Friday, December 30, 2011

2011

So, since my laptop quit (monitor), I haven't been able to post from Craig's laptop. Then I thought, I'll try scheduling it to post and see what happens.

Our Christmas was lovely, thank you for asking. It was bookened by some of us being sick, my son on Christmas Eve and my husband and I the day after Christmas. In between we managed to remember the precious Baby in a manger, the promise of life for the whole world.

2011 was a good year; nothing outstanding, nothing awful. Average but lovely in its averageness. I feel like (by God's grace and strength) I became more purposeful in my parenting, more forgiving of my mistakes, less critical of others, and more disciplined in my routine. Even in tiny increments, those are big steps for me.

I'd like to make some kind of list of highlights from the year but am moderately discouraged by the thought that this might not post . . . also trying to thing right now is daunting. Hmmmm . . .winter, spring, summer, fall. The year cycles by so fast; the days lengthen and shorten and goodnight kisses are given before it seems possible another day has passed.

God is faithful. If there's any theme I see as I look back over the year, it's that our loving Father, God, is faithful.

And will continue to be.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shortest Day of the Year

I like Christmas songs that talk about Jesus as the light. Barlow Girl "Hallelujah, Light Has Come;" The Martins "Light of the World;" Point of Grace "Let there be Light."
Part of the wonder celebrating Christmas, for me, is that we pause at this time of year, when the world is cold and dark and turned from the sun, to remember and rejoice that God sent His Son, the Light, as the greatest gift. We don't know when Jesus was born to celebrate His actual birth day, but I love how celebrating now represents why He came. To bring light and rescue us from our sins.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lobster Mac & Cheese

Remember when we went to Abe & Louie's?
'course not. I didn't tell you about it.
It's in Boston. We went there after we saw Blue Man Group in the spring.
Great night.
Abe & Louie's serves a Lobster Mac & Cheese. Craig found a recipe online and made it for me tonight.
It was fantastic.
Because of computer problems I can't link anything. So let your fingers do the googling . . . Lobster Mac & Cheese on Food.com.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Real Life

I've been focusing on actual life lately and not the version of my life that I would like to have presented here or on facebook. It's amazing how much more laundry gets put away, dishes moved out of the sink into the dishwasher and then back into cupboards, and patience I have with my children telling me random anecdotes.

Here's a winner: Kate told us there's a girl at her school who has a ipod4. This thing can talk . . . and walk. If she needs a pencil, she tells the ipod and it gets the pencil for her.

I do have a bunch* of pictures to post, of all the pinterest/stumble** inspired stuff I did . . . and the hilarious collapse of our gingerbread house (you may have seen it on FB already).

* by "bunch" I mean 3 or 4.

** I still like Stumble. Because you get to see the whole website. There's some good reads out there . . . and some lame ones. Also I can't install the 'pin' button so I can't pin the stuff I find on Stumble. Sometimes I have them both open at the same time because the computer loads so slowly and I have a very short attention span.

Overall I cannot believe that Christmas is 9 days away. I have my South Carolina presents wrapped and in a box to go but nothing else wrapped. And not even everything bought. I want to do a bunch of baking . . . so little to do, so much time, right?

Maybe I'll stumble for awhile, just in case there's a craft I haven't seen yet that I can squeeze in before Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reality, Kindergarten Style

Sweet Baby K was telling me the difference between fiction and non-fiction, something she learned at school.

Later on, she asked if the Muppets were fiction or non-fiction.

"I think they're fiction," I answered.

"But there are real people in it," she countered.

Since I had kept her home from school because her pinkeye has blossomed from just a little gunk in the corner of her eye to a swollen, red, oozing mess and I could not plausibly plead ignorance of her condition, I thought I should answer her honestly so the day could be slightly educational. I tried leading her to the right answer without telling her directly.

"The Muppets are puppets," I said, hoping I wasn't destroying her childlike belief in magic.

She gleefully exclaimed, "Then they're REAL!"

Childlike wonder win.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It started with these ruffle trees. How cute, right? So I bookmarked it and stashed it away in my mind to make this year. Then I saw this variation on the Craft Catwalk and thought how much easier that would be.

So in between printing Lego party stuff and sanding another project, I did this one afternoon:



I used my 1.5" circle punch on this graphic from the Graphics Fairy (also a Craft Catwalk find, I think). I used 4 for this but had to print 5 since apparently Kate needed one. I used my glue gun to attach them and sort of arranged them in a random pattern, overlapping to cover the styrofoam. I sealed it with glossy modge podge and sprinkled on some glitter. I finished it with some hemp from Close to my Heart and two little rusticy bells that I've had forever.


The wooden topper and stand came from the wood stuff aisle at AC Moore. I spray-painted them black and since that's flat, I did a coat of glossy sealer. I just hot glued those on and could not BELIEVE how great it looked. I am just thrilled it turned out great with such little effort. I was all I love it when a craft comes together and since I thought that was so clever I put it as my FB status.


Since I was high on success, I made a ruffly one. This one was a little more work (it's hard to ruffle burlap and I don't have a fancy ruffler foot [doesn't that thing look cool?] like Shanty 2 Chic has); I kept having to yank ruffles off the melted styrfoam to re-arrange the layers AND the hot glue was messing up my manicure. But I LOVE how it turned out:




I was pulling one of the threads in the burlap to make a straight line to cut (saw this idea online but don't have the link) and realized it was ruffling as I pulled so I ran it through the machine and straightened the edges. I got the muslin in the remnant bin a JoAnne's and frayed the edges of that, too. I ruffled that the old-fashioned way, by doing a running stitch and then pulling the bobbin thread. Same topper and "trunk" as the other but painted off-white (with really old trim paint).


That fully awesome advent calendar came from Country Treasures in Maine and I have to say I've been wanting something like that for longer than I can remember, but everything was either wildly expensive (I'm looking at you, Pottery Barn) or gaudy or cheesy or just not right. But that one? Perfect. I put the bow on it and like some of my mother-in-law's friends suggested, I could use it for more than Christmas by switching out the bow. It's a teeny bit sparkly and perfect.


So what are you waiting for? Go grab some styrofoam cones (I got mine at AC Moore but I later I saw some at the dollar store) and make your own.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sam's Lego Party



Seriously, I wasn't going to plan and host another party here, ever, after the Halloween Party. Did I mention there were 17 kids here? It was a lot of work, and fun, but I thought I'd need a year or two to recover.

Craig and I were discussing options for Sam's birthday and Sam said he wanted a Lego party. We'd done one two years ago, with the kit from the store, but I thought we could make this one more of a games and free-build party.

I looked all over the web (and Pinterest) for ideas. I started with Birthday Party Ideas but the party at Delia Creates was where I got most of my ideas. I didn't do a lot; these two parties are amazing to me, how thorough they are with their design concepts, but I really wanted to stick to primary Lego colors.



I'm not sure exactly where I saw this idea, it's gotta be one of those links above:



I filled this jar with two little "City" Lego sets (minus the three pieces that were too big for the jar) and the guests guessed how many; the closest won the legos (and the instructions to build!).


I saw these somewhere, too; maybe pinned on Pinterest. There were a few things I saw that I could recreate without following the link. I just used my 1.5" circle punch and glued "studs" on the bags. (That punch got quite a workout last week, as you'll see in a later post). (The "8" on the baseplate pictured at the top of the post was a Pinterest idea, too.)









I was really determined to have a banner, and even after hanging red, blue, yellow, and green crepe paper all over, I still felt the need to use all the stuff I printed and cut out to make one. I found the Lego brick paper printable here (cut into 2x4 bricks) and the heads . . . not sure. (OK, I've looked and looked. It's a pdf I downloaded, called "Lego straw" and the idea was you could make a slit in their mouths and slide them on a straw. I suspect I found it on the Brickipedia photo gallery . . . guess how many images are there. Go ahead, guess. Wrong. 42,041. That's a lot of images to search.)







The party was after school on a Friday, so when the kids got here, I had a bunch of snacks for them. We invited 6 kids and four ended up coming . . . it was the perfect number (primarily because it's distance from 17). All his good buddies. I did wrap a few juice boxes to look like bricks, but didn't think all the kids would want juice. The wrap threw them off . . . "can we drink this?"




We ended up not using some of the games I planned because the kids were playing so well without structure or intervention. They played Mario and Cars . . .





(blurry pic of kids in Sam's room with Mario figures) and later transitioned to Jedi light saber battles.



We did two organized things:



I printed big ol' minifig heads (again with the not bookmarking where I got this. Blogger FAIL.) I erased the features (leaving a weird yellow blotch on the side where it was shaded) and had the kids draw themselves.





Then they cut them out and played "pin the head on the minifigure." This minifigure image came from one of the coaches at our school's Lego League that Craig enlarged 400% and I colored.



My first idea was for these heads to be masks they held up with paint stirrers but the day I was at Lowe's there were none on the counter and no one around to ask for 6 paint stirrers. So I said, "Cut out eyes when you get home and have a mask," and then somoene taped his head on his face so they all (minus one) did it and I took their picture:




They played some more, then had pizza and cake.






Variations of this Lego cake are all over the interwebs. I made Nigella Lawson's Buttermilk Birthday Cake (oh my word) and some Almost Homemade Buttercream (My computer freezes when I go to CL so you'll have to google it yourself. It uses fluff.) from Country Living. It is literally too much. Like, fall out of your face. I made a double batch of the cake so I would have some cupcakes for the studs.


Blue smiles all around.


In the favor bags were a little bag of corresponding color M&Ms, a minifigure, a cake pop (I made them for Sam to take to school; "we can make them look like something," he said, but there was not enough time for that), and a Lego magazine. When I was the Lego store getting the box of 650 bricks (it is HARD to find straight up Lego bricks, everything's a set now), the guy gave Kate a magazine so I asked for 7 more and that was in there, too.


It was so fun and low-key, the cake was yummy, and Sam had a good time with his friends. The recovery from this party should be much shorter . . .

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eight




He's eight.


My baby boy is eight.





I really don't know how this is possible . . . it seems like "just yesterday."






He's funny, smart, athletic, artistic, kind, thoughful, and affectionate.


I just don't know where the time went.


Love you, little man.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Review

So, no before pictures, but some after ones.




The table.



The sides table, with some hors d'oeurves.





Goofy kids.


Group shot - after which my camera battery died and we couldn't do other groupings. Craig's dad (in the back, on the left) joined us for a few hours and my parents (back row on the right) were here for the week.

It was a lovely day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coming Up Empty

After a flurry of posts here, I have to say that I am at a loss for words or time to do anymore right now. I've got a few drafts that just keep limping along despite all my rehab efforts. I have a few projects in the works but real life is pressing its reality on me from many directions and I struggle anyway with doing something because I want it to be done and doing something just to have a post about it. This next week will be consumed with preparing a huge feast to be consumed in a fraction of the time it took to prepare. I'll try to snap a shot for you.

Not only will I try to snap a shot, I'll try to post it.

May your week be blessed with family and food. I am thankful you take the time to read here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

{Top Ten Tuesday} Thanksgiving

I have never cooked the Thanksgiving dinner; we either go to my mom's or my mother-in-law's. When we were first married and didn't have kids we went to Craig's aunt and uncle's. I did roast a turkey one year in like March and a bunch of Craig's cousins came over and that was fun, but it wasn't official Thanksgiving. This year, my parents are coming here and I am beyond excited to be planning and making my first Thanksgiving meal. Here are ten things on the menu:

1. Turkey, of course. I have a lovely large pan and rack I got all those years ago for the other turkey.

2. Mashed Potatoes: my fave.

3. Green Bean Casserole: the classic. Craig loves it.

4. Pennsylvania Dutch Potato and Bread Filling: maybe I'll share. It's from my Grandma Reidenouer.

5. Crescent Rolls: you know, the ones from the pop can. This comes from Craig's side of the family; my family never really had bread with the meals but now I love 'em.

6. Pumpkin Pie: It is not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.

7. Pecan Praline Pie: the Leland family classic

8. Pumpkin-Almond Cheesecake: because it looks good and why not? I use the springform pan once a year; this could make it two times.

9. Hot Curried Fruit Compote: another Reidenouer tradition

10. Another veggie, probably those carrots with caramelized onions

Probably some stove-top stuffing (Craig likes it from a box so that's easy) and of course a lovely and simple gravy from pan juices. Maybe a spinach-artichoke dip for an appetizer/pre-dinner snack.

What are you planning?

Linking to Top Ten Tuesday at ohamanda.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies

'Member when I tried the pumpkin snickerdoodles and didn't think they were pumpkin-y enough? I mentioned I had a pumpkin cookie recipe that was the pumpkin cookie standard for me.


Old Bedford Village Pumpkin Drop Cookies. I can remember being there, walking around, and having these for the first time. I don't know if the recipe was there to pick up or buy or if my mom had to ask for it. I don't make them often because Craig doesn't really like pumpkin things (appalling!) and also because he thinks it's not a cookie if it doesn't have chocolate in it.

These are perfect, cakey and pumpkiny and soft . . . if you like pumpkin. Sam and I have been enjoying them very much.

Old Bedford Village Pumpkin Drop Cookies, as handwritten on a recipe card by my mom:

1 cup margerine (I used unsalted butter)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 can pumpkin (1 lb)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg (I used 1/2)
pinch salt
1 tsp. lemon juice*
1 cup coconut*
1 cup broken nuts*
4 cups flour

(* I didn't have any of these so didn't add them)

Mix everything in order given. (I used my mixer, creaming the butter and sugar first, and then adding the other ingredients as I measured them.)


Be sure to mix flour last.




Use two teaspoons or a cookie scoop to place dough on cookie sheets.




Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Mine took 14 - 15 minutes, until they looked done and were slightly brown around the edges.



I scooped some out and chilled them in the fridge for about half an hour and then rolled them in the leftover sugar/spice mix from the pumpkin snickerdoodles. This didn't make any noticeable difference in the taste, but it did make me feel good for using the rest of that mixture.




My mom added at the bottom "Recipe can be doubled - double each ingredient." I think that's hilarious because it would take hours to bake that many cookies. But if you do need masses of pumpkin cookies, it's good to know.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apple Squares


This recipe comes from the Mousam Lake Cookbook, a cook book of contributions from people on the lake where my in-laws have a camp. I don't have one, I think they were printed before I met Craig. Despite their official name, in my mind I refer to this as "Sandra's Apple Cake" since my first experience with them were when Craig's aunt (Sandra) made these and added the chocolate chips.


I scribbled down the recipe on this lovely piece of Sal's stationery. I keep recipes I print from the internet or write down or pull from magazines in page protectors in binders. If I had more energy or initiative I might make the whole thing matchy-matchy and incorporate some system for adding new recipes other than waiting until the pile of new ones is so big I have to sit down and add 56 new pages. But this system works well enough; I found this in the "breakfast/bread" binder in the "bread" section so it's not that disorganized.


For some reason we did not go apple picking this year. It was never really convenient or we didn't have energy when it was, so I bought the apples at the grocery store. I got a Granny Smith to add in but in the final product you can't tell that I mixed it up like that.



Mix ingredients, spread in pan. Spread brown sugar and mini chocolate chips on top.






Craig thought my pumpkin pancake pictures needed some powdered sugar so I sprinkled some on for these.





Lovely, huh?




Here's the recipe:


Apple Squares (a.k.a Sandra's Apple Bread)



2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup salad oil (this ingredient makes me laff; salad oil? dates the recipe for sure. I used 1/2 cup canola because it's better than veg. and half a cup of applesauce [unsweeteened] because that's how I roll when a recipe says 1 cup of oil)

3 cups flour (I used 2 all-purpose and 1 whole wheat 'cause that's my new thing, dividing the flour measurement up between all-purp and WW)

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg (I did 1/2 because I have nutmeg issues)

3 cups chopped apple

3/4 brown sugar

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350.


Mix the sugar, eggs, and oil (or oil & applesauce) in a large bowl and mix well.


Add the dry ingredients and the chopped apple. (I mixed the dry in a separate bowl and added to the wet with the apples.) Spread in greased/sprayed 9x13 baking dish.


Top with 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (add more if coverage is spotty), and the walnuts, if you have them (I did not).


Bake 35 - 40 minutes at 350 degrees until baked (not gooey).


I didn't really write down the directions word-for-word but these should get the job done for ya.


Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shelf



I know. Try not to faint. The shelf is up. I'm going to have to figure out if I want another candy jar for the shells or if they'll both be canning jars.


Decisions, decisions.


As much as I like it I keep thinking, another thing to collect dust.


And obviously the shiny towel ring to the right, closer to the sink, is gonna have to be switched.


Alright - so what else is on that list? oh stink! This shelf isn't even on the list. But there's two books there I forgot about that I can read. The crib sheet quilt is pieced and layered; the pieces of the Christmas quilt are cut out; the bedroom furniture was painted and constructed; and I think I'm going to let go of the ruffly tree skirt but maybe not.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween Party

Last Saturday we hosted a Halloween Party here at our house. My neighbor and I planned it together. Most of the pictures are crummy and have lots of other people's kids in them so I'm not going to post them (I don't know how they'd feel about that).




The big story of the party was how nothing is as easy to make as it looks like it will be. For example:




Cheese Finger Food: Those lines aren't just sliced into the cheese, they're carved. And the space under the green pepper is carved. And cream cheese doesn't like to be applied or stick in small amounts.


Edible Eyeballs: Again with the cram cheese not wanting to stick. Apparently a real pain to assemble. (My neighbor made these first two.)




Apple Bites (attempted by another friend): The almonds wouldn't stick in or broke all over the place. I believe the word "shattered" may have been used.


I struggled with the 48 cupcakes I baked (one white mix, one chocolate). I wanted to make spider webs on them with icing, which worked OK, but would have been much better if I had gotten a teeny-tiny icing tip and more icing. I just used one (one! what was I thinking?) of those little tubes of icing gel to make the circles on top and a chopstick (those of you with toothpicks could use that) to swipe out lines from the center. That part worked on the 5 cupcakes I had black icing for.


I also had some cupcake stencils I got at Crate and Barrel a lot of years ago (so I have slightly different patterns from those on the link) and they didn't work at all except to be the straw the broke my camel's back and I let Kate loose with orange sprinkles and candy corn to decorate the rest.


On a successful note, I purchased and chopped my first jicama. Sam, Kate, and I all tried a piece. It tastes almost exactly like nothing. I used it for this Hallow-bean Salad which ultimately I didn't try at all due to eww, black beans and pepper?


We also did Jar-o-Lanterns. This was moderately successful (I'd say less stressful should you choose to invite and thus expect fewer than 20 children and not have to solicit and goo-gone* a dozen jars from various friends and then at the last minute empty a few in your own fridge just to be sure you have enough) but when we pulled the tape off, some of the paint came off around the edges. Maybe because I picked up "glossy" acrylic craft paint (I think that's what I got) because who knew they made that and that I should look further than the end cap display? The bottle said it was for wood, glass, and a host of other materials one might want to paint orange. Glossy orange.


We also divided kids into pairs and had the wrap each other up like mummieswith toilet paper. This was pretty funny, although the cheap-o single ply I bought kept ripping and they got frustrated with that, but the hilarity outweighed the irriation. Another activity we had was for the kids to make fingerprint animal scenes (ink the finger, put on paper, and draw on antennae or legs or eyes or whatever). They also decorated their goody bags (brown paper bags, $1 stickers) which were filled with glow bracelets, pencils, earasers, dorito/cheeto-type snacks, and some** candy. We finished up with a candy bar where they could help themselves to candy corn and M&Ms (note to self, have more plain M&Ms for next time).


My sister-in-law made some witch's brew which was oh so very good and sadly didn't last long in the non-cool fridge once the power went out . . . I should have drunk it all right after the party.


All in all it was really fun. I was extraordinarily stressed in the days leading up to the party, especially as the number of children coming grew and grew. We ended up with 17 children and some parents. It was super fun and we are already talking about what we'll do next year . . . . first off is to not invite children (I'm kidding . . . sort of . . .).


*I can tell you from first-hand experience that imitation goo-off products do not compare to goo-gone. It's the best by far.


**We were slightly neurotic/stingy with the sugar so the candy distribution was kept minimal. This did not stop the kids from being loud and wild; apparently all they need is each other for that.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Apothecary Jars

So this is what I ended up doing with my homemade apothecary jars:





I put some of those fake tealights behind them to flicker which looked cool (the two times I turned them on). I got the candles for $2.50 at the Christmas Tree Shop. I wanted black ones but couldn't find them in the 3 or 4 stores I remembered to look. I forgot to light them the night of our Halloween party but they did come in handy during the ensuing power outage.




That's my formerly-white-now-black thrift store plate and candlestick stand holding the pumpkin. Kate decorated that gourd at school. Its name is Little Curly Top.





Some of the jars have water with food coloring in them. For the "deadly nightshade" one, I modge podged in the inside and added black glitter.



I took these one morning when we had no power, which is why we have a fire.



On November 1, I took all this down, emptied the ones with liquid, and packed it away for next year. Now I have a whole year to collect more jars.