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Archive for December, 2008

Our first “Christmas” is today, my parents and sisters.  From there we have four more (ours, Forest’s parents, my dad’s mom, and my mom’s parent’s.)  Each stop will be a sugar-induced wonderland.  How do I cope with one who really needs to limit the sugar?  It’s all of us really.  I am in the processes of losing some weight and toning up.  The girls, all of them, do not need to get hyped up on sugar day after day for the next few days.  In fact, I like the fact that they will refuse some things as being “too sweet” as it just isn’t good for you.  Self control around sweets is not something I have a lot of, I’m hoping they learn better than I. 

So how do we do it?

First, I try to bring foods that will be healthier options.  Boring, I know, but we are talking survival here.  Were I to let Jane loose during the holidays it would be a good weeks worth of misery afterwards.   Most places have relish trays, cheese, fruit platters, and if I am lucky I can convince people to keep some of the meatballs out of the sauce for her.   My “contribution” to my mom’s this year was stuffed mushrooms (she ended up making them hence the ” “.) Dad helped along with some potato skins, go dad! Mind you there will still be cookies, ice cream, pies, punch, glazed wings, dips of all sorts, Chex Mix enough to drown in, and candy…lots of candy.  At least I can try to fill them up on the good stuff first.

That is the second rule, a plate of good food first, then the fun foods.  I really try to not make food the enemy.  Some foods are fun foods…fun for special occasions.  Living in America it can not be avoided, but I try to be honest with my girls about what they eat and how it affects their bodies…all of them, not just Jane who has very visible affects from it.   You see, while Jane may get spacey and hyped-up (easy to see) the others are still affected by excess sugar and refined foods.

On Christmas Day will be three separate get togethers.  I can not avoid the sugar this day as we’ll be lucky to all make it to each place let alone me take a mountain of food to each place (one is at my house and a “safe” meal.)  So Christmas Day is the day I will not stress about it.  After they eat a plate of healthier options, sweets it is.  The day after Christmas we will likely be regretting it, but oh well…you have to live a little.  Plus, in my experience, the older two will comment the next day on how yucky they feel after eating all that “yummy junky” food.

I finished up all my gifts I made, right before this post, actually.  I had to take a couple days from blogging to get it done.  My time has been stretched so tight.  There are a couple gifts I didn’t post because the people I made them for might be reading and I hate to ruin the surprise!  I’ll try to catch photos of gifts after they are given.  The tally for this year’s homemade gifts is:

32!

I’m patting my own back on this one.  It saved us money and I was able to spend time doing something I enjoy.  Mind you, 7 of those were goodie boxes of cookies, candy, etc.   I enjoyed it so much that next year I plan on doing the same thing with a little more prep.  Most of what we (the girls helped, I can not take all the credit) made was from materials we already had around the house.  And the best part, wrapping.  I love wrapping presents!  My oldest is proving to be quite the wrapper as well. 

I hope you are all settling in with family for a week spent with loved ones.  If I do not post before then, Merry Christmas to you one and all from one truly blessed mama!

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Honesty

I wake up this morning and re-read my last post.  Well, at least I was honest with myself…whining!

And, seeing as how it is a new day with arms that can be raised over my head I feel like I have to post a new post.  I would hate for that to be the first thing people read!

Speaking of honesty.  Why is it that two-year olds are brutally honest.  I mean BRUTALLY.  I made supper the other night and was feeding the twins…technically they feed themselves, but you get it.  I asked Brie is it was yummy and she just slowly shook her head no as she chewed.  No apology, no shyness about it.  Just steady chewing and a deffinite no.

Another example.  I’ll come out dressed for church (that is something besides my standard jeans and happens about once every month or two.)  I ask if I look okay and get CeeCee looking me up and down.  “no, mommy, I no like.”

Ha!  The honesty of a two year old.  They don’t yet know to keep things to themselves in order to be polite.  I find it rather refreshing, really.   Now the older two have learned the little dance.  They try so hard to put it in a constructive way that I look ridiculous in what I put on or that supper is very nutritious.  It’s just about as entertaining. 

Then there is Forest who just will say his standard “it’ ok” with a shrug.

Well, that was enough about nothing, wasn’t it.  Hope everyone has a wonderful start to the weekend and manages to avoid some of this ice (or snow if that be your case.)  Time is ticking, Christmas is coming.  Have you taken time to reflect on Christ’s birth, to spend or plan time with family?  Be honest, I admit that all the gifts, cooking, and decor can get in the way.  Not this year…not for me.

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whining

I went to my first Yoga class yesterday

ouch.

I went in knowing I was out of shape and thinking Yoga could help lower my stress levels and maybe tone me a bit.  Let’s just say I was equally surprised at how out of shape I really am as I was surprised at how intense Yoga can be.  I’ll update on how the class is helping in a month or so as I know it can’t hurt…well it can, better said “it can only help!”

Still lots to do for Christmas.  Tomorrow is the annual Christmas photo at Grandma’s favorite studio…an hour and a half away…after an all night ice storm.  Yeah, we’ll see if that happens.  I hope it does as they do good pics there and Grandma is hard to buy for.

I’m grumpy at myself.  All those goodies I made are gone.  No, I didn’t eat them Deb (you know you were thinking that!)  I froze some, sent lots off to family, and the rest are safely hidden at my moms.  I’m really serious about getting into shape, not just maintaining my sad shape.  The reason I am grumpy, I wish I had one little Eggnog cookie…I’ll get over it.

Busy weekend ahead.  Photos tomorrow, swim meet and working Saturday, Sunday is finish all projects day, Monday is wrapped what’s done, and Tuesday starts the Christmas get-togethers for us.  It will be nice to relax from Tuesday on knowing it’s all done and time to enjoy family.  Just have to make it to Tuesday and hope that I can raise my arms above my head tomorrow.

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I have really enjoyed making gifts this year.  Last year the twins really kept me on my toes.  They were 18 months and into everything.  They still are into everything, but at least they play better now and can be re-directed.  I spent every bit I had in me last year trying to do what I could with the older two to keep it as normal a Christmas as I could.  You see, the Christmas before I was not even home and had not been home for a good while.  You can read more about that here, but the main idea is that my husband and older two were at home (day #25 without my girls!) and the twins and I were in government limbo over in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Needless to say, to be able to craft and bake this year is not only something I love to do, but and extra special treat as well! 

A blog I like to go to, Sew Mama Sew, is collecting posts of how people celebrate.  What their traditions are, if they craft anything, and in general how they celebrate.   I already posted about the traditions in our house here.  Today, I’m going to compile a bit of the craftiness that has been going on.  This year we didn’t want to not give presents to our loved ones, but things were tight when we looked at the budget.  Enter my love of crafting.  I’ve enjoyed making several gifts this year and adding some baking on top of that.

The most recent project as been the above roving.  We layered some wisps of it, felted it, and the girls are helping me sew them into this:

With all the colors you can find wool roving in what is not to love!   The instructions can be found here.  It takes a bit of time, though is fairly easy.  The older two and I have been working on them together and they will be gifts from them to some very special people.

About a month ago I posted about these projects:

If I had the time, I would have loved to make these houses  over at The Long Thread.  Please go check them out, it’s worth the click.  They are simple, but oh so nice and I’m betting very sparkly.  I have to wonder what they would look like in soft pastel colors or even a combo (pink and robin egg blue with white.) 

The other projects still on my list are an old fashion, black fur with red satin lining muff for each of the twins.  They love anything with a pocket and really like soft, furry things.  In fact, anything soft and furry (the trim on their coats) is promptly designated “soft kitty” (as in soft as a kitty.)  I also need to finish up 4 more of those wristlets (they are almost done.)

A new item on my list, well it’s not even on there yet, is tree ornaments.  My older two are wanting to make some tree ornaments for their friends.  Any suggestions, anyone?  Something that a 7 and 8 year old can do without too much help?

Yesterday,  I wrote about my adventures in baking with the girls and my mom.  Here’s a photo of those Eggnog Logs…silly name, tasty cookie:

Here’s an old photo of my truffles, this years are not decorated yet


And seeing as these boxes are going to my brothers-in-law, I wanted to include a bit of “man” food.  Don’t get me wrong, I like jerky and Chex Mix as much as anyone else.  You have to admit, though, a photo of this

just isn’t as appealing as the rest of this post!

In fact, it is so unappealing that I can not end my post with a tray of raw, albeit seasoned and soon to be tasty, beef.   Here’s a better one, one that makes me smile.  Every mom likes to catch a picture of her kids with Santa.  This guy was the real deal, just ask Liz and Jane.  Thankfully, even the twins were more than happy to oblige:

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This morning I am no longer finding sticky spots on arms and icing hanging from my kids’ mouths.  I have recovered from the overt amount of sugar I consumed (not much in the grand scheme, but more than I am accustomed to.)  Aside from jerky and granola, these are not commonly consumed items in our house.  We honestly believe that processed sugar is not good for you and we eat it sparingly.  At the holidays I try to have alternatives available for the girls.  One example of our “healthier” (though still very sweet and not a common treat) cookie would be these:

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies 

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (we use the natural kind that is only peanuts and salt, it makes a difference in the final product)
  • 1/2 cup Rapadura
  • 2 eggs, beaten

That’s it.  Just mix it all together and bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.  Easy as can be and not my original recipe, though I have no idea where it has come from.  Still, though, look at the sugar to other ingredients ratio…not the best.  If you are wanting better check out THIS post from The Nourishing Gourmet.  She is having a nourishing sweets and treats carnival today and I know there will be a bunch of great recipes that I will try for the holidays.  You see, when it gets to this part, I’m tuckered out.  I’ve planned meals, homeschooled the kids, tried to keep order in the house, and taken care of family.  When it comes to making more desserts, changing recipes around with healthier ingredients takes so much time and often wastes food supplies.  It’s just not something that I am in a position to do right now.  Kudos to you ladies that will post all your tasty findings!

Back to what we baked yesterday.  These will go in boxes sent to family, they will be served at my parents’ restaurant (minus the one’s my kids did…those are kept separate), and will be served to family as they visit for the holidays.  I started a batch of jerky…not your common Christmas baking item, I know, but I am sending boxes to a couple brother’s-in-law.   It will still need to dry.  I am also planning to make a huge batch of granola.  It takes about three days to make and I’m procrastinating…just being honest.  If anyone would like recipes other than the healthier two I linked to, please comment.

obliviouse to the choloate dripping from her face

holding her favorite recipe, obliviouse to the chocolate dripping down her chin

The first recipe I attacked was Liz’s favorite, Chewy Chocolate Cookies.  A chocolate cookie with oats and chocolate chips that is drizzled or dipped in white chocolate.  A very rich, sweet cookie.  They also are fairly easy to make and look very pretty on cookie trays.

awaiting their white chocolate drizzle...I need a baking rack like this, yes?

awaiting their white chocolate drizzle...I need a baking rack like this, yes?

We also helped mom with the old standard, sugar cookies.

Liz and Jane creating their masterpieces

Liz and Jane creating their masterpieces

Iced of course

CeeCee illustrates why the girls cookies were kept separate

CeeCee illustrates why the girls' cookies were kept separate

And sprinkled

Brie being very careful with the sprinkles

Brie being very careful with the sprinkles

We also baked a few date-nut pinwheels.  This is the one recipe that I think I could alter to be a bit healthier.  They are a brown-sugar cookie dough (fairly dry) that is rolled flat, spread with a date-nut filling, rolled and sliced for baking.  I am lacking of picture of these, sorry about that.  The first batch mom made the other day she tripled, but didn’t triple the sugar.  To me they taste better (don’t tell mom or grandma!)  This is why I am thinking I could alter them and still be please with the flavor.  Can you imagine, an old family favorite with 1/3 the sugar tasting good…shoot, it could be even better with the natural sweeteners.  Ok, I have now convinced myself to get the recipe written down and see what I can do with it.

I mentioned my truffles the other day, they are rolled and awaiting a dip in chocolate and drizzle of prettiness. 

This mixer is currently cranking out a quadruple batch of Eggnog Log dough with the easy of melted butter...I need one of these too!

This mixer is currently cranking out a quadruple batch of Eggnog Log dough with the easy of melted butter...I need one of these too!

Another half-finished item is a quadruple batch of Eggnog Logs in the fridge waiting to be rolled out and baked.  These are a buttery little cookie that is frosted with a sweet butter-rum icing and topped with fresh nutmeg.  I’ll be sure to post pics of all the final products when they are, well, finished.

Oh and how could I forget Forest’s Chex Mix?  It’s a Christmas standard.  He usually makes about 6 batches for my mom.

This was all done at my parent’s restaurant.  With all those dozens of cookie sheets, 3 ovens, baking racks, endless measuring spoons and spatulas I should be able to get it all done, right?  Please consider my road-blocks, so to say:

  • four little girls running loose in a business
  • four little girls wanting to “help”
  • my dad needing to make 50 or so pies to feed a local factory their Christmas dinner this week (oven hog…just kidding dad, I know we were in your way!)
  • Chex Mix takes a long time and the whole convection oven
  • still needing to eat meals, potty breaks, etc.

It was a full day, I wish I had finished more, but in the end all I have left is to dip truffles, baked the Eggnog Logs, and get started on my granola.  Not a bad deal considering all that we got done.  Besides, the girls had a blast helping Mamaw and Papaw as well as icing their own sugary creations!  Look for final product photos in the next few days.

(I have no idea why all this is in bold, but the more I try to fix it the worse it gets…started with one line, now the whole thing!)

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Sticky keys

Can’t type much right now.  Today we had a last minute baking day…mom and I that is.  I was thinking it was next week.  Regardless, it was fun and exhausting.  We worked for about 8 hours and made:

  • date nut pinwheels
  • iced sugar cookies
  • chewy chocolate cookies
  • eggnog logs
  • truffles (mint, orange, and coffee)
  • jerky
  • Chex mix

Needless to say, I’m beat, the house is a mess, and I’m still finding icing here and there on my fingers!  Photos and more later.

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What to do

I’ve been very anxious to share with you some of the photos from Colonial Williamsburg.  Talk about living the traditional life!  I always enjoy visiting there, this being my fourth trip, and I look forward to returning again. 

There is one slight problem though.  My laptop has crashed…with all my photos on it.  I have spent way too many hours retrieving photos off the hard drive and think I have them all.  However, the girls’ school computer does not play DVD’s and that is what I stored all my files on. 

Meanwhile, go HERE to find a lovely post that captures my sentiments of Colonial Williamsburg.  Hopefully by the beginning of the week I will be armed and ready for a post full of photos taken by myself and even bet.

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