Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Prep: Party bites

The following recipes are some of my favorite little bites. Whether it's a work party, a church function, a neighborhood get together, or just your own New Year's Eve shindig, these tasty little morsels can make it lots of fun! I know I already gave advice on snacks and appetizers when also serving a big meal, but we often like to do our New Year's Eve party with a bunch of little bites to nibble on all night long. Or, if you're in charge of appetizers and nothing else, a couple of these ideas can really mix up your standard fare.

Spinach Artichoke Dip with toasted baguette

2 packages of cream cheese (low-fat "Neufchatel" is just fine), at room temperature
1 10 oz box of frozen chopped spinach
1 14 oz can of Artichoke Hearts
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts
1 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove)
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
About 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, to put on top

Thaw the spinach in the microwave for 3 minutes. Remove from the box and drain very well--squeeze any excess water out. Drain the artichoke hearts and the water chestnuts, then roughly chop both with a knife or a food processor. If you like a finer consistency, chop a little more. Mix together all the ingredients EXCEPT the Parmesan cheese. Put in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve on toasted baguette slices or on crackers.

Toasted Baguette

Slice 1 baguette or 1 loaf of french bread thinly. Spread the pieces out on a tray. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil, all over the bread (you could also brush with oil, or even butter). Slowly toast in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Rich and Creamy stuffed mushrooms
1 pound cremini mushrooms (or white button)
1/4 pound mild Italian (or spicy) sausage
8 oz cream cheese

Cook sausage in a pan, drain, and set aside. Wash mushrooms and gently remove stems by twisting them from the caps. Place caps cavity-side up in a lightly oiled 13x9 cooking dish. In a food processor, put HALF of the mushroom stems, the cooked sausage, and the cream cheese. Blend until thoroughly combined but still slightly chunky. Scoop cream cheese filling by teaspoon-to-tablespoon amounts and fill each mushroom cap, evenly dividing filling. Can be heaping over. Sprinkle the tops with a little bit of salt and pepper. Bake uncovered in oven at 350 for 30-50 minutes, until filling is slightly golden and mushroom caps are soft. Serve hot. *Can be made in advance and kept in fridge under plastic wrap until ready to bake.*

Lemony Salmon on Cucumber

1 lb (about 1 large portion) salmon fillet
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp dry dill (or fresh, if you've got it)
salt and pepper
1 large lemon
1 or 2 cucumbers

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat with the olive oil. Season salmon liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook in skillet, covered with a lid, for about 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked all the way through. Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream, dill, and the grated zest (yellow outside part) of the lemon, and 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. When salmon is done, remove to a plate and squirt with fresh lemon juice from HALF of the lemon. Save the other half for later. Chill both the sour cream sauce and the salmon for about 2 hours, until cold. Peel and slice cucumber into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. On each cucumber slice, put about 1/2 tsp of the sour cream sauce and about 1 tablespoon of the cooked salmon as it flakes apart. When all done, squirt the other half of the lemon juice all over the top of the cucumber-salmon bites. Serve cold.

Note: To make this with canned salmon, mix 2 or 3 cans of drained salmon into the sour cream sauce and just put a spoonful of that on each cucumber. This also can be made with cooked, peeled, and de-veined shrimp--just put one shrimp on each cucumber.

Toasted Ravioli
1 package fresh (not frozen or dry) ravioli, your favorite flavor
approx. 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (can use normal breadcrumbs; I just love the crunchiness of Panko)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
Butter and olive oil
marinara sauce and/or alfredo sauce (I like jarred, because it is easy)

1) In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and the parmesan cheese.
2) In another small bowl, beat the egg with 1 TBSP of water until frothy.
3) Heat a large frying pan over medium heat with 2 TBSP butter and 2 TBSP olive oil.
4) Dip each individual ravioli first in the beaten egg, and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in the frying pan for about 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove to a plate with paper towels to drain. This will probably take several batches, so if the oil starts to run low, add more butter and olive oil to the pan.
5) Heat up some marinara sauce and/or alfredo sauce and dip the toasted ravioli in your favorite sauces. We even tried it with Hollandaise sauce... SO GOOD... but a little more time consuming.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Decorating for Christmas

I told you my mom has tons of Christmas decorations... like, six big bins of them... We had a great time on Saturday setting them all up. Of course it was interspersed with the occasional tantrum, but nothing got broken (decorations or bones), and overall, I think it looks pretty nice!

Lee helped Grandpa and Grandma put the lights on the tree.

I used to love sitting under the tree and looking up at all the lights and ornaments when I was a kid, so Lee did it too. Very nostalgic for me. :)

When Anna put on the Santa hat, she walked around saying "Ho ho ho!" It was so cute! Lee was a stud in the hat as well.

The kids' favorite part of hanging ornaments on the tree was stepping up on the stepping stools. Lee kept saying, "I'm hanging this ordament way high so no children can get it!" Ironic, no?

And this is Anna this morning, dressed up in her cute Christmas dress and coat. She's also wearing her Christmas Tree hairbows, but you can't see them very well. This was the best possible picture I could take. The rest of the pictures turned out something like this...

Thanksgiving Results

We had such a fun Thanksgiving Celebration!

We cooked all day Wednesday and Thursday. We made thirteen pies, a twenty pound turkey, rolls, potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, jell-o, and fruit and vegetable platters. When it was finally time to eat, everything tasted delicious, but it was more fun to just be with family--cooking, eating, and laughing together.

Some of my favorite moments: Axton sitting at the bar with the vegetable platter, asking me as I walked by, "Hey, Lisa, wanna eat some vegetables with me?" (he's two.)

Anna playing mind games with Grandpa while looking very cute in her purple tutu and her turkey hair bows.

Lee being the big-kid helper, wearing a little apron and helping set the table.

Someone (not sure who) being a genius and putting three little LED light candles on the kid's table, which they tried to blow out through the whole of the dinner.

And yes, even the fire alarms going off periodically throughout the whole meal... even though it scared poor Axton to death.

It was a great day, and has been a fun weekend since! I did some shopping on both Friday and Saturday, and realized I actually have most of my Christmas shopping done now. I want to finish it early next week so that I can spend the month unpacking because... yes... we are going to be able to move in next weekend! Wahoo!

Now, time to get ready for Christmas!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Prep: Leftovers

I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving yesterday! Even though I'm writing this well in advance, I'm sure I did.

But now that everything is done, what do you do with all those leftovers? Here's some of my ideas:

1) Freeze what you can! Leftover turkey freezes very nicely. Just bag and mark and freeze. Then you can thaw it out later to make into enchiladas, turkey sandwiches, put in pasta, and so on. Also, as I've mentioned before, mashed potatoes freeze well. Or to get even more creative, build casseroles out of your leftovers: Line a casserole dish with aluminum foil with a good couple inches poking out each side. Spray the foil. Then thinly layer mashed potatoes on the bottom, then layer in 1 cup turkey mixed with 1 cup leftover green bean casserole and about 1/2 cup gravy, and then top with a layer of stuffing. You can even sprinkle a little cheese on top if desired. Freeze solid, wrapped in foil (when hard it can be removed from the casserole dish). At baking time, put it back in the casserole dish and heat at 350 for about an hour, or until hot and bubbly throughout. Voila! Instant dinner in mid December or early January when you're totally rushed!

2) Add a few new ingredients or warm it up differently to make it feel different. Try pureeing your leftover sweet potatoes, add some chicken stock to thin it out, and serve as a soup. Or try warming your stuffing up in a skillet to get some extra-crispy edges.

3) Turkey sandwiches! There's nothing wrong with a classic!

4) Switch up the time of day. I have nothing against eating pie or jell-o for breakfast. :)

Anybody else have good leftover use-ups?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

We are very grateful for all of you, our wonderful friends and family, for your generosity and love and kindness.

The past few months have been rough for us, but it is often in the darkest hours that we feel the most light on us. That has certainly been the case. We have discovered just how many people care about us, and we have been overwhelmed by it.

Today is a day to pause and thank all those sources of good in our lives. We know that the true source of all good is God, and we are eternally grateful to Him for all He has given us. We really have much to be grateful for--our children, the love we share, the air we breathe every moment...

So thank you. And thanks be to God, on this very Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Prep: Countdown--Thanksgiving day

The previous countdown posts have not needed to be done in order. But today, there's certain things that must be done before the next thing. So, I'll try to put it in order here, with approximate times too. D- means "dinnertime minus..." just like T-10 seconds to takeoff...

In the morning...
-Have a fun breakfast, clean up the kitchen, then get those holiday projects going.
-set up snacks and appetizers, especially that big tray of vegetables and dip. Fruit is also great to set out in the morning.

D-6 hours: -Prepare stuffing and get it in the crock-pot. -Peel potatoes, cube, and put in a big bowl of salted cold water and let sit until time to cook. -peel yams and store just like the potatoes. -Make green-bean casserole and store in fridge until cooking time gets closer. -prep salads that need to be done day-of, but if they need dressing, you can hold that on the side until just before service.
D-5 hours: try to take a quick nap. Also, eat something. No passing out today.
D-4 hours: depending on the size of the turkey, it might need to get started now. See the turkey how-to for all that information.
D-4 hours also: -Get roll dough out of the fridge, shape, set on trays, and cover to rise.
D-3 hours: turkey time. Start the roasting process. Again, see the turkey how-to!
D-2 hours: set the table, if desired. -check the temperature of the turkey for the first time. Remember, the last 50 degrees go up faster than the first, so we're hoping for between 70-110 F right now. If it is already higher than that, you might want to turn the oven down about 25 degrees.
D-1.5 hours: Check on the stuffing. -Go to the bathroom. ;)
D-1 hour: -start cooking the regular potatoes and yams. -check the temperature of the turkey. We're now hoping for about 140. If it is lower, around 110, turn up the oven by 25 degrees and tell your guests that dinner might be half an hour late.
D-.5 hour: -turkey should be about finished. Perfect happy temperature is 155 degrees Farenheit. Pull it out and cover with foil to let rest...see the turkey how-to for more instructions. -Mash the potatoes. -make gravy. -as soon as turkey is out of oven, rolls can start baking. -Move all dishes (jell-o, stuffing, potatoes, yams, vegetables, salads, hot rolls, and whatever else you have) to the table, or buffet style if preferred. Just get them all out now.
D-10 minutes: Tell guests/kids to go wash their hands and come sit down! -Carve the turkey -Fill glasses with ice and beverage of your choice.
D-5 minutes: Last check for guests and all dishes prepared. Put turkey on the table.

D-1 minute: say a very grateful prayer over the food.


Notes from Lisa:

As I was writing the above lists, several months in advance, I realized just how big of a task Thanksgiving really is. While I love it, it truly can be completely overwhelming. Get help. Don't try to do all that yourself. And remember how blessed we really are. Thanksgiving is supposed to be the day of giving Thanks for all God has given us. Make sure you use those blessings today--the blessing of friends who love you and want to help you... the blessing of your talents, whether they be in the kitchen or not... the blessing of laughter and happiness, especially when things go wrong... Try not to stress too much. Enjoy this Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

First sledding of the season

Last night after dinner, Cody volunteered to take the kids out sledding. It's been snowing off and on this whole weekend, and the kids have been itching to get outside. Of course, it's us adult types that tend to hold them back... and we were all pretty skeptical and nervous when Cody hauled 3 kids (yes, three--our nephew Axton was with us for dinner) downstairs to get bundled up for sledding. I assured the other adults that this would make Cody and the kids really happy, and that Cody would make sure they stayed warm.

So Cody bundled them all up in three pairs of socks each, boots, jackets, and gloves and we even tied Axton up in a great big sweatshirt. Then he ran them around, pulling all three kids on our sled. There wasn't enough snow to do big hills, and besides, I think that would have been a little scarier. We loved listening to the kids laugh hysterically as they zoomed around the back yard. When they were done and had to come in, all three kids requested to go back out within just a few minutes.

So hats off to you, Cody, for proving us all wrong, and being the adventurous, fun loving daddy/uncle last night. The kids loved it, and we adults appreciated the break. ;)

Holiday Prep: Countdown--ONE DAY. AAAK!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I know, not really, but remember I'm putting up the lists early to get you and me prepared. To-do today:

-Jell-o type salads.
-roll dough in the fridge.
-toast bread for stuffing (remember, cubes on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, bake in oven at 350 for about 15-30 minutes).
-If desired, prepare a fun breakfast for tomorrow.
-If the weather is good, let the kids play outside as much as possible. Wear them down to the nubbins so that tonight they will sleep well.
-BRINE the turkey!
-keep the dishes mostly done
-empty the kitchen trash before bed
-*attempt* to go to bed on time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Prep: Countdown--TWO DAYS

I'm hyperventilating! Two days! Both exciting and scary. Here's the big to-do list:

-last of the cleaning. If you've been keeping up on it, this won't be too hard--just picking up a few things, taking out some trash, maybe a quick vacuuming. But I know me, and I might need to devote more than just an hour to this. Bother.
-Run a few errands: make certain you have all the food you need. Check out a few movies (or get them from Netflix or record them from TV or whatever you do) to keep kids entertained. Also prep any craft projects, games, or activities you are planning on for kids or adults.
-You could make any of these now, but tomorrow (my one day remaining) you will see this again: jell-o type salads, overnight roll dough, pies (if you haven't already), and any chopping of vegetables like onions, celery, or carrots. You can also toast the bread for your stuffing, if desired.
-That turkey better feel pretty thawed by now! There can still be a little bit of ice, but if it is a rock, it's time to take further measures, like thawing in the sink. (remember, submersed in cold, slowly dripping water.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Holiday Prep: Countdown--Three days only...

Yeehaw! Three days prior...

-Make pies. Properly wrapped and kept cool, they will have no problem making it until Thanksgiving... if you can keep your fingers out of them! *here is the link to my pie crust demonstration*
-maintain dishes and laundry cleanliness. Pick one room for the kids to play in if necessary!

And that is all. Pies is a huge undertaking for me, and that is all I plan on doing in one day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday Prep: Countdown--five days to go!

At five and four days until Thanksgiving, here are the things I plan on doing:

-Make pie crust, if I haven't frozen any.
-clean the house
-finish all the last shopping
-check the turkey to make sure it is thawing well
-do laundry and make sure that those nice outfits for all the family members are clean and set aside so that they can be found on the day of... if you want special outfits, that is.
-make sure tablecloths and dishes are clean
-clean out the fridge to get ready for leftovers and things that need overnight chilling. One happy thing about November: where I live, the front porch or the basement cellar can also become refrigerators! (though you do need to monitor the temperature... ideal storage temp is between 38 and 45 degrees farenheit.)
-if desired, make the jell-o... though it might be better to wait still.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The kids broke the camera. AGAIN. This seems to be an all-too-familiar situation. So we have just ordered a replacement at about half the price of new... not really what I wanted a month before Christmas.

UGH. We try so hard to keep the camera put away, in its case, up on a high shelf. I had it out briefly to download some pictures and that's when Annalisa started looking at it. The best we can conclude is that it was on when it was stepped on, bending the zoom lens. It won't close now and the lens got crunched in the process.

Does anyone have a better idea on how to keep kids away from the camera? Perhaps a mild shock on the hands or bitter apple spray or a loud siren that goes off?

Monday, November 15, 2010

2 big firsts

Sunday was Lee's first Primary program! He worked hard to memorize his "talk." He knew more of the songs than he sang, but he did as well as I could have hoped for. He mostly sat quietly and always stood up for the songs. Sunday night his teacher stopped by with a plate of cookies just for Lee. He marched in and announced to the whole family that he got cookies because he did the awesomest!

Monday Anna had her first haircut. The family hairdresser--who has now done the hair of all the women in our family except for Kristin (I think?)--Jenni, loved doing Anna's hair. She was really fast. That's a huge bonus! Anna sat quietly and watched the mirror in awe. She didn't cry or even wiggle very much--just smiled and said things like "I'm two!" and "I'm so pretty!". It was a pretty easy haircut--mostly just getting rid of the baby-mullet. :) But Jenni did a great job, and Anna enjoyed herself.


After! Complete with piggie tails and a few wispy bangs. I'll have to take another pic with her hair down. A big smile for Jenni...
And another smile *almost* for mommy. :)

Holiday Prep: Countdown--one week remaining!

I'm going to be posting special Countdown-to-Thanksgiving posts between now and the holiday. They will come up a few days early so that you have time to look over them and get ready. Once again, this is just my suggestions. Also, I am writing these up in September. When they post on my blog, I'll go, "Oh yeah! That's what I need to be doing today!" :) Good luck!

T-day minus one week:
-Get the Turkey out of the freezer and into the fridge. It will need several days to thaw, and the safest way to do it is in the fridge. Please don't thaw your turkey on the counter. Make sure it is wrapped in several plastic bags or is in a huge bowl or something to contain any possible turkey juices. Those juices can possibly contain salmonella, so treat like a toxic substance!
-Time to do the final shopping trip/trips. If you wait until the day before Thanksgiving, you run the risk of the store being sold-out of important items. For a list of suggested items, see "Shopping list #2." Make sure you take a good list so that you can hopefully get it done in a single trip--thus saving you a couple hours of running back to the store.
-If desired, you can mix up your pie crust now. Don't roll it out yet, just keep in a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge or freezer. For Pie-making instructions, see my award-winning Pie tutorial. :)
-Now is also a great chance to take care of things at home. Make sure your laundry is done, the bathrooms are clean, your little get-ready projects are done. As you get closer to the holiday, it will be really nice to have most everything done. If you wait until the day before, again, how will you ever find time to run laundry AND put up decorations AND cook, AND spend time with family, AND take a shower? I know that things won't stay perfectly clean. I have kids... trust me, I know. But just making sure the basics are ready really helps. If you have a guest room you are planning on using, now is a good time to change the sheets and make the bed. OR... if you are traveling a far distance, pack a few things every day so that you don't have a mad rush. Remember, we're trying to avoid mad rushes this year! (at least, I am!)
-Set up your DVR to record the football game your hubby wants to watch!
-See my 1-month countdown to see if there's anything else you want to do.

Anything I forgot? I hope you're all getting really excited...I sure am!

Holiday Prep: Organizing the organization

Over the last several months, I've put up a LOT of these "Holiday Prep" posts. This post is just to help organize it all. That's right. I'm organizing my list of posts about organization. I'm preparing my preparation. :) But this way, you can find recipes and tips easily.

Pie Crust
Side Dishes 1: Green Bean Casserole, Orange-Glazed Yams, Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Excellent Mashed Potatoes *Sheila, the recipe you requested is "Orange-Glazed Yams." When you test the recipe, try halving the recipe. Cut all the measurements exactly in half, except the cooking time and temperature will stay the same. Call me if you need help. :)*
Side Dishes 2: Sausage-Apple Stuffing, Pineapple Cheese Salad, Mixed-Berry Jell-O
Side Dishes 3: Cranberry and Pomegranate Salad, Refrigerator Rolls, Roasted Root Vegetables
The Turkey part 1 (How-To)
The Turkey part 2 (myths dispelled)

Making Lists
Countdown: Two Months
Countdown: One Month
Shopping list 1
Shopping list 2
Countdown: One Week
Countdown: Five Days
Countdown: Three Days
Countdown: Two Days
Countdown: One Day
Countdown: Thanksgiving Day

Homemade Holidays

Cooking for Special guests
Calling in the Troops
Realistic Expectations
Emergency plans

Even more posts are coming... like the rest of the countdowns! I will continue to keep them linked here for easy access.

Holiday Prep: Shopping List #2

The time has come. Sometime within the next few days (remember that all these posts should be coming up early to give you all time to sort through it), gather up any coupons you can find, scour the newspaper for sales, and off we go!

For your "big" shopping trip, make a really good list. My mother (one of the most organized people I know) creates a master shopping list on her computer, listing all her favorite items in order of the store: produce, meats, dairy, canned goods, baking goods, frozen, etc. She prints a new one off every week or so (maybe less now that we kids are moved away) and hangs it on a clipboard on her fridge. When she is running low, she highlights that item on the list, and then she can take it shopping and knows exactly what to buy, and it's even in order of the way she walks through the store. Pretty smart, huh? I'd recommend something similar for this trip. Try to organize your list in the order of the store. Then you'll be more likely to remember everything and it will mean less hectic running back and forth.

If you haven't already, check out Shopping list #1, which still has lots of good ideas on it!

Also, as you prepare your list, whip out your recipes. There might be something you just didn't think about. Double check the ingredients lists and your cupboards so you don't buy too much or too little of any item.

Here's my list. These are the things I like to buy. Please customize! You may not need everything on my list--or there may be things you need that I haven't listed.

green beans
chili sauce (usually jarred, by the ketchup)
olives (my son's favorite!)--we like both regular black olives, and also the garlic stuffed green olives... yum!
other canned pie fillings (we make ours from scratch, but I won't look down on you if you buy it!)
peanut butter
ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc

Standard basics (sugar, flour, brown sugar, powdered sugar)
vanilla and chocolate pudding (makes a great last-minute pie filling!)
spices as listed on Shopping List #1
nuts for pie fillings and baking with: pecans, almonds, walnuts
chocolate chips
oil (both vegetable and olive)

paper towels
paper plates, cups, and utensils (just have them in the house, even if you don't want to use them, ok? There are such things as emergencies!)
aluminum foil
wax paper and/or parchment paper (know their uses and their price and make your own decision)
plastic wrap
containers for leftovers! (collect sour cream, yogurt, and other such containers)

Tortilla Chips
Assorted crackers (our favorites are Ritz, Wheat Thins, and Triscuit)
graham crackers
assorted nuts for munching

1 large loaf chewy bread, like ciabatta, sourdough, or baguette (That is, if you haven't frozen bread for stuffing yet)

green pepper
Sweet Potatoes/yams
fresh fruit for snacking (banans, apples, grapes, pears, etc)
fresh vegetables for snacking (red pepper, cucumber, broccoli, etc)
green onions
whole mushrooms (my favorite are bulk cremini or bulk white...fresher and much cheaper per pound)
apples (For apple pie, go for a good baking apple like Macintosh. Don't just get the cheap red delicious... they get very mealy in baked goods. Granny Smith bake well but are tart.)

bulk sausage (for the stuffing, if using Lisa's recipe)

Milk (both for drinking and baking)
sour cream
heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized.)
butter and/or margarine (I'm a butter girl, go figure)
plain yogurt

green beans
vanilla ice cream
If you like it, Cool Whip (I'll be using real whipping cream)
orange juice concentrate
*cough* frozen pie crust OR Marie Callendar's pies *cough*
*more coughs* Rhodes rolls *I think I'm getting a cold*

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quote time!

Last February, I put up all the "Lee quotes of the day" from my Facebook page. Here are the ones since then, and also a few "Annalisa quotes of the day." Reliving them sure made me laugh!

Lee quote of the day:

"Thank you, veterans--for saving the day!"

"Mom, can you help me find the movie with all the mean grasshoppers in it?" Me-"Sure...do you want to watch it?" Lee-"No." Me-"Well, why do you want to find it then?" Lee-"I just want to see if I can NOT watch it."

Cody (singing a Halloween Song)--"What are you going to be on Halloween night..." Lee--"No, daddy, Halloween is over! Now we have to sing Christmas songs. (*starts singing the same song*) 'What is Santa going to be on Halloween night?'"

"Mom, we should go on an airplane sometime." Me-"Yeah, we should. Where do you want to go?" Lee-"Just to South America."

"Mom, you're a boy." Me-"Whatever! I'm one-hundred percent girl, last time I checked!" Lee-"Well, I'm one-hundred-forty percent boy!"

me-"Lee, you're right handed... use your right hand to write your name here." Lee-"I can't! My right hand is full of a cookie!"

"Let's make a snowman when the snow comes." Me-"That sounds like fun! But there's no snow yet. We have to wait for it... a long time..." Lee-"A long time? Like... three minutes?" *looks at clock patiently*

"I got her with my blood! That was funny!" (Lee had a blood draw and when the needle was removed, a little blood spurted out on the nurse, and she yelped. Lee laughed hysterically.)

(To the tune of Queen's 'We Will Rock You') "WE WILL, WE WILL, WALK EVERYWHERE!"

me-"Lee, can you remember what you ate for dinner at Grandma's house?" Lee-"Yep! It was popcorn!"

"There's just two Lee's mom: Me Lee, and Silly!"

me-"Lee, say 'I am a goofball.'" Lee-"I am a cool dude!"

"Please don't leave." (melt my heart!)

"Guess what mommy? My preschool has TWO potties in it!"

"Here's a fruit snack Anna. Watch out for the pit."

having just come from the garden with a humongous green pepper with several bites out of it--"Mom, Dad! Look! I just found my snack!"

"Heavenly Father, Thank you for not letting me hear that creepy noise again, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. ... Oh wait, one more thing! Please help me to feel good and not be scared. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!"

"We need juice because we are boring."

Aunt Sara--"Lee, is there a bone in the end of your nose?" Lee--"Nope, there's just my squeezee!

"Anna! We don't bite dinosaurs!"

"I smell something...it's a very appetizing smell..."

(Cody gave him some junk mail so he could open something) "Hey! It's from Geico! Look, it has a Geico on it right there!" Oh dear, I have definitely let my son watch too much television.

Cody-"Lee, they're going to take me in a room and take an x-ray of my foot. It will be a picture of my bones. Would you like to see the x-ray?" Lee-"No." Cody- "Why not?" Lee-"because it will make me cry."-

"Mom, you look like my mom."

me-"Lee, if you jump on me one more time, I will give you a wedgie!" Lee-"hm...okay..." *hysterical, maniacal laughter, before...* "Here I come! Give me a wedgie!"

me-"Lee, you can only pick one candy for movie night. If you want something different, you have to put the gummi bears back." Lee fiddles in his cart for a minute, then announces, "OK, mom, I put the gummi bears in the back! I'm ready to get the licorice now!"

"Anna, you look like a princess." Cody-"That's because she IS a princess!" Lee-"The princess of the valley?" Cody-"Yes, the princess of the valley." Lee- "The Princess of the Valley of Peace?" Cody-"Yes, the Princess of the Valley of Peace." Lee-"Oh. Anna, you're so beautiful."

"Mom! I have great news! Lee's nose says 'Boop!'"

"Dad, I need to talk to you about pushing. Pushing is way bad for dads, and it hurt Lee's tongue way bad too."

Me--"So, for having a picnic in the woods... let's see, we'll need..." Lee--"Marshmallows!"

"Mom, thank you for saving my life."

"Mom, guess what Anna said? She said 'I'm sorry' because she was disobedient to Lee. And I just told her to be obedient to Lee."

-takes a big sniff of Anna's foot- "Hm. Rosemary."

"I'm just doing blowing-kisses."

"Milk. It's good for you. Cold. Milky. Creeeamy."

"Pizza is way good for you!"

"Let's have some popcorn." Cody-"But we're having ice cream." Lee-"But we could have popcorn, AND ice cream, of course!"

"It is a great idea for me to be a good boy!"

"Reindeer! HEY! Reindeer! Eat those dandelions, RIGHT - NOW!"

"I can't do ANYTHING with a bandaid on my finger!"

"I'm three, just like the Genie's free!"

"I need a mom-hug."

Dad is a good driver, and Mom is not.

(Cody walks in from the basement) "Yay! Daddy, you're alive!"

"I'm just pretending to be alive."

"Anna, wanna play Batman with me? Wanna be the... uh... dark lady?"

while getting ready to feed ducks: Me--"What do you think those ducks are doing right now?" Lee--"They're probably walking around saying 'Quack! I'm hungry! Quack!'"

"Go away, mess, go away!"

"Hey look! Popcorn trees! Two popcorn trees! They are all covered in... uh... popcorn!"

Oh, I love you mom! I love it when you share with me. I love it when you share roller coasters and Curious George."

Me--"What do you want for breakfast, Lee?" Lee--"Um, Cereal and broccoli." several hours later...."Lee, what do you want for dinner?" Lee--"How about macaroni and cheese with bagels on top?"

"Don't scare me, mom! Because I'm a good guy, and I don't even have any tickets. See? No tickets!" [referring to police tickets, which we told Lee you get if you break the law.]

"But I'm not playing with toys, I'm just playing with my peas!"

"Dad, you made me sad and you made me cry when you took me to time out, and you hurt my funny bone! So now I'm taking you to time out for four minutes."

"Mom, are you thinking about me?"

(calling to the world) "Who wants to go potty? I got a potty right there!"

"I'm cryin' about it, 'cuz dad went back to work and he will get sick down there and then he will go to the hospital and I have to help him and I'm sad about it. But this here will make me happier. Or some candy."

Me-"Yuck, this truck in front of us is dirty! It's dropping stuff all over the road!" Lee--"Don't worry, he'll say he's sorry in just a minute."

"I am fishing for a green fish. I got some pirates here, and I have Captain Hook, and he is going to say AR to me!"

"I just saw a nuvie of Michael Jackson. He's way funny. And he was dancin' like this!" (starts wiggling crazily)

"Ha ha! Laugh mom, laugh! ha ha ha...Keep laughing, mom!"

"I will put on my smile!"

"Hm. Smell me mom; I smell very good."

"Maybe today we could, um, eat this food, and go potty in the toilet, and maybe get married?"

"Don't cry, it will be alright!" (aaawww, so sweet and wise!)

"Anna is a girl. She's the princess. And I'm the cool dude."

"Mom, something hurts. A lot."

"Well....I'm back!"

"I like my underwear backwards. I like it wedgie-style."

"Stay there until you get old!"

"No, I'm not a Grumpy Gus. Because I'm sad about Grumpy Gusses."

"No, Anna, I'm NOT food!"

"...roll it, and pat it, and mark it with a B...And put it in the oven..." me--"for mommy and Lee!" Lee--"no, for six minutes."

"Huh! This park is amazing!"

"Mommy, I'm sorry I just turned into a spider web."

"Look! There's just some little teensy spiders! They're way nice. They're just killing people!"

"Look! It's a hammer dog!"

"I have just a little owie. I just bloke my leg. And my hand. And my other leg, and my body too."

Annalisa quote of the day:

"OOOH! A Penguin! Anna saw Penguin!"

(finds a bag of old Cheetos) "YAY! Carrots!"

Lee--"Happy mother's day, mom!" (hands me a rose.) Anna, pondering,--"Happy mother's day, dad!" (Hands Cody a rose.)

Anna somehow bit a bar of soap, and cried and ran around the house saying "Icky! Icky mouth!" The hilarious part was when Cody said, "I'm going to try some, just to see what it tastes like..." and the next thing I hear is the crunching of soap in Cody's mouth and he's running to the bathroom coughing and spitting. A...ah, all in a day at my house. :)

"My birf-day, may-ya-yo!" (Trying to say 'Tomorrow')

(Holding up Lee's church tie) "Here's Lee's itchy!"

"Oh! The Sun! There she is! Hello Sun!"

"I want food! I want oo-bask-etties!" (But we're having spaghetti on Sunday, silly girl!)

(She drooled on her shirt, then noticed it, and said,) "Oh no mommy! I spilled!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Snowman

How about just a normal, random, happy post?

Meet "Happy Birthday Snowman," so named by Anna. He was built on Monday night and is still standing, though he has lost his face and buttons. (The kids were wearing coats and gloves during the building, but were getting ready for bathtime when we decided we had to snap a picture.) We sang him happy birthday and he blew out his own candle.

Maybe it's mean of me, but I just love this picture! :) She really was in a good mood, but apparently was camera shy right then.

As you can see, we are doing well! We are still awaiting an official move-in date, but we have very high hopes it will be in early to mid December--definitely before Christmas. Woot! Our little baby also likes to squirm and wiggle at night. I love feeling her move. Both the kids are really excited for a new baby sister. I think Lee is thrilled it's a girl--He wanted to be the only boy. My strange pregnancy symptom right now is that my skin has suddenly become very sensitive. I have weird red blotches on my face. Strange, huh? I've switched to a redness-reducing/sensitive skin facewash, and I hope that helps.

Anyway, off to more adventures...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holiday Prep: Beverages

NON-alcoholic beverages, that is...

There are a few drinks that when I sip on them, I feel like it is the holiday season. Here are a few ideas I just love:

"Christmas Punch" (from my childhood)

1 1/2 quarts apple cider
1/2 quart cranberry juice (100%, not cocktail)
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole allspice berries
3 whole cloves
2 whole star anise (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a 2 quart pitcher and put in fridge. Warm up in the microwave for about 45 seconds per mug, depending on how hot you like it. Sip and enjoy! *OR make a double-batch and warm in the crock-pot for about 1 hour. Serve hot to a crowd. You can also float slices of orange or lemon in it.

Sparkling Orange-Cranberry juice

5 oranges
1/2 gallon cranberry juice
2 liters lemon-lime soda

Squeeze 4 oranges of all their juice into a large pitcher or punch bowl. The fifth orange, wash very well and slice into rounds. Put half the rounds in the pitcher or punch bowl, save the other half for garnish on the edges of glasses (if desired, or you can put all the sliced oranges in the pitcher). Fill half way with cranberry juice and mix well into the fresh orange juice. Fill the rest of the way with the soda and gently stir. Serve immediately. Makes about 1 gallon.

PLEASE, though, if you have any of your own favorite beverage recipes, do share! I would love to have a few more ideas for Christmas parties or the whole holiday season. Anybody have a good recipe for homemade egg nog, brandy-free? I always go for Stephen's Gourmet hot chocolate, especially the hazelnut flavor, but homemade might be fun too... Please please share!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Holiday Prep: Mayday! Mayday! All Hands Abandon Ship!

We're planning far in advance for Thanksgiving. The shopping is getting done early; the decorations are coming together nicely; recipes are tested and the menu is already set; guests are invited and know their jobs...

According to theory, that is.

Let's face it. Not everyone can have Thanksgiving (or any holiday!) come off without a hitch. I've mentioned this in the past, but I'm really serious about it! Here's a few little secrets if you have a Holiday Emergency:

*Cornish Game Hens. They are small, tasty, and can be cooked much faster than a turkey, but are still a special poultry. You can keep them frozen until mere hours before service, then thaw and roast or grill.
*frozen/bakery pies. Or try this recipe:

Pudding pie:
Fill 1 graham cracker crust with chocolate pudding (add a little less milk to make it thicker)
Top with cool-whip and chocolate chips.

The end.

*leave off a few side dishes. You know the ones your family doesn't care much for. So quit stressing over it.
*keep a WORKING fire extinguisher in your house. If you've lived there for more than a year and never had yours serviced, it might not be pressurized properly any more. Just think about it, okay?
*remember on that great movie "A Christmas Story" when the meal is totally ruined, so they go out for Chinese and are serenaded by a bunch of Asian guys singing "Fa ra ra ra ra..." (hm... is that even in that movie? Anyway, it's classic...) So funny! In other words, there's nothing shameful about having to get some help on a crazy holiday.

I guess my final word of advice on this topic is be prepared. Have fun. And nobody die out there, okay?

Monday, November 8, 2010

COMPLETELY addicted to hair bows!

I've been having way too much fun making hair bows for this little boutique thingy. Of course, though, I'm getting completely carried away, and don't want to sell the bows. *sigh. I knew this would happen. ;)

These ones I'm making for the sale:

These ones I'm not. Just for Anna and her sister. :)

No fear. I am also doing ones that are less complex and less beloved to sell. It's just so much fun... I think I'm addicted to little girl hair bows.

Holiday Prep: Snacks and Appetizers

As you and your crew are busily preparing the holiday meal, you'll inevitably get a few guests who sneak into the kitchen for food. Whether it be the two-year-old daughter who doesn't know better, or the Aunt who proclaims "Calories eaten before the meal don't count!" or whoever, it is a good idea to have some snacks or appetizers ready to keep those snitching fingers at bay.

I have a few criteria for my holiday snack foods.
1) Healthy is best. We are already going to be consuming plenty of rich and calorie-laden foods. Having light, healthy foods for snacks helps us be prepared for the massive amount of food we will be eating, and feel less bad about the day. :)
2) EASY. Really, really easy. I go for things that are mostly store-bought and require little to absolutely no cooking. This is about de-stressing, not about making a huge counter full of canapes and decadent little morsels.
3) 1 prep, all day munching. I want something I can whip together in the morning and will still be on the counter, perfectly happy, three hours later.

Here are some fun ideas to try:

-Popcorn. I like to do mine on the stovetop and either do kettlecorn or plain buttered. For some reason, I feel like popcorn is an authentic part of a Thanksgiving spread, and a big bowl is perfect for snacking.
-Chips and Salsa or guacamole. Can be store-bought! Super easy and tasty too!
-Big vegetable platter. This is always the very first thing assembled on Thanksgiving morning, around 10 am. It is left out on ice with dip. Since veggies are often skipped during the big meal, having them out to nibble on all day can be a very good thing. Healthy and tasty too!
-Cheeseball and crackers. Most cheeseballs not only can be prepared a few days in advance, but SHOULD be prepared in advance. If making a cheeseball isn't your thing, try one of our standard all-time favorites: a block of cream cheese with chili sauce poured over the top, served with a bunch of crackers. Again, it is beyond easy, and tasty.

Here's a fun snack and decoration all in one:

Fruit and Cheese Turkeys

Uses: Toothpicks, Bosc Pears (the brown kind), cheese cubes, grapes, raisins, a teensy amount of peanut butter, and red pepper.

1) Wash all the fruit and remove any stickers or labels. Cut the cheese into small cubes that are about the same size as the grapes. Skewer the grapes and cheese onto toothpicks (5-10 per turkey you are making...the ones in the picture have 7 apiece.) Leave about 1/4" of toothpick bare at the end so it can go into the pear.
2) Make the face of the turkey: cut a toothpick in half. Cut one of the cheese cubes in half diagonally to make a triangle. Put the triangle "beak" on one end of the small toothpick. Then string a small slice of red pepper behind the beak and gently push into the top of the pear where the face will be. Above the beak, put 2 raisins smeared with a small bit of peanut butter as edible glue.
3) Put in the grape skewers all over the back as feathers.
4) ooh, ahh, look and take some pictures, enjoy, and then eat. Slowly the fruit and cheese will dry out, so enjoy these healthy fun treats for what they are: food!

Note: I studied many pears in the store before giving in and buying the more expensive Bosc Pear. The Bartlett pears (green ones) just didn't have a turkey shape in my opinion, and they're green. Not that I have a problem with green turkeys... I just think these ones turned out cute. They're also quite large, and can definitely be cut into slices and shared when done. Or you can make one per person... whatever you like! Other fruits and vegetables can be used too. You can use pineapple or cantaloupe instead of cheese. Slices of red or yellow pepper could also be feathers. These are fun to put together, fun to eat, and healthy to boot.