Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Billy

Dear Billy,

On December 18th, you turned 3 years old.  This has been quite a year for you.  You started school two days a week, and are thriving in the social aspect, learning new things about friends as well as your shapes and colors and letters.

Billy shows off our decorated pumpkin Autumn display
Showing off our decorated pumpkin display for autumn (the sparkle pumpkin is the one you made in your class at school)

On the days that you do not have school, you have been learning (very slowly) to make your own fun and keep yourself occupied when you are at home with me.

Billy finishes everyone's breakfast after they leave for school
Eating breakfast together.

You are my little buddy.  You help me cook and bake and clean, and love nothing better than to be glued to my side, shadowing my every move.

Coffee date with Billy
Coffee date on our historic city square

This year you've started to establish some of your own friendships -- nearly every day you ask if you can play with your two little best girlfriends, A and M, and it's fun to see you growing in your ability to play with other children rather than just next to them.

Billy and his friend A at school
With A on your way home from school

Billy and his friend A at school

Billy and his friend M
Playing dress-up with M

I love you, and I love discovering who you are as you grow and your personality continues to unfold.  You are a challenge, you are a handful, and you are one of the most hilarious little people I've ever had the privilege of knowing.  I'm so glad you're mine.

I love you always and forever,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Handmade Christmas

In the past, I have often planned so many Christmas projects for the month of December, that I've hardly had time to be present and really enjoy the season with my family.  This year, in search of balance, I opted for a much simpler, pared down version of what I would normally do.  Instead of baking every single delicious looking cookie and bar and candy recipe I could lay my hands on, I made a giant batch of lemon curd (this recipe x6), and processed 4-1/2 lbs of jalapeƱos into spicy-sweet Cowboy Candy.

Lemon Curd and Cowboy Candy gifts for teachers and friends

I then packed the treats into tiny jars for friends, neighbors and teachers, and was done!  Two days of cooking/packing vs. 7 days of baking/packing.  Perfect!  On top of that, no one was saddled with a billion-calorie-Faith-induced-overload, because...Christmas comes but once a year, but no one wants to work for the next 6 months trying to get all that business off the hips.

Lemon Curd and Cowboy Candy gifts for teachers and friends

For my children, instead of coming up with all kinds of last minute handmade gifts, I stuck to my original plan: five little 6x6 photo books (one for each of my children, one for my 3-year-old nephew).  I didn't write a story line for the books, I didn't put any captions in them, and for the most part didn't use any special paper -- just plain and simple photographic memories from the past year, tailored to each child.

(It's obviously not possible to find all of the books at the same time to take a group shot, so here are two of them...)

6x6 mini photo book for Billy

Today I am working on a little pair of mittens for Daisy and watching my current favorite guilty TV pleasure: The Vampire Diaries (thank you, Netflix), while the children take their afternoon nap.


Tomorrow we are having friends over for dinner, and then on New Year's Eve we intend to stay in, eat a simple dinner followed by Cinnamon Brown Butter Puffs, watch some silly family videos from the past year, play a few board games, and gather around a little campfire in our backyard with mugs of hot chocolate (or perhaps some milk punch or hot buttered rum for the grown-ups).  Greg and I will then tuck our children into bed well before midnight, and spend the rest of the evening together, just the two of us.  We began dating on a New Year's Eve 11 years ago, and have never managed to celebrate our little mini-versary on our own until this year.  I'm excited!

How are you spending the last few days of 2011?  Here's a list of some fun ideas if you're stumped for plans to ring in the new year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas family photo shoot

Traditionally, we've taken our self-timer family holiday photo outside, but this year it was far too blustery and cold outside, so we decided to pile on our master bed instead.  It only took about 12 takes to get this shot....

Christmas Family Picture 2011

And some of my favorite out-takes....

Christmas Family Picture 2011

Christmas Family Picture 2011

Christmas Family Picture 2011

We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sugar Cookie Day and a Gingerbread House

(Edited to add pictures of gingerbread house...oops!)

Every year, the children and I have a tradition of making and decorating sugar cookies, and also making a gingerbread village.  This year, I bought a gingerbread house kit, so I did most of the decorating, but we used Dorie Greenspan's sugar cookie recipe (with lemon zest rubbed into the sugar -- yummy!) from this book, of course.

Daisy, Sparky, Max and Billy, cutting out sugar cookies
The whole proccess takes a while, as does anything with small children, so by the time we finished stamping out the shapes, Daisy had just had enough.  A good long nap followed shortly after this shot.

Sparky, Max and Billy, cutting out sugar cookies

Sparky, Max and Billy, cutting out sugar cookies

Sprinkles for decorating the sugar cookies
Some superfun sprinkles that I found at Target.

Sparky and Max decorating sugar cookies
By the time that we got around to the decorating, both of the little guys were solidly asleep for their afternoon naps, so Max helped them out after dinner to fully sprinkle their own cookies.

Max, decorating sugar cookies

Sparky, decorating sugar cookies

Sparky and Max decorating sugar cookies

Sparky and Max decorating sugar cookies
Cookie Monsters

Sparky and Max decorating sugar cookies

Stamping out circles with the re-rolled scraps of dough
I used my favorite vintage biscuit cutter to stamp out circles with the re-rolled scraps of dough left over, and gave them a simple (and slightly more grown-up) apricot glaze.

Apricot Glazed Sugar Cookies

Gingerbread House 2011

Gingerbread House 2011

Gingerbread House 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pre-Christmas snapshots

Daisy's Pre-K School Christmas Party
With Daisy at her Pre-K class Christmas Party.

Handknit socks -- Christmas gift for my mom
A pair of socks that I knit for my mom's Christmas gift.

3 lbs of Jalapenos just about to be turned into Cowboy Candy
3 lbs of Jalapenos to make Cowboy Candy.

Fresh Christmas Potpourri
A little pot of fresh potpourri on the stove (cranberries, an orange, a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, and half of a cracked nutmeg pod).

Mason Jar Lid Ornament for Billy's school gift exchange
Mason Jar Lid Ornament for Billy's school gift exchange.  So simple and so fun -- I plan to make a bunch with the children tomorrow as a Christmas Eve project.  (It's pretty intuitive, but if you want a Set Of Instruction, check here.)

Lemon Curd Tart with fresh berries and apricot glaze (shortbread "sweet tart" crust recipe by Dorie Greenspan)
A lemon curd tart with fresh berries, brushed with apricot glaze ("sweet tart" dough recipe for the crust found here.)

Making little 6x6 photo books for the children for Christmas gifts.

current hair color
Used this to turn my hair a super fun shade of red again.

Red hair again

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Green Slouchy Hat

Several years ago, I tried my hand at spinning some cabled yarn out of a bump of plain white Corriedale.  I ended up with a relatively smooth, sturdy skein of yarn that was otherwise uninspiring, despite the hours of work that had gone into it. I'm not a skilled dye-er by any means, but I decided to take my chances and attempt a semi-solid effect using one of my very favorite shades of spring green. Armed with several bottles odd green food coloring, white vinegar and boiling hot water, I took the plunge...and ended up with a fabulously vibrant result.  Since it miraculously came out so well, and so much work has already gone into it, I decided to wait until the perfect project came along....

I'm currently growing out my pixie-cut, which leads to a lot of Awkward Hair Days, and so I've been getting a heck of a lot of use out if my two knit slouchy hats. Last week I decided I should probably have another one, and suddenly thought of that green skein, tucked away at the back if my stash...a quick search through the pattern library of Ravelry, one afternoon of knitting, needles flying....

Star Crossed Slouchy Beret.  My project details here.




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get Your Greens Shake

I've always liked the idea of starting off the day with a green shake. All of those nutrients and vitamins coming together in an energizing fresh drink.  The problem is, I figured that I'd need a superpowered blender to really churn all of those greens, wouldn't it just taste really gross? Last week I found a green shake recipe on the Greenling blog and decided to give it a try. With a few tweaks I ended up with something that even Billy could enjoy.  (The fact that the berries turn the shake dark purple instead if green helps with the appeal.)  Success!

Get Your Greens Shake
Makes 1 very large serving or 2 medium sized servings

2 cups kale, roughly torn
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1 banana
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (Golden Flax Seeds, with their mild nutty flavor are my favorite)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or to taste)
1 cup cold water

Combine all in a blender and process at the highest speed until fully combined and south with no green bits remaining.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Marvelous Mod

It doesn't happen often around here, but when the crochet bug bites me, it bites hard. I'm so enjoying this project this afternoon!


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