Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas rocks

Okay, I am not religious. I have serious questions about God, about Jesus as the savior, and pretty much any other religious belief that exists out there. But I must admit, I have taken the Christ out of Christmas. I love Christmas. In my house we celebrate the season of giving, Santa, and the gift of winter. For Easter, I tell Charlotte that we are celebrating Spring and all it has to offer, and the Easter Bunny of course. So maybe just maybe I will need to do a little educating about the holidays, but I can't seriously stick to just plain Jesus. My history background forces me, no guides me into seeing the whole truth of the celebrations we know today. So the syncretism of the birth of Jesus, with the druid beliefs in the Winter Solstice, with the Roman and Greek Gods is something I can not get past. But, I still love Christmas.

I love the lights, the smells, the trees, the gingerbread men, the secret gift hiding, the baking, the cooking, the drinking, and even the crazy shopping. When I taught school, I used to decorate my classroom for winter. I had snowmen and gingerbread men, and snowflakes. I also threw in a Christmas tree and a Menorah on the Calendar. While I have serious issues with the Roman Catholic Church, I must recognize their canny ability to create great holidays by combining all the fun things from other religions with theirs. What great salesmen and how do I hire them? Who doesn't love the Christmas tree, candles, and good food. Not to mention a Saint who brings presents. I love Christmas.

I especially love seeing Cookie excited about Christmas. We may have to work on teaching her how not to be so greedy since she keeps adding toys to her list of things she wants. I really stuck to a budget this year and was proud of how I was able to stop buying, even though a bed tent, more train tracks, a Sesame Street Shirt, an Abbey doll and much more were asked for and not bought. But it will be an exciting Christmas morning. She has already begun the shifting through of gifts and seeing how many she has verses her sister. ( my favorite past time). She likes to guess what is in them, and generally Christmas can not come too soon for her. Ohh yes, I love Christmas, and so does Cookie.

Christmas Rocks

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I am a new woman

Those of us who have had the joy of pregnancy know that an amazing thing happens post pardon. The hair fall out. All that beautiful pregnancy hair begins to fall out in clumps. It clogs the drains, the vacuum, and gets into just about everything. For Thanksgiving, I made sure to braid my hair and wear a bandanna to keep from getting hair in any of the food. ( which caused one of those OHHH GOD!!!! I'm my Mother moments). And not only is there the massive hair loss, but the massive hair damage from all of those hair ties and clips one puts their hair up in to keep out of the way post baby. Really, with a new born, who has time to do their hair, let alone brush their teeth? So now four months later, things have calmed down, we have established a nice routine, and I am ready to get my body back.

My lovely wonderful neighbor offered to watch Cookie one day last week, so I dropped Cookie off, told hubby that Jelly Bean was being left with him and I was going to get a hair cut. Jelly is napping pretty good now, plus she is no longer eating every two hours, so it was time for Hubby and Jelly to bond a little. Now, I can never really tell if something will pan out or not, so I did not make a hair appointment. Instead, I just showed up at a random hair salon as a walk in. And I am a new woman. It is amazing how just a little hair cut and an hour will do to one's Psyche. Hubby saw how much it helped my "attitude" that he went and got me signed up at the gym and told me to take some time each week to go, that he could work it out and give me some time.

So, not only do I have a nice new hair cut, but I have been the gym twice this week. Even though I am tired, I still feel great. I really really really missed the gym the last two years. I like it so much, I even love the drive to and from the gym. A quiet car ride without a talking, crying, or screaming kid is heaven. I am a new I just have to work on eating a little healthier and I am there.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Santa Arts and Craft Bag

Here is a fun arts and crafts project Cookie and I did together. All you need is some tacky glue, red and pink construction paper, a plain gift bag (white or brown will work), a pair of googly eyes, a glue stick, and cotton balls.

First, cut out a rectangular piece of the red construction paper and glue it to the top part of the bag. Cookie was able to put the glue down and then help me put the paper down.

Then glue a cotton ball at the top right hand corner of the red. I placed a dollop of the tacky glue to the spot and had Cookie put the cotton ball on it. I then drew a circle where the Santa face should be and glued on the eyes.

Finally glue the cotton balls around the face for a beard and hair. Cut out a pink circle for a nose and glue down.

Now you have a cute Santa bag to put handmade goodies in for gifts or a nice centerpiece at your Christmas table.

Banana Apple Bread

If you like Banana bread this is a sure thing recipe. I found it years ago and make it often. Hubby often complains when I make it because he is not that big of a banana fan, so I started adding the applesauce as a way to make it less banana-y. You can add more bananas and eliminate the applesauce, or reduce the bananas and add more applesauce. Below is the recipe I prefer, but feel free to change it up. I would love to include a picture, which I actually took, and it came out great, but I have been having some issues uploading the images fromt he camera to the computer. But trust me, this is a good recipe.

2 bananas
1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce (I just use one of the individualized cups)
1/3 cup of butter melted
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of salt
1 tbsp of raw or turbano sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Mix bananas and applesauce together. Add the melted butter, beaten egg, baking soda, and
vanilla.Mix well. ( I just put all in my mixer and set at low as I add)
3. Mix in Sugar and then flour a half cup at a time.
4, Add the salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix
5.Pour into a greased bread pan, or into a cupcake tin w/ liners. sprinkle the raw or turbano
sugar over the top. (Hubby loves to just eat the tops of the muffins when I make them that
6. Bake 1 hour at 375 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (I actually
use a spaghetti noodle, as they are cheap, whereas toothpicks are expensive.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Traditions

The one neat thing about marriage, is the blending of traditions of two families. I am sure that forming one's own family traditions can be filled with some head butting between husband and wife. I have friends who have struggled to accept some of their husband's family's traditions. Like trimming the tree on Christmas Eve instead of sometime in early December. Real vs. Fake, Flocked or unflocked...Or even the argument about what to have for Christmas dinner.

I guess I am lucky, Hubby's family really has no Christmas traditions. So, for the most part, anything I suggest is accepted by hubby. Open one gift on Christmas Eve (pajamas), trim the tree and put up lights the day after Thanksgiving, (only if Hubby is up to it), a toothbrush in the stocking (he's lukewarm to this). Christmas cut out cookies.....made and eaten in two days. These traditions leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy. Maybe it's because my parents really made an effort to make the season special. But a house full of Christmas decorations and cookies really stands out in my mind.

Hubby admitted to me that he has really enjoys the fact that I have made it a priority in providing the kids with wonderful, warm, traditions . It's nice to see Cookie, for the first time really really excited about Christmas. While at the drug store, I noticed that they had Advent Calendars. The old school German kind, the kind I had as a kid. The kind with the really cheap chocolate. The pictures are exactly the same as when I had them too. So, of course, I had to buy one for Cookie. Every morning, since December 1st, the first words out of her mouth is, "may I please open a new door." to her calendar. Of course her excitement is for the chocolate, but watching her allows me to recall all those feelings of love and happiness that I had as a kid. I am hopeful that she, too, will look back to her childhood with the same warm feelings.

Each year, my Mom also bought each of us kids a new ornament for the tree. When I moved to Colorado, I brought all those ornaments with me. For the last four years, as I have decorated our tree, I have been able to recall little pieces of each Christmas in my childhood. So I have carried on the same tradition with my children. Starting with Cookie's first Christmas. I found silver picture frame ornaments on clearance and bought 18 of them. I think they were about $2 each. So, each Christmas I have the year engraved and put a picture of Cookie in one. I have enough to last until she reaches 18. Now I am searching the stores to buy 18 similar ornaments for Jelly Bean. My plan is to have two ornaments for each of the girls, the picture frame, and a special one that represents something that reminds me of each one for the year. This year I bought Cookie a Thomas the Train Engine ornament. Jelly got a Baby's First Christmas.

Traditions are really those comforting things we do to remind ourselves what is important. Whether it is eating dirty rice at Thanksgiving (as our friends do), watching home movies Christmas Eve, or trimming the Christmas tree with a special tree topper, traditions should give each of us the feeling of home.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lovely Lemon Bar Cookies

So I am participating in a Cookie exchange over at .


The good thing about this cookie exchange, is that it is only a recipe exchange, so you don't have to eat a bunch of cookies, you only have to read about all of these yummy recipes and then avoid making them. Almost impossible I know. I am already contemplating and thinking about the ones I have already read about. So here is my recipe stolen /borrowed from one of my favorite authors, Hannah Swenson. I just love those food/mystery books that provide the lovely recipes in the back of the books. If you ever want food inspiration and something nice to curl up with, I suggest either Joanna Fluke or Hannah Swenson. I made this recipe a couple years ago when I thought it was smart to avoid making anything chocolate, for fear of consuming the whole batch in just a day. I dare you to avoid eating more than one.

Lovely Lemon Bar Cookies

2 cups flour
1 cup cold butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup of powdered sugar

4 eggs beaten
2 cups white sugar
8 tbsp lemon juice (1 cup)
1 tsp of lemon zest (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp flour (1/4 cup)

1. Preheat Oven to 350 rack in middle position
2. Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces. Mix with flour and the powdered sugar in a food processor until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Spread it out in a greased 9 x 13 in pan and pat it down with your hands
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven (LEAVE OVEN ON!!)
4. Mix your eggs with white sugar. Add lemon juice (and zest if you so wish). Add salt and
baking powder and mix. Then add flour and mix thoroughly. (will be runny).
5. Pour this mixture on top of the pan you just baked and stick it back in the oven. Bake at 350
degrees for another 30-35 minutes. Then remove from oven and sprinkle on additional
powdered sugar.
6. Let it cool thoroughly and cut into brownie-sized bars.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Picture Perfect

Have you ever tried to get the perfect picture? I mean we all know that it is close to impossible at the DMV or a school picture. But is it too much to ask for one perfect picture of both my kids together? I would love love love, to have one where they are both smiling, both are in cute little outfits, and both are in the most adorable pose.

While in L.A. my sister and I got the kids together for a cousins picture. We even managed to match the kids in Christmas outfits. We made sure to feed them before said picture. So when it came time for picture time, my dear Cookie decided that she just was not going to cooperate. She would not wear that dress, she did not want to put on that shirt, and those socks were just awful. A full blown tantrum ensued. Of course my sister, whose two kids were the picture of perfect behavior (for once), was trying to rationalise with her. And any of you who have or have had a 2 year old knows that this is impossible. Needless to say, I strong armed Cookie into her matching clothes. The pictures actually turned out okay, but I really wanted one with my two girls and Cookie did not cooperate. Her blankie, better known as "Neh Neh" was pushed up to her mouth and nose in every one. I guess they were so bad that the picture lady didn't even show it to me...although I probably would have bought it.

So with the holidays looming I have been trying and failing to get a good picture of the kids together for holiday cards. Cookie has decided that she loves her Dora nightie and only wants to wear it. This obsession (maybe she gets this from her dad) is so bad that leaving the house has become a fight. Her not wanting to leave because it would mean taking off her Dora, me pulling the thing off amidst tears and screams. Now normally I would just let her wear it out, but it is ten degrees out and the nightie is thin short sleeved polyester. So every time I even mention that I would like a nice picture of her and sister in front of the tree in their Christmas outfits, tears appear.

I am wondering if I will ever get that picture. I also tried getting one with Santa....let's just say tears from both girls and no picture. I even had managed to convince Cookie to wear something different...a matching outfit with sister. So I have included the picture I managed to take of the kids together. Picture Perfect? More like Picture acceptable.