Sunday, December 20, 2009

More Christmas Goodies - and recipes

I've finally finished the bulk of my holiday baking, I think. On friday the boys and I headed out to deliver a few goodie baskets to some of our friends that didn't already get one though Chris's work.

These baskets were much cuter and had the addition of some cranberry bread (the pic & recipe are below.)
I tried toffee last night when a few friends came over. Yummy!

Cranberry Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cold butter
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp grated orange peel
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cold butter

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp orange juice

In a large bowl combine the first five ingredients; cut in butter until crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, orange juice and peel. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in cranberries and raisins. Transfer to a greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.
Combine brown sugar and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For glaze, combine confectioners sugar and orange juice until smooth. Drizzle over bread.

I was asked for the recipe for the Merry Mocha Cookies so here you are. It came from Ladies Home Journal magazine - probably the December issue.
Merry Mocha Cookies
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
white nonpareil sprinkles

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in egg and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa powder, salt, espresso and cinnamon; blend until just combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.
Transfer dough to a square of parchment, form into a log 2 inches in diameter and roll tightly in parchment. Refrigerate until solid, about 1 hr, rotating every 20 min to maintain shape. (I had to freeze mine to make it hard enough to slice.)
Bake until cookies are set and there is slight resistance when you lightly touch centers, 9 to 10 min. Allow to cool completely on the parchment. Store airtight up to 1 week.
Makes 40

I am very happy with how all of my goodies turned out this year, especially since I tried several new things. Although all my goodie gifts are done, I may have to make a little extra to last my family through Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A peek inside my goodie bags

Dipped pretzels are a holiday staple for us. My mom always makes them too.

Merry Mocha cookies were a first time addition to my goodie bag. Oh. My. Goodness! I thought they were so good.

Cinnamon popcorn. I started making this last year after getting it from another blog.

Spritz cookies - so easy with a cookie press and one of hubby's favorites. The boys took turns helping with the sprinkles and being my "cookie partner".

See this?

That is 19 bags of goodies that hubby requested for work today. Now, I do enjoy baking or I wouldn't do it but it seems that each year he asks for more and more and more. 19! It really becomes less enjoyable and more stressful the night before they are "due" because I don't make much ahead of time. I want things to be fresh if we're giving them for gifts. Oh well, another year down. Now I can leisurely make a little more for our family and close friends which is what I intended all along.
I had also planned on making toffee and a cranberry bread (I usually try to include a bread item) but just didn't have time. I still might make some for the rest of us because I already bought all the ingredients.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A visit with Santa

Today our neighborhood had a visit from Santa at the clubhouse so we decided to go and see him. Last year Alex went right up to him (at the mall) and sat on his lap and Zachary had to stand several feet away. This year.....Zachary loved him some Santa and Alex wanted nothing to do with him! It was the funniest thing. Zachary was so cute! He sat on Santa's lap and talked awhile then we sat and ate some cookies. Then Zachary asked if he could go talk to Santa again, and again, and again. There were very few kids there so it wasn't a problem and Santa was so nice. Zachary just chatted away about what he wanted for Christmas, that he liked Santa's boots and had some cowboy boots of his own at home. They talked about the Christmas tree in the clubhouse, how it had a Santa on top but ours had an angel. Everybody got a kick out of him. Alex pouted on the couch far away from Santa and couldn't wait to get out of there.

This was the closest we could get Alex to Santa and it was a fight that didn't turn out well.

This was a few days ago but Zachary loves our wooden Santa at home.

Zachary likes to talk to our wooden Santa also. He's been practicing for the real thing. He tries to hug him and tells him what he wants for Christmas. Then he'll turn to me and say with a smile "He hears me!". So sweet.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas card rejects

Whew! Christmas cards are in the mail - well, most of them anyway. I tried and tried to get a good picture of the boys to include in it but you sure have to go through alot of bad ones or sorta good ones to find one you like. Here are some of the ones that didn't make the cut.
I really liked this picture with the exception of Zachary's hair. The boys had just gotten out of the bath when I took these pictures and Zachary still has wet comb marks in his hair. Why didn't I see that until after the pictures were done?!

I love how the boys put their arms around each other for this picture. I did not tell them to do that!

This next bunch is my 2nd attempt and I had to bribe the boys with candy to get them to let me take them. I thought the pajama pictures were kinda cute but Chris thinks Zachary's pj's are too little and not very cute. I will say they are a tad short but he loves them!

This one wasn't too bad but I have no idea why Zachary is pointing at me like that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Surprise, Lisa!

Thanksgiving was more than just Thanksgiving for us this year. We threw a surprise birthday party for my older sister. She doesn't turn the big four-oh until the end of December but what better way to actually surprise her than to throw the party a month early! We did have to change the date and location at the last minute after teenage soccer tournaments changed their dates but the party was still a hit!
Random party pictures.....

A group photo. This was most of us with the exception of a few kids and a few MIA husbands, including mine.

The party hostesses with the birthday girl. My younger sister Joanne, our cousin Sara, the birthday girl Lisa, our mom Ann, and me. Joanne made the cutest shirts for us. I wish I had a picture. The front says "40 years ago.." and the back has a list of things that happened in 1969 like the first Gap opening and Sesame Street first airing and then ending with our sister being born. So cute!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My turkeys with their turkeys

I was a little bit slow getting it together but yesterday the boys and I made cute turkey decorations. If I'd have done it earlier we could have made more and mailed them to the grandparents. I can't remember the website I found it on but it was easy (except all the cutting - I don't trust the boys with much cutting yet). The turkey bodies are made up of the child's footprints glued together at the heal to make a head. The feathers are handprints cut out in different colors. Then decorate with a face and feet. Voila!

The brown turkeys with the real feathers glued on are ones they made at school.

Even though they're not looking, I still thought this picture was cute. They are good sports putting up with all the pictures I take!

Monday, November 23, 2009

2 years ago today....

(Well, technically it was yesterday but that sounded funny in the title.) Yesterday was the 2 year anniversary of our "Airplane Day". It was Thanksgiving Day in 2007 that we flew home from Russia with our two boys. They did surprisingly well on the long flight back to the U.S., much better than I thought (or worried about). They were such little guys, only 16 months and 24 months at the time. During our few days together in a hotel in Moscow Alex really became a happier boy - at least to us. There was no more crying like he did on every visit with us. Sleep was really our main issue during those first days, which was expected, and we were all exhausted. When we landed at JFK we missed our connecting flight back to Texas and had to stay the night. We all four shared the bed that night and had a much better sleep. At the breakfast buffet in the hotel the next morning we got our first glimpse at Alex's appetite. He loved it all! We finally made it home the day after Thanksgiving. My parents and one sister with her two teenage boys were waiting at the airport to meet us and had a Thanksgiving dinner waiting at our house. My wonderful mom stayed a few extra days with us to help the new parents get into the swing of things. I've got such great memories of our trips to get our boys (even though I did get peed on once!). Happy Two Years!!

The boys during our stay in Moscow - they had lived in different baby houses before this and had never met each other.

Finally home!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Burger boys and kings

On Wednesday we took Grandma (my MIL) out to lunch before she had to catch her flight back home. Chris had heard about a place that we had never been so we went to try it. The food was good and it is attached to an antique shop. They had an old Big Boy burger guy that my little guys thought was so neat. Alex refused to take a picture but Zachary was game.

Yesterday we took the boys to another movie (A Christmas Carrol - not enough action & cute stuff for the boys to stay interested. It would be better for bigger kids than mine.) and then to dinner. Somehow at dinner Zachary was talking about wanting me to make a necklace because I tied a straw wrapper around his finger and he called it a ring. So I tied a few together and put it on his neck. Well, then it was put on his head and called a crown so he called himself a king for the rest of the night. Today I got out some colored paper and told the boys that we would make better crowns. They were so funny making them but are now walking around the house as King Alex and King Zachary.

The boys then dubbed me "Queen Mama". Hey, I kinda like that title! **Warning - I have on no make-up and bed head! I'm in so few pictures with the boys that I had to post it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The party

Saturday was Alex's birthday party. Poor guy had to wait almost a week after his birthday for it. He chose a Spiderman party and this time I actually made the cake (well, cupcakes) myself. I think they turned out really cute. As usual, we didn't have a ton of people but it was our friends and family and so it was enough. Even grandma (Chris's mom) flew over from California.

Alex got great gifts (thank you everyone). Zachary immediately claimed one Handy Manny toy as his own. So far it hasn't caused any problems..... We spent yesterday and today playing games - Hi Ho Cherry O, Five Monkey's on the Bed, and a Curious George Game. I wasn't sure we were ready for board games but the boys are loving it!

We got a Spiderman pinata for the party. This was the first one we ever got. This sucker was really well built and it took forever to get into. The birthday boy went first.

Zachary up at bat.

Next Luke takes a turn.

In the end, Junior was the one to finally get the goodies out of Spiderman. He had also previously knocked off Spidy's head but there was no candy there. There was a mad dash for the goods and everybody went home with a full bag!