Thursday, December 31, 2009

Winter Break

The end of the year is here and I wanted to recap some of the things we've been up to in the last week since our big snowfall - the most in our area in December ever!

Before Christmas, we went walking in a winter wonderland...

Clearbrook Park


We went to church Christmas Eve and the next morning opened much wanted gifts...




Had friends over to play...

Rocked out on Wii...

I'm not sure why he sticks his tongue out :)


Big kids bonded with little kids...

Making a bird house with Handy Manny's repair shop
We had a little of this...

and a little of that...


and Mommy remembered why she doesn't do puzzles - they suck up all her time!

Matt and I saw Sherlock Holmes Saturday night after grabbing a quick meal out *Loved it!* and he was kind enough to mix drinks for me and some friends who came over last night to work on Puzzle Edward, my Christmas gift to myself :)

Before it rained on Christmas Day there was much playing in the 2 feet of snow we had, however we have no pictures because the camera doesn't tell you whether the memory card is in there or not. Hello? Canon? So Matt took a bunch of the new-fallen pristine snow before we let the kids out, only to discover that not one of them was saved anywhere. Now we need it to snow again :)

We're hoping to round out winter break with The Princess and the Frog tomorrow - the first time we'll attempt taking Sarah and Jason to the movies! - and maybe some ice skating on the weekend. I can't tell you how nice it is to have the little two be just big enough to get out and do some things together as a family - I'm really looking forward to the next few years!

That's mostly what we've been up to, there's been lots of laughs and not just a few tears among the kids as they've been up too late too many nights, as well as together for almost 2 weeks straight now; I'm anxious for yet also dreading the start of school on the 4th, but looking forward to the new year and getting my act together - time to be the best me I can, for myself and my family.

Adieu 2009, welcome 2010!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

12 Years

12 years ago today I pledged to love, honor and cherish Matt until death do us part. We had great hopes for the future that day - in my mind, after the wedding would come building our life together - we'd eventually buy a house, have kids (2 was his number, I had 3 in mind), and grow old together raising our happy family. We had a plan to pay off our debt so I could stay home when the kids eventually came along, and I'd be a happy homemaker.

12 years have passed already, and things have pretty much gone along as I figured. House? check; kids? double-check; the satisfaction of staying home and raising our happy family? Some days are better than others. I don't call myself 'Harried Mom' for nothing.

Look at all our shining YOUNG faces!

The days are busy, and the years seem to be going by faster every time I blink. We were getting ready for church on Christmas Eve and I could vividly picture sitting in church LAST Christmas Eve, down to where we were sitting, what everyone was wearing, and how I went to grab Sarah and Jason from the nursery in time for communion & singing Silent Night by candlelight at the end of the service.

My hands have not looked this nice once since this picture was taken.

I think this will be a challenging year for us, coming up on lucky number 13 - the little two have minds of their own but still need so much help; Evie and William are more independent but less appreciative and helpful than we'd like; Matt's looking at where he is in life at 40 and dealing with the restlessness that what is essentially mid-life brings; I'm trying to maintain my sanity at home with small people while also searching for balance with my sense of self as an individual as opposed to cook/laundress/housekeeper. Or, what do I want to be when I grow up?


My anniversary card - I swear I thought the hearts were blood drops at first glance - how fitting :)

So here we are at 12 years, and I'm hopeful for the future. Things get easier in some ways day by day, and maybe more challenging in others, but each day brings us a step farther from the intensity and insanity that is having 4 kids within 6 years of each other. In my Christmas card Matt told me he's looking forward to another year with me, so at least I know he'll stick around that long :) And maybe by the time we hit 15 years some of the grandparents will be willing to come and stay with them while we get out of Mayberry for a week. Or 3. Please?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

White Christmas

This is the year! We're finally getting a white Christmas here in Mayberry. A nor'easter dumped 2 feet of snow on our town this weekend, however fortunately (unfortunately?) we weren't here to see it, as we'd left Friday evening to visit family for the weekend to celebrate Christmas. Upon our return, this beautiful sight awaited us:

Harried Mom and Dad's front door

Our snow-covered porch trees

Need to clean off that stoop tomorrow!

My snow filled reindeer...

This one normally lifts his head up, I think it's frozen in ice.

By this evening, it had compacted down to 16 inches of snow - still enough to lose Jason in, if he were to fall over!

Matt and I would like to thank our dear friend and wonderful neighbor Rob, who was kind enough to snow blow our driveway while we were gone so that we were able to just pull up the drive and into the garage when we returned home this evening - what a treat that was - THANK YOU ROB! Have Michelle give you a big smooch for me :)

School has already been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, so Evie and William are officially on winter break, so after I finish cleaning tomorrow (which will take twice as long with them home!) we'll move on to baking two more batches of cookies, putting together our gingerbread houses, and wrapping gifts. And I will DEFINITELY be shooing them outside to play in all that snow. Worn out kids make for a happy mommy :) And maybe then Mommy will have time to go visit all her blogging friends that she's been missing this past week...if not, Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cooking! Make your own Peppermint Bark

I love Peppermint Bark. Love it. LOVE it. (Do you get how much I love Peppermint Bark?) Anyway. I really like it a lot. However I don't like paying $26.50 to Williams-Sonoma for a 1-lb tin of it.


Two years ago I searched the interwebs for a recipe to make it in my very own kitchen, and I found a great one on epicurious from Bon Appetit. It's easy. EASY. (And it makes a great gift!)

You'll have a harder time not eating it when it's finished than you will making. And the kids will love helping you crush the candy canes :) Ready to get started? I'll give you the recipe first, and then you can ooh and aah over my spectacular photographs detailing the process (ha!) Here we go:

Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark
Bon Appetit/December 1998

Ingredients:
17 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Ghirardelli), finely chopped
1 6-oz box of candy canes, coarsely crushed (Peppermint, obv.)
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract. * I use 8 drops or so of peppermint oil in place of the extract.

Preparation:

Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Cover securely with foil. Mark 12x9-inch rectangle on foil. Stir white chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water) until chocolate is melted and smooth and candy thermometer registers 110 degrees F. (chocolate will feel warm to touch). Remove from over water. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle on foil. Using icing spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. pour bittersweet chocolate mixture in long lines over white chocolate rectangle. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm remaining white chocolate in bowl set over barely simmering water to 110 degrees F. Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer; spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

* The directions go on to tell you to trim the edges, slice into strips, yadda yadda. Just try to cut it up as best you can with a large knife. This is probably the most difficult part, and it's only because the chocolate is hard. Just do the best you can, and eat all the yummy crumbles :)

It can be made 2 weeks ahead of time and should be stored in the refrigerator. Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

And now my pictures!

I use the bittersweet, not semi sweet chocolate (and make sure you use good quality chocolate!)

William asked me for days when we were going to make the candy cane cookies :)
and even Jason was able to help!


Try not to get a big lump like I did up there :)
1/4 cup of crushed candy cane gets sprinkled here

William adding the whipping cream

Melting the chocolate with the whipping cream and peppermint oil

Layer two is finished & ready to chill

Matt came home in time to photograph layer #3 :)


Sprinkle the top layer with the remaining candy canes. Note: I never use them all, just sprinkle until it looks right to you; and they were also probably crushed a little finer than necessary, William got a bit carried away :)

When it's all said and done, it should look something like this!

You should end up with around 1.5 lbs of candy for under $15. Not exactly 'cheap', but you will control the ingredients (no preservatives!) and it'll be home-made. And delicious. And pretty in a glass jar with a red ribbon, if you choose to give it away. This year I'm keeping all of mine for our family :) Hopefully it won't all go straight to my seat. Hopefully.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Annual Christmas Card Photo Shoot

It's that time of year again. Yes, where I dress the kids up in coordinating outfits and try to get one decent photo of them to mail out with the Christmas cards to all the people who probably never hear from us for the rest of the year. And also the people we see on a regular basis.

Now, I've said it before and I'll say it again - I have too many children. Yes, I know some of you out there have more than four. I used to think more than three was just plain crazy. But here we are with four.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a decent picture of four kids? Where they are all looking somewhat pleasant and, more importantly, in the same direction?

Next to impossible. They say a picture is worth a thousand words:







That was just 7 of the 33 pictures we took, unedited for your viewing pleasure. Here's the one we chose, cropped and tweaked with Picassa:



Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Crafty! Christmas Crafting

Welcome to my one and only post about Christmas crafts! I tend to be less 'crafty' and more 'oh, that's pretty, I'll buy one' when out and about - as long as the price is right. 2 weeks ago, however, I was at Michaels and saw some tin stars on sale. I was looking for stuff for the walls, as I have limited flat space out of reach of little fingers, and when I saw the stars I remembered Jen's project from this summer. I knew just what to do!

Here's my tin star for $2.49, a roll of ribbon, and a pad of small Christmas scrapbook paper, which I cut out to fit my star.

Want a better look at the paper?

A little bit of matte Mod Podge and maybe 30 minutes later (srsly, this one is EASY! I did it when the kids were up!) here it is hanging on my wall!


I thought about adding super-fine glitter to it, but when I tested it on the paper the only one it really 'popped' on was the blue/poinsetta one - and even that, where I have it hanging, wouldn't have shown up all that much. So I've left it as-is, and am very happy with my new wall art. I may need to go get some more stars!

Next we have something Evie wanted to work on for family gifts (Amy/Nana/Becky/Mom, this is a spoiler alert, stop now if you'd like to be surprised!)

Evie had found an old candle holder that I was using to hold q-tips in her bathroom; she wanted to use it to make a Christmas gift for someone. After we talked through her idea, she ran some errands with Matt and after a stop at Michaels they came home with the supplies for her craft: glass 'rose bowl' votive holders, Christmas 'phrase' stickers, and some 3-D stickers too. She picked out 'shimmer' Mod Podge as well, but that didn't turn out so nice on our test.


Evie applying the clear stickers to the bowls

Yes, her nightgown is on backwards and inside out - some school rumor about that and putting ice cubes in the toilet bringing snow (who makes this stuff up??)

Here's the final product. After she applied the stickers, I coated them with matte finish Mod Podge and then sprinkled them with Martha Stewart's superfine glitter. After that dried we hot glued the poinsettia stickers to them.


And here they are, all lit up:


I hope everyone loves them! We're making them for the teachers too - I figure what with all the lovely crafts they send home to us, they might like some in return ;)

********************************************************
And now that I have your attention, I have an award to pass on. Back in November (how has it been over a month already?!) Erin at The Fierce Beagle passed along this lovely award to me:


I'm flattered :) In order to accept this, I am to list 10 honest things about myself and then pass it along to 7 fellow bloggers. So here we go:
  1. I wanted a nose job in 6th grade. Even did my first research paper on it. After all that, I didn't really want one anymore. My nose is mine, and it's part of my face, and I wouldn't look like me anymore if I changed it. So it stays, bump and all.
  2. I have control issues. And I'm aware of it. And I find myself trying to let things go and keep my mouth shut, but then being unable to do so and then regretting it. Sorry :(
  3. More and more I'm seeing myself in Sarah, and now I'm wondering how she and I will survive the next 15 years?
  4. Every day I think we had more kids than I can handle. But I can't imagine life without any of them.
  5. Related to that, I quit my 'job' at least once a week, but they won't let me go!
  6. I got really lucky the day I married Matt. I don't know that anyone else would put up with me.
  7. My chocolate addiction is the main reason the last 6 pounds don't want to go anywhere; I filled some jars with Christmas colored candy as a decoration - the peppermints & chocolate covered candy canes? No problem. The Hershey Kisses of various flavors? The jar's half empty & I really can't pin it on the kids at this point.
  8. I have a mild obsession with coats. Don't need another single one, but I'm drawn to them!
  9. Same thing with shoes!
  10. Lastly - I really wish I knew what I want to be when I grow up - or rather, when the kids are grown up enough for me to be more a person in my own right. Maybe I'll write a book about a sparkly vampire...oh wait, that's already been done...
And the lucky 7 are:
  1. Laura at Piece of Cake. If anyone is honest in blogland, it's Laura.
  2. Alex at Whoa-Mumma! Cracks me up :)
  3. Cid at Blog like no one is reading. Lots of honesty here- makes me feel completely normal.
  4. Mimi at Living in France. She's received this one already, but in my book deserves it again!
  5. Michelle R at Must Be a Full Moon Always something interesting here
  6. Colleen at Martin Family Moments She reminds me what it's really all about.
  7. J.J. at I'd Rather Be Laughing Because I would too :)
Thanks for stopping by! And WISH ME LUCK - DIY Network is announcing the winner of their HUGE Kitchen giveaway today and I am under the perhaps mistaken impression that I am the only person who entered this sweepstakes, and therefore must be the winner. Think positive, right?

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