Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Morning 2011

As it turns out, I'm terrible at taking pictures during exciting events. Also, our camera battery is on the fritz so it says one minute full battery, the next minute dead battery & so on... causing us to miss photo ops.

We had a really nice Christmas. We made the kids take turns opening gifts. (Last year it was a free-for-all and over in 20 seconds. I didn't like that.) Ian and Aaron each had very reasonable wish lists and therefore received exactly what they asked for. Lauren got a shopping cart from Goodwill. (Awesome find! The same day we found it for $4.99 at Goodwill, I had placed it in my shopping cart at for $25, but decided to wait another day!) Everyone seems happy with their presents and we're still enjoying our time together.

We went to my sister Emily's house on Christmas day and enjoyed a meal, each other's company, and cookies. The weather was mild and the kids even got to play outside together!

The thing about Christmas for me right now, though, is that when it comes to time spent away from my kids (in the kitchen baking, at the stores preparing), I'm glad it only comes once a year. I felt like I had hardly spent any time with the kids last Friday, even though we'd been in the same house all day. I'm sure for Roger that means he feels like he spent the entire day with them (because he did), but for me, I miss them when I'm distracted by baking & preparing.

Onward to 2012. I wonder what God has in store for us!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

How do you like the new look?

We had a pretty good Christmas Eve this year. We cleaned, we baked, we prepared ourselves for Christmas day. We had a visit from my friend Kari and her boyfriend Eric. Always love seeing them! After dinner (I made prime rib for the first time & served it with sweet potato & regular homemade fries, broccoli, & garlic bread) we went to church for the candle light service. The children were squirmy and antsy, but quiet. While we were at church, the Prep & Landing elves were here checking our home for readiness for Santa. Wink wink. They left us each a new pair of pajamas under the tree. We hung stockings, we set out cookies and milk for Santa and Reindeer food for Rudolph. Roger read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the children before bed and then the boys promptly ushered him out of the room so they could get right to sleep! And they did! Not a peep from them until morning!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Attack of the Godzillauren

Nobody is Safe.

Thanks to my friend Kari for the title: Godzillauren!

I'm dreading tomorrow. It's "reentry" time for our family. Roger's going to work for the first time since last Wednesday. Most of the candy and cookies have been consumed. They toys have been played with. There's no school to occupy us. It stands to reason that tomorrow is going to be a rough day for a lot of moms and kids out there! Stay busy! Eat healthy! Don't let the kids take over... too much.

Soon there will be more posts about our Christmas, but for now, I give you the Godzillauren.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pittsburgh at Christmastime: Phipps Candlelight Hours

We saw Phipps beautiful Christmas display during the daytime last week, but it only left me wanting more. I wanted to see it at night, when I was certain the lights would be sparkling in an awesome way. I was right. In addition to being beautiful, a local high school was in the rotunda singing Christmas carols while we were there. Perfect!

No photos would do it justice, especially iPhone photos, but here are a couple just to wet your whistle. If you live in the area, it really is worth seeing. We have a membership to Phipps this year and have used it a bunch of times, which is why we were able to go twice to see the Christmas show.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gingerbread house

Ian begged us to make a gingerbread house this year. We saw the kits on clearance at Sam's Club and decided we could try it! I think it turned out awesome. Other than the actual piecing together if the house, (which Roger, Ian, Aaron, & I all had our hands in on,) Ian & Aaron did almost all the decorating. It was a great time and fun family activity. Now the boys are begging to know when we are going to EAT it!

She Loves Shopping!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies

I made these (mostly) for my sister today. I used the idea from Baker's Royale Blog, but the recipe from My Bakingdom. Actually, not entirely. I adapted the raspberry meringue cookie recipe  adding mint flavor instead of raspberry and changing the baking technique just a bit.

Aren't they cute? Of course, I don't have the right icing tip for piping ones that look just like Baker's Royale, but I used what I had... it works.

And they taste awesome.

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate-Mint Meringue Cbristmas Trees
Makes 3 to 6 dozen (depending on the how big you make them)

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 to 1/4 peppermint extract (be very careful measuring, a little goes a long way)
Green Food coloring
1/4 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
sprinkles (optional)
Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place chocolate chips about 1 1/2- to 2-inches apart on the sheet.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. Place the bowl on top of a medium sauce pan filled with a couple of inches of barely simmering water and set over medium heat. 
Gently whisk the mixture constantly until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the standing mixer (if you’re not using a standing mixer, just remove the bowl from heat and use a hand mixer), and whisk the mixture on high until stiff peaks form. Stir in the extract and food coloring, if using.
Fit a pastry bag with a large star tip (or comparable), fill with the meringue, and pipe tree-shaped cookies onto prepared baking sheets, centering each star on top of a chocolate chip. Refill bag as necessary.
Bake at 170 for 1-1.5 hours, turn oven off and allow to cool inside oven.* 
*this is where my baking method differs from Darla's. She bakes for 1hr40min and takes the cookies out of the oven. I like to bake less time and turn the oven off to let them cruise into the finish line.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pittsburgh at Christmastime: Phipps Conservatory

If you haven't been to the holiday flower show at Phipps Conservatory yet, you need to go! There are evergreens and poinsettias, sparkling lights, and ornaments everywhere! It is beautiful.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Awesome Friends on my Birthday

Long before my birthday this year I mentioned that I would really love this cake to celebrate.

My incredible girlfriends spent hours making it for me! Then they threw me a surprise party-playdate. It was awesome, except, guess who ruined the surprise... me. That's right. My calling to be a prompt or early person to all engagements caused me to foil the surprise part of the party. It was still awesome though. It's really wonderful to have such beautiful souls as mama-friends. I'm incredibly blessed. By the way, the cake was amazing too. Just an all-around fabulous day!

For the record, there were four mamas and nine kids ages five and under plus one in a tummy!

Aren't we festive!?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Downtown Pittsburgh at Christmas

If you're looking for something festive do this month and you don't want to spend a ton of money, you can go down town and check out the lights and trees all around the office buildings! If you go on the weekend you can park at a meter for free! (I think it starts at 6pm on Fridays and goes through Sundays all month!) It only took us a couple extra minutes of driving around to find an open meter space.

If you go, be sure and walk around PPG Place to look at all the gingerbread creations local children made! You'll also find the gigantic tree and skating rink.

If you walk a few blocks from PPG Place, you will see the huge, live tree at the City-County building.

There are so many sights and sounds, we didn't get to see them all. Venture down & see what you find! And don't forget to take your good camera...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent with the 'Tots

This is the first year we've had an Advent wreath and candles as the centerpiece on our table. I've wanted one for a long time and Ian is really interested in the story of Jesus' birthday this year so I decided it was time to get the wreath and candles!

We missed the first Sunday due to an Amazon shipping snafu, but once we got everything all set, Ian and I caught up and we're ready to go.

Do you do the Advent wreath at home? How do you do it? What parts are your children included in (if you have them!)?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Salt dough ornaments

We used this recipe to make our very own salt dough ornaments to decorate our tree and give as gifts this year.

Ian, Aaron, & Lauren all got in on the action and dare I say it...had fun.

If you are looking for something neat and homemade to do with your children during these cold, dreary days, go ahead and try it out! You could easily make decorations for other holidays as well. You could also do hand prints. (ooh! I just had an idea for inexpensive gifts! Salt dough picture frames!)

In case you're worried, it's 12/1 now and we have swapped out our pumpkins and leaves table cloth for a festive and gawdy electric green one with candy canes. Fab!

Salt dough ornaments:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup warm water
Mix together flour and salt.
Then mix in the warm water.
Mix until you have a dough that is similar in consistency to pie crust.
Take the dough and place it on a floured surface.
Roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. 
Put the shapes on a cookie sheet.
Then take a sharp object (I used a plastic straw) to put a small hole in each shape where you will insert the ribbon. Make sure the hole goes all the way through the dough, because it will close up slightly while baking.
Bake the salt dough ornaments for 4 to 6 hours at 200 degrees or until hardened.