatmeal, because we like drop cookies baked as close to eating as possible). 
Sugar before...
and Sugar after...
Let's get a close up on those 3 on the right...
BIG, right?
Remember this post that included coloring Santa faces?  THOSE are the cookies that cutter made! 

Crazy big!  But they did turn out kinda cute when all finished...
But back to baking....like gingerbread boys...

...including littler ones just about the right size for J-man's hands.  And here they are all dressed up!
Gingerbread boys just make me smile!
And here are some of the peanut butter blossoms our way...
Ooey-gooey melty chocolateness but the Dove logo is still visible...

We have snowflakes...
...and ornaments...
...both pics being photo bombed by gingerbread boys!  How dare those boys?!  Ha-ha!  I told you that gingerbread boys made me smile!
And here's the collection all together!
Not sure who will eat a Santa over the next couple of days, but we will see!  1 hour to Christmas Eve!
Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Story Time with Deb - Chapter 4

This was Chapter 1 from three weeks ago.

And this was Chapter 2 from two weeks ago.

And this was Chapter 3 from last week.

Today is time for Chapter 4, and I will post the 5th and final chapter on Christmas Eve. 

Chapter 4

Iain and Ofelia left the room as quickly as they had entered, closing the door behind them, and hoping that King Nascious and Prince Reed would never find out that they had opened it.  They looked down at themselves.  For the first time ever, their clothes were dirty.  Worse than that, their clothes smelled, just like inside that room.  They didn’t want to run into King Nascious or Prince Reed like this!   King Nascious was always clean and made sure they were always clean, too.

What to do?  Perhaps they could clean their clothes and get rid of that smell before anyone else knew what had happened. 

The pool!  As fast as they could, Iain and Ofelia headed to the nearest pool, the indoor one.  They quickly jumped in and began scrubbing their clothes.  Was it working?  It looked promising.  Or was the water distorting their view?

Iain stepped out of the pool first to check.  “What do you think, Ofelia?” he asked.

Ofelia looked long and hard at Iain, but their idea hadn’t worked.  His clothes were still dirty, and he still smelled.

“What if we tried the outdoor pool?” Ofelia suggested.  “Maybe the fresh air will help.”

“Yes!  That’s a great idea, Ofelia!” Iain said.  And so off they ran to the outdoor pool, jumping in head first as soon as they got there, skipping the fun water slide for the first time ever.

Again they scrubbed.  And scrubbed again.  And scrubbed some more.  This time Ofelia got out so Iain could take a look.

Still no luck.  Iain shook his head sadly.  The dirt hadn’t gone anywhere and the smell was as bad as ever.

All of a sudden they heard King Nascious nearby.  “Iain?  Ofelia?”called King Nascious.

Oh no!  They didn’t want the King to see them like this. Or smell them either.

“I know,” Iain said.  “Let’s go get some new clothes from our closets.  Quick before the King finds us here!”

Off they ran to their bedrooms to change clothes as fast as possible and then head back to the outdoor pool.  They got back to the pool at just the same time as King Nascious.

“Iain!  Ofelia!  There you are!  I’ve been looking for you!” King Nascious greeted them with his arms wide open.

Except the King stopped short.  A look of deep sadness came over his face.

“Why are your clothes so dirty?” he asked.  “And what is that smell?”

Iain and Ofelia looked down at their new clothes.  And even though they had changed, these clothes were just as dirty as the ones they had been wearing inside That Room.  

That Room.  It would forever be known to them as That Room.  That Room That Changed Everything.

The two couldn’t even lift their eyes to look up at King Nascious. 

“Did the two of you go into the room I said you should stay out of?” King Nascious quietly asked.

Iain quickly piped up, “Ofelia went in first!”

King Nascious looked at Ofelia.  “Would you like to tell me about it, Ofelia?”

“An old friend of yours – a former servant, he said…Slick was his name, he tricked us!” she replied. 

Suddenly Slick came up beside them on the pool deck.  King Nascious turned his attention to Slick.  “Slick, you’ve been banished from here before.  We aren’t old friends, and you know it!  From now on, you won’t be friends with Ofelia or any of her children either.”  King Nascious continued, “But just you wait!  You may think you’ll beat me.  It may even look like it from time to time, but one of Ofelia’s children will deal your fatal blow.” 

Slick slithered away but his pride remained intact.  He had accomplished what he’d set out to do.

King Nascious then returned his attention to Iain and Ofelia.  The look of sadness on his face was more than they could bear.  It wasn’t anger.  It was sadness.  Disappointment.  Compassion.  Love.

“Let me get you some new clothes, but then you have to leave the palace.  Life won’t be as easy outside the palace, and you’ll always long to come back.  You will have to work now.  I will miss our time together.”

As gently as possible, King Nascious gave them new clothes and some provisions for their journey from the palace, instructing them on how to make it outside the palace, what to watch out for, where to find seeds, trying to pack as much information as possible in the little time they had left together. 

But soon Iain and Ofelia were at the palace door.  They took one last, long look around, hoping against hope that the King would change his mind.  Prince Reed was at the door, too.  They looked to him for help, but their fate didn’t change.  They were on the porch, and the door closed behind them.

Closed.  And locked. 

So they turned their faces to the grounds surrounding the palace.  And even that had changed.  No longer were the colors as vibrant.  No longer were the trees as full of fruit.  No longer were they free to enjoy the palace grounds. 

It was the saddest day Iain and Ofelia had ever known.  It was the saddest day ever.