30 December 2007

Freshening Up

Tangerines
A couple days of nothing going on was exactly what we needed around here. We de-Christmased, both the house and our brains. Lots of book reading and some comfort cooking and a couple nice home improvements. We fixed up a new table for little ones in the dining room. Bella loves it:



Chair cushions

Silverware

We also got a big girl bed, in an attempt to resolve the no-nap issue. Since most of the screaming and crying at naptime involves wails of "NO CRIB!" we thought a big girl bed for naptime could be a solution. So far, it isn't. But hey, it looks so cute! 


Oh Bella, what are we going to do with you?

27 December 2007

Sigh!

Afternoon chai
Nice to start the post with a big steaming cup of chai. Ahhhhh!

And in a new Martha Stewart mug, no less! Just one of my wonderful Christmas presents from my very awesome family! I got many of the books I was coveting on my wishlist, as well as some great kitchen items. I already don't know how I lived without an immersion blender. We made potato leek soup and instead of whipping out the Foley food-mill and creating an, um, textured soup, I stuck my new blender in and ZIP! Creamy soup! We couldn't believe it. I mean, wow. It was really cool. (we take soup pretty seriously!)

Potato Leek Soup

Of course Bella made the big haul for Christmas. She is well-stocked with play food, vehicles, books, etc. Here she is washing up in her new kitchen. 

Washing her hands
I must say, the holidays are wonderful, with lots of cozy family time and crafting and bustling. But I am in some need of R & R. Staying up late working on gifts and various ambitious preparations left me just plain tuckered out. We are sending Bella to daycare this week (enter MOM GUILT stage left) so Brent and I can do whatever relaxing necessary. Yesterday I did a little post-holiday bargain hunting (with some success) and then we went to a movie (Sweeney Todd) and lunch. Today was a humongous Ikea trip--something we've been looking forward to for a year! And in case you're wondering where all the senior citizens are, they're at Ikea, drinking free coffee before 10 am. After that, I'm not sure where they go. 

And here, for good measure, is my 2008 Christmas Resolution, typed in black and white so I won't forget it: have all the gifts bought/finished* by December first! How do you organized people do it? I even thought I was organized this year! Ahh, that seemed so naive as my mom stood in my dining room doing my wrapping and my dad was in the kitchen doing my cooking.

*One way, I think, would be to do less of a homemade Christmas. There was a lot of pressure online this year to give homemade. There was even an online pledge you could "sign"--very popular with the crafty types. I did not sign it, because the last part of it said to tell other people to buy you homemade. And that just seems bossy. Also, last time I checked, immersion blender = not homemade. And boy I wanted that. Did I mention the soup was LIKE VELVET?!

22 December 2007

We need a little Christmas

right this very minute! I've had that song stuck in my head all day, which is not representative of life around here: we've got Christmas goin' on! Cookies baked, fudge eaten, gifts wrapped. Oh wait, I haven't started wrapping. I haaaate wrapping. Brent doesn't mind it but he doesn't wrap up to my standards (paper, sharpie, DONE), so that is what I get for being a fussbucket about it. However, I find Brent's wrapping is more than sufficient if he is wrapping a fancy new yarn swift! for me! Then he may paper/sharpie away. I got to open my present early, so here it is, in all its wonderful, yarny goodness.

Yarn Swift

I wound a big hank of alpaca that I got at the State Fair to test it out. I was done, including time to unwind the helpful (backwards) winding that Bella did, in about 5 minutes. Whoah! Greased lightning! That's hours of ball-winding on the couch saved! (Which will now turn into just plain hours on the couch. What's the point of a time-saver that doesn't allow for more couch time?)

Here's Bella having hot cocoa after playing in the snow all afternoon.


How cute is she with her tiny little mug? SO DAMN CUTE! You would have flopped over in a cute-faint if you'd seen it. Yes, you totally would have.

14 December 2007

The stockings were hung...

Stockings for three

We got the tree this weekend too, so we are in full Christmas swing around here. Although some of us had a harder time getting into the spirit than others.

We are at the U of M Forestry Club tree lot, where we picked out a tree in approximately 9 nanoseconds due to the super duper freezing cold. 

Forestry guy: Can I help you find something?

Us: Balsam! 6 feet! Put it in the back!

Forestry guy: I bet she would like a candy cane.

Us: Yes! Put it in the back! 

But we got home and calmed down as all of us thawed out. Including our super cute tree. The next day Bella helped decorate it.



Last night I was happily crafting away in my craftanctuary when I happened to glance at a Crafty Planet business card I had tacked up on the wall (after ordering the cutest fabric ever) and was hit by a bolt of lightning when I noticed that Crafty Planet is in Minneapolis. WHA?! And only a few miles from work to boot! How could I have not noticed this before? I am so pumped. I have already registered for this skirt class. I had to control myself to not sign up for everything. Quilting! Embroidery! Knitting! And look--there are scooters parked out front! 

Oh Crafty Planet, I love you. Oh, and I especially love Brent, for not minding me taking a skirt class on his birthday. What a guy. Thanks cutie! 

09 December 2007

Cheesy Comfort

Finished Cheesebread

While in Rochester last weekend, Dad and I got the baking bug and decided to make a loaf of cheese bread from a recipe in Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking. Before we realized it was a quick bread, Dad had hauled out a Hobart-sized Kitchenaid mixer and a barrel of bread flour. Alas, it was just boring old quick bread! But it turned out quite delicious. It was definitely best almost right out of the oven, with the internal cheese gooey and the external cheese crusty. But it wasn't bad toasted the next day with sloppy joes.

Cheese Bread

Quick Cheese Bread

3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces sharp cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream

Cheese Bread

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spray 9x5 loaf pan and sprinkle with 1/2 cup parmesan.
3. Whisk flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add cheddar to coat.
4. Whisk together milk, butter, egg, and sour cream. Fold into dry ingredients. Pour into pan. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake until golden brown and it passes the toothpick test (be careful not to mistake molten cheese for raw batter!), about 45-50 minutes. Cool slightly and turn out of pan.

Dad gave me a few new items for my spice inventory and when I got home, a box from Penzey's was waiting for me. Spice overload! I couldn't shoehorn everything into my humongous spice cupboard. Which is ridiculous. After all, it's humongous! So up I climbed and out I cleaned. And now I can't stop beaming at my newly organized spice cupboard. I even rigged stadium seating for my spices. Don't they look happy about it?


Spice Cupboard Make-Over

07 December 2007

Lucyfest

Well it's not quite solstice time, but it's darker than heck around here, so I figure a little festival of light action isn't out of line. Also, I finished these ahead of schedule--always a shock.

Santa Lucia Dolls
Santa Lucia Dolls

Mine turned out quite different from authentic Swedish wooden Lucias. Like for example, I included a red-head. But at least mine don't look absolutely shocked to be participating. (Oh dear God what am I doing?) And that lightbulb coming out of Lucia's head--hilarious! I can't stop laughing about that. 

I was a little foggy on the whole Santa Lucia thing, not being Swedish* or anything. But a quick goog later and I am now an expert. Young girl: check. Singing: check. Blazing candles: check. Crown of lingonberry twigs: um, no check. Steaming coffee: definite check. Saffron buns--oh yeah, those are so going to be a check. Here is a recipe, it was listed on a Swedish tourism site, right before "Dip Sauces - to go with smoked reindeer meat." Maybe that's what those wooden Lucias are looking at, a smoking reindeer. 

*Although today I did go to a Swedish Holiday lunch at a Lutheran church... it was meatballs and lefse and cranberries--ok, that's familiar, delicious territory--and fruit soup (I had never even heard of this, that's how not Swedish I apparently am) and lots of little cookies that tasted like cardamom and looked very time-consuming to make. 

I am visiting the folks in Rochester this weekend, which for me equals some quality relaxation time and for Bella equals non-stop cheese consumption. Today she ate cheese for what Grampa (the non-exaggerating one) estimated was 4 hours. Then she fell asleep on a giant fish. Does cheese have that tryptofan stuff in it? I think she was just tired from her jaw moving up and down so much. Since on top of chomping down 3 pounds of cheese, she jabbers a lot. (She gets that from Brent. Talk talk TALK.)

Oh, and can I just add: BRRRRR! Definitely time to break out the hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. 

04 December 2007

A Crafty Christmas

Here we are, at the cusp of Christmas, when I am feeling cockily in control of the season... gifts bought, crafts in progress, family picture made, house decorated (sans tree). But the cusp-y part of the cusp is that after this brief little suspended moment when I am cozily confident with my holiday handlingness ... WHOOOOSH! it's New Year's and I'm wondering what just happened to the whole month of December. 

I even have this book, Unplug the Christmas Machine, which I go through every year in an effort to have a s-l-o-w-e-r, more wholesome, Laura Ingalls Christmas. It doesn't usually work, but someday we will fiddle out carols while each exchanging one handmade, meaningful gift and helping the less fortunate.

As a step in the right direction, here is my Martha Stewart village from Michaels. I'm pretty sure all Martha Stewart merchandise is exempt from the Christmas Machine, so you can just stop right there, Mr. Pointyfinger Ironypants.

Snow Village

Snow Village
The whole time I'm carefully constructing the village, with dabs of glue and clamps and teensy tiny little wreathes made from pipe cleaners and pliers, Brent is examining them, "Oh yeah, this'll burn great." "How many men are garrisoned inside?" "Are the women and children in the church?" So now I have to vigilantly await the arrival of the miniature Ice Troll and/or Frost Giant raiding party. Geesh.

I couldn't sleep last night so was up working on my Saint Lucia dolls. I was going to post a picture but they are nude and I felt a little weird about it. I know, they're just clothes pins. But what can I say, dolls are always real to me. Maybe I should get off the computer and whip out some dresses for them! Then I will have completed the only two Christmas crafts on my list that are for myself. So typical. My next project is Bella's Christmas dress, which is made of the most gorgeous velvet fabric. I would have bought enough for a Mother/Daughter ensemble, but it was $22/yard. So. That decided that.

Bella's Christmas Dress

I am glad to have a few good sewing projects to work on during this season of Project Runway. And now they even have Project Runway patterns! Although I don't see anything there I have to make. But I like the concept.

It is a snowstorm outside so it's a good day to cozy up and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer while finishing Brent's stocking! Oh and doing 100 loads of laundry.

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