Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Out With The Old

It's been quite a month. I'm glad it's over.

For two days I have been on my feet in the kitchen, baking cakes. Lots of cakes. Wedding cakes.

One hundred servings of coconut cake. Lime curd filling.

One hundred servings of fudge cake. Orange filling.

Ten gluten-free, allergen-free vanilla cupcakes.

And ninety gluten-full and allergen-full vanilla cupcakes.

Raspberry and blueberry filling for the cupcakes.

On New Year's Eve I'm going to be icing all those cakes and cupcakes.
That's how I'll be celebrating the holiday. When I'm done, I'll have a drink. Or three.

And on New Year's Day I'll be delivering all those cakes and cupcakes.
Then I'll take a nap. And maybe clean the kitchen.

Then I'll pack a bag because I'm taking a day off!

Gettin' outta Dodge.

I think I deserve it.

There's a boutique hotel in the city that brags about it's pillow top mattresses and high thread count sheets. It only costs 47 cupcakes. I'm going to take them up on it. I think it'll be a good way to start a new year.

How are you going to start the new year?

Mountain Sledding

We live in a valley surrounded by forested mountains and rolling hills but would you believe that there is no safe place where the kids can carry their sleds to ride in the winter snow?

I grew up in the mountainless midwest. Despite living in those flat lands we never lacked for sledding hills in the winter.

Here, we have to make a special trip to a sled park in the state forest. Often the snow is so deep it is difficult to get up or down the hill.

Another option is to pay to sled on a groomed run at a ski resort. This requires parking and standing in long, long lines for a turn to ride.

Or we could go into town where there are hills in the suburban parks and lots of kids to run over with your sled.

But since there hasn't been heavy snow fall yet this winter, the state forest park near the mountain offered perfect conditions today.

With the new saucer sleds they got from Grandma at Christmas....

....and a big brother with time on his hands....

Samuel and Peter finally got a chance to do what all kids should do during their Christmas break from school...
Catapult their bodies down frozen hills, dodging trees and rocks while blinded by flying snow.

It's the best way to enjoy winter.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yo! Yo! Yo! It's a Yo-Off!

Who will win?

The gross burping boy? Or the "flowy" graceful girl?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Photographing kids

The challenge:

To pose and photograph a group of small people dressed in their Christmas finest and get a good, clean shot.

Sam! No rabbit ears. Bridget, honey, put down your dress.

Drat! Almost!

All right, who wants to hold Baby Abigail?

Oh Baby!

As good as it gets.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I'd like to wish everyone a joyful and peaceful Christmas celebration. I appreciate your interest in my blog and my family. Thank you for visiting!

From me (and Seth)- a musical Christmas greeting!

Christmas has changed.

At least I have noticed a change from the Christmases of my memory.

Does that make me sound like an old timer?

All I know is that it seems to me every year the spiritual element of Christmas gets dimmer and quieter. The bright lights and noise of the more secular aspects of Christmas celebrations get more prominent and louder.

Is it because I am losing my own personal focus? Or is it true that there are no longer as many religious celebrations of the Feast of the Nativity in America?

The Christmas preparations and the Advent anticipation are whatever we make of it. I enjoy the traditions of gift giving and baking and decorating, the extra contact with friends and neighbors when we deliver the box of cookies, read the Christmas mail or attend a holiday party. It is also wonderful that people give mind to those less fortunate in the world, giving of their time and gifts to make the world, if only temporarily, a better place.

But I have noticed that less and less of it is actually rooted in the foundational reason for celebrating the arrival of December 25.

I believe the blame for that squarely rests on the shoulders of the Christians who should be the ones shoring up the foundations of Christmas celebrations. Christians should be doing more than fighting town hall for the public nativity displays or wearing buttons on their coats that say "It's okay to say Merry Christmas" while they are out loading their carts with hams and wrapping paper and icicle lights.

Christians should make sure that the doors of the churches are all open every December 25 for people to come into God's house to worship the Christchild, the real reason to observe and celebrate Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Messiah. Every Christian church should be declaring this message on December 25. Christmas Day should be filled with songs of praise, prayers and meditation on the arrival of the Savior of the fallen world.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have children running down the stairs on a sparkly Christmas morning in joyful anticipation of worshipping the Baby Jesus?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Basic Life Skills 201

When I was seventeen, my elderly grandparents visited us in Michigan. At the end of their visit they needed to get back home to Minnesota and I was appointed to drive them there in their car. We were going to drive north into da U.P. (yah) and across northern Wisconsin to Minnesota (the place of my birth).

My 80 something grandpa was in a wheelchair and had a "wooden" leg. He still carried his driver's license though and I remember that he insisted on doing some driving on the coast highway of northern Lake Michigan with his artificial foot wired onto the gas pedal. Did I mention that my grandpa was the stubbornest old man on the face of the earth? It was his car and I was just a kid so what could I say? A fun time it was with me white knuckling the dashboard and my little ol' grandma in the back seat.

Before we left on our trip, my grandpa, who had been a car mechanic about sixty years earlier, wheeled himself out to the car to teach me how to change the tire just in case I would need that skill while we were on the road. He sat in the wheel chair and gave me directions of how to jack up the car, remove and replace the tire.

Mr. Dirtywrench only knew my grandfather for a short time before Grandpa passed on but I think all mechanics are of the same mindset- that anyone who drives a car should at least know how to check the oil and change a tire. These are basic life skills, like - if you wear clothes you should know how to wash them, and if you eat food, you should know how to cook.

So in this family, I'm in charge of teaching the washing and cooking and Mr. Dirtywrench makes sure every car driver knows how to check the oil and change a tire.

It does not matter if you are a male or female. If you drive a car, you must know how to maintain it.

It took a bit of crying and foot stomping but after we were married, Mr. D. and I eventually came to an agreement that if he didn't have to wash his clothes or cook his food, I would never have to check my oil or change my tires.

But I do know my way with a set of jumper cables.

And I don't care how much he cries, Mr. Dirtywrench can still make his own breakfast.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Did you bake cookies today too?

This is what I did all day.

But not for us. These babies are for certain lucky clients of Expertec Automotive Repair.
I hope they possess a healthy sweet tooth.

I keep their customer waiting room's cookie jar full of cookies- about fifteen dozen a week!

I chose some of the most special and Christmasy favorites for the client gift boxes.
These are date pinwheel cookies - my favorite!

I also made the ginger spice cookies and the buttery pecan cookies.

To make the buttery pecan cookies a little more holiday festive, I decided to sugar glaze the whole pecan that is on top of the cookie.

They didn't turn out so well. I've made them before but for some reason this time they tasted good but looked like....well, uh, I won't say what they looked like, but it was not good.
So I made lemonade out of these lemons. I chopped them very roughly and added them to the cookie dough.

The flavor really worked in the cookie without the ugliness.

Another recipe I tweaked for Christmas was the perennially popular snickerdoodle. I used the dough recipe and added almond extract for a classic sugar cookie taste. Then I rolled the dough balls in red sugar crystals.

My own twist on a simple sugar cookie.

Six varieties of cookies and I didn't make an exact count but...

...I baked twenty-five to thirty dozen.
I didn't have to run the woodstove today. My oven kept me warm.

I've been thinking this week about Christmas traditions around the world.
Cookies have certainly become a large part of the traditional American celebration of Christmas.
Cookie exchange parties, neighbors delivering plates of cookies to each other, grandmas baking cookies with their grandkids...homemade cookies are everywhere this time of year. There are so many favorites and variations of each. It seems that people take joy in baking cookies at Christmas even if they don't have the habit of baking the rest of the year.

Pie is traditional for Thanksgiving.

But at Christmas the treat of choice is cookies!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

She knows. She's a dog lover.

We got a special and very thoughtful gift from our friend and neighbor, Karen.

It took a lot of effort to find what was just right.

Now every year when we decorate our Christmas tree...

...we'll remember our special friend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What a kid.

Last Christmas someone gave Samuel this cute little tree decoration.

He thought it was pretty clever.

He decided he wanted to do that.

After snitching some yarn and a crochet hook from his sister he diligently went to work and produced this:

All by himself. Did I mention that Samuel is a nine year old boy?

Since he couldn't find any large paper clips for his skates he used paper fasteners and pronounced them roller skates.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In the Garden Today

We got six inches of snow on Monday night.

Then it rained for twenty-four hours. Or more.

This morning I ventured out with the camera. I do this often from April to October, regularly taking my breakfast or coffee with me. Not today though.

But I did stroll through the gardens...

I looked at the sleeping spirea.

The magnolia buds.

One of my oldest rhododendron.

Feeling a little chilly yet? I am.

The red azalea.

This little vine should be symbolic of something.
Perseverance. Futility. Tenacity. Oregon weather.

The buddelia aka butterfly bush is normally eight feet tall.

I don't know about you....

...but I'm going to go put on another pair of socks and make a hot toddy....

...and lean against the woodstove for awhile.