Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Merry (few days after) Christmas!

Yeah, way to slack, huh?  I totally meant to write out a heartfelt, meaningful Christmas post a few days ago and set it to auto-post on Christmas.  Which is probably why I never got around to it.  Lately it seems that blogging only works for me if it's a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing.  Since the only to-do on my list today is "finish unearthing the kitchen from the abyss it fell into over the course of the week-of-Christmas festivities," today seemed like a good day to sit down and blog.  Because I really, really hate cleaning the kitchen.  There have been things I've been wanting to blog about lately, but of course the moment I sat down, I forgot them all.  Procrastination rarely takes preparation into account.  So I decided that today's post will be about what we're all up to.

It's Christmas vacation, which means I've had both kiddos at home.  Together.  AllDayLong.  I suspect that Christmas vacation was the original inspiration for spiked egg nog.  (Although I do believe it was a stroke of genius that inspired us to get Ben a PSP and Olette a Leapster2 this year.  They are more than happy to go outside in order to earn video game time!)

Christmas was the same as Christmas usually is around here, which isn't a bad thing at all.  Except for the rain on Christmas Day.  (Particularly because Olette got a bike that she had to wait a whole day to use!)  Festivities lasted the entire month: Christmas program at Ben's school; Christmas Parade in town; Church Christmas Program; Ben's class party, and a little party hosted by one of Olette's buddies; Christmas cookie decorating with the cousins (my nephews and niece).

Messy? Yes. Fun? Of course!

I decided that everyone was getting homemade goodies from us-- no surprise there, it's what I do every year-- and that this years goodies would be fudge and chocolate truffles.  I used a new, quicker and easier recipe for the fudge* and I was very pleased with the results.  I made truffles** for the first time ever, and, despite the amount of time involved, I was surprised by how easy it was!

Christmas Eve was spent at my parents' house with all of my siblings and their families (and my baby [17-year-old] brother's girlfriend).  We had pizza, of course (following a tradition that began when I was about 2 or 3, I think), and all kinds of other foods.  We all overate and then enjoyed the whirlwind chaos that can only occur when 15 people (five of them aged 7-and-under) in a relatively small space start opening presents.

Particularly when their Neena has packed their presents with loads and loads of tinsel!

After Christmas at Mom and Dad's, we came home, checked the NORAD Santa tracker, and determined that if Santa was in Brazil, it wouldn't be long before he made it to Alabama!  The kids went to bed.  And after about an hour, finally went to sleep.  Santa came and filled stockings and left a few bigger items under the tree to be discovered on Christmas morning.  The kids waited until about 6:30 to wake us up (God bless them-- Ben had been talking about 4am before he went to bed!), and Christmas Day officially began.

Olette kicked things off by hopping on her bike (have I mentioned that we currently reside in a teeny, tiny trailer?) and riding across the living room, rolling over my bare foot in the process.  

But I forgave her-- how could you mind someone this cute riding over your foot?

Just a few moments and a huge pile of ripped wrapping paper later, and they had worked their way through all the presents.  I decided to make homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast (hey, it's a holiday!), and then settled for homemade cinnamon biscuits (less work, fewer dirty dishes, yay!) when I remembered what a mess my kitchen was after all the baking-and-making I had done the day before.  (***Side note: I also learned that if you want to cut corners on your glaze by microwaving the butter and powdered sugar together, you need to set the microwave to a low time and stand right by it, watching it like a hawk.  Moving to another room to check on something else and then forgetting about the microwave entirely results in billowing smoke and scorched black sugar.***)

After breakfast we headed next door to visit Hubby's parents, where Santa Claus had left a few things he forgot to drop off here, and where NaNa and PaPa had a big pile of presents waiting.  We had Christmas lunch there as well, and it was delicious!

Aren't they adorable?

And now, here we are four days after Christmas.  All of the decorations have been packed away already, in an effort to recover what little bit of spare space we had in the first place.  The kids have been (mostly) entertained by all of their new toys, and I've managed to (mostly) get the house put back together.  Mostly. I'm ready for school to start again so that we can all get back to our normal schedules, but otherwise, life has been great.  Except for the whole applying-for-a-mortgage adventure.  Tune in for regular updates (maybe).  It's definitely been interesting.

1 can (14 oz) condensed milk
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tbsp butter

Combine all ingredients in a double boiler and melt together.  Pour into a greased 8x8 dish and refrigerate until firm. To serve, cut into 1" squares.

16 oz good, high quality chocolate, no less than 60% cacao, chopped
16 oz heavy cream

Combine chocolate and cream in a double boiler.  As soon as it's all melted together, pour it into a bowl and chill for about 2 hours, or until firm.  Scoop chocolate out into 2tsp-1tbsp sized chunks and place on a cookie sheet or large plate.  Refrigerate another 10 minutes, or longer if it seems very soft.  Roll chunks into balls and then roll them in the toppings of your choice.  I used chopped pistachios, crushed candy cane, cocoa powder, and instant cappuccino powder.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If You Don't Know How To BS Correctly, You Won't Make It Far In Life

What?  It's true.  At some point or another you're going to have to do it.  Whether it's in school, where you've just been told you have to write 10 pages about something you couldn't care less about (and can't find enough information about to fill more than 5 pages about), or in the grown-up world where occasionally you just need to fill a silence or move a conversation forward.  I'm proud to say that my son, a mere seven years old, and only in the 2nd grade, is well on his way to becoming a champion BS-er.  Come on, everyone remembers writing papers or paragraphs like this at least ten times in the course or their education:

"I have learned that you have to know how to weigh to ballence.  If you do not know how to weigh you can't ballence.  You have to have stringth to ballence your self.  If you are not able to ballence you do not have streanght.  If you have no streanght you can't ballence."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crock Pot Mondays: Yeah, I Know It's Not Monday and Yeah I'm Still Calling It That

I haven't pulled out the slow cooker in several weeks, can you believe it?  Tonight's dinner will be a quick whatever-I-can-throw-together before the kids leave for church.  Tomorrow night's dinner, however will be a revival of sorts for my slow cooker, who must be feeling a little bit neglected as of late.

Since I don't have to worry any more about having everything ready before I leave, I'm going to serve it with some roasted potatoes, but you could probably throw in some potatoes to cook along with the meat if you wanted to.  I've never put potatoes in my slow cooker before (mostly because I'm pretty picky about potato preparation-- now, say that five times fast!), so unfortunately I cannot offer any guidance toward how to go about doing it.  That's what google is for, right?  (***Edit: I don't know why I said that.  Of course I've put potatoes in my slow cooker before; I do it every time I make stew.  I think what I meant to say was that I've never put just potatoes in my slow cooker.  Or I've never put potatoes in my slow cooker except when I make stew.  Really, I just don't know for sure what I meant when I said that.  Just thought you should know.***)

Slow Cooker Country Style Ribs

1 1/2 - 2lbs Country Style Pork Ribs
1 onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper

Scatter the sliced onions and garlic across the bottom of the slow cooker bowl. Top with the ribs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix together the water and soup until smooth, then pour over the top.  Cook on high 3-4 hours or on low 6-8 hours.

I like to serve it with mashed potatoes or rice, as the sauce makes a nice gravy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

There are a lot of things I love about this time of year.

(For the record, the weather isn't one of them, unless we're having one of those great, glorious winters where the daytime temperatures are kind enough to hover around 60 degrees.  Today's high?  44.  Current temperature?  33.  With a wind-chill of 25.  Not my kind of weather, at all.)

Things like:
--Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song 
--Christmas Cards, both the giving and receiving.
--Christmas Cookies!  And, quite honestly, the decorating is often more fun than the eating!
--The fact that it's ok to listen to Christmas music.  People tend to look at me funny when I do that in July.
--That we all get together at my parents' house on Christmas Eve for pizza and present opening, carrying on a family tradition that began when I was around two or three years old.

But my very, very favorite part of the whole Christmas season has always been decorating the Christmas tree.  I still have ornaments I've had since my very first Christmas.  And every year, unpacking them feels like opening the door to an old friend.  Every year, things are a little bit different-- the food, the place, or the people we're with-- it's nice to know that there are some things that will never change.

This year's Christmas Tree

One of my favorites, made by my Grampa.

Star ornament, given to Hubby and me the year we were married.

 (And now I have justification for adding Christmas tree/ornament pictures.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If Murphy's Law And Monday Got Together And Had A Love Child...

This has not been the best week so far.  In fact, by now I'm not even optimistic that the next two days will be any better.  Way to start the post on a high note, huh?  Monday was really just your average Monday-- a few kinks to work out as we changed gears from "relax" to "back to the grind."  We found a house we like this past weekend, but since we're complete house-buying novices (not to mention that we weren't actually in the market, but happened to come across a deal on a fixer-upper that was just too good to pass up) we ended up wasting a trip to the real estate office, only to find out that we have to get mortgage-approved before we can move forward.  So really, the worst part of Monday was wasting a trip to Daphne for information we could just have easily gotten over the phone.  But yesterday... oh, yesterday was when things really started going wrong.

To begin with, on Monday night I put a load of Ben's school uniforms into the washing machine.  And went to bed.  Without taking the important step of removing them from the washer and putting them in the dryer.  So we were running late Tuesday morning, and to top it off had to spend an extra five minutes hunting for Ben's jacket.  Naturally.  So Ben got to school just after the bell rang.  I did a little bit of cleaning during the day, but not much since Olette's idea of playing involves bringing all of her toys out of her room into the living room.  I finally decided I was fighting a losing battle.  I managed to get the trash out and clean up the dog food that Wilbur left all over the floor and called it a day.  Before long it was time to pick up Ben from school and that's when Murphy's Law decided it was time to play.

I didn't put a jacket on.  I figured, it's 50 degrees, and I'm only leaving the car to run into the post office and drop off something at my parents' house.  I didn't put a jacket or shoes on Olette because the errands were short enough that I could leave her and her brother in the car while I ran in.  Before leaving, I looked at the new insurance cards that have been sitting on the bar for at least two weeks and thought, "I really need to put those in the cars..." but my arms were full of squirmy four-year-old, and I told myself, "I'll do it when I get home."  (I tell myself this a lot.  Ben comes by his absentmindedness honestly.)  We went to pick up Ben and headed to town to take care of the errands.  On our way, we passed Hubby who had gotten off of work early and was on his way home.  There was almost no line at the post office.  I started feeling lucky!  I dropped off what I needed to leave at my parents' house and decided to take the back way home, since there was a better chance of getting stuck behind several school buses going the other way.  So, of course, (thanks, Murphy!) I got stuck behind a school bus.  I hate being stuck behind school buses: drive a quarter mile, stop ... drive a quarter mile, stop ... drive a quarter mile, stop.  Finally, the bus turned and I saw nothing but open road ahead of me.  I was master of the road, ruler of the street, and most importantly, almost home, where all I had left to do for the day was wash some dishes and make some spaghetti for dinner.

And then I saw it.  Chevy Lumina, sort of a grayish-tan color, and about to pull out of a driveway.  She didn't see me.  After what felt like an eternity of squealing, skidding tires and ditch hopping, my truck came to a stop.  I had felt her car hit us and I was almost afraid to check the backseat.  "Everyone ok?" I asked. I heard two voices say, "Yeah," and when I turned around to look Olette asked, "Why'd you pull over?"  I had to laugh.  "Uh, you didn't notice that another car just hit us?" I asked.  Olette shook her head.  I got out of the car to check the damage and saw the other lady walking toward us.  The damage was minimal.  In fact, once Hubby showed up he said, "Oh my gosh, you have to take a picture of that!" (Side note: More interference from Murphy's Law again-- Hubby forgot his phone in the truck after our wasted trip to Daphne on Monday.  I had to get ahold of a neighbor to go to our house and tell him what happened.  I haven't decided whether it's lucky that he was off work early and happened to be at home, or bad luck that he wasn't still at work where it would have been much easier to get him on the phone.)  So I did:

Even the fire/rescue guy who showed up said that was something he'd never seen before. The lady had a Bama tag on her front bumper that managed to get stuck to my wheel!

The lady asked if we were all ok, and I assured her we were.  I asked if she was ok.  She said she thought so and apologized and said she didn't see me at all before she hit me.  (Her story changed once the State Trooper showed up and she swore she saw me talking on the phone.  I wasn't.  And even if I was, how would she have known-- she didn't see me... wasn't that why she hit me?)  The fire/rescue guys and the ambulance showed up and called for a State Trooper, and Hubby took the kids home with him, as it was 40-something degrees out by then and the only one of us with a jacket was Ben, and Olette was just in stocking-feet, and the fire/rescue guy had asked me to turn off my truck while he made sure there was nothing dangerous leaking or anything.  I had to sit in the cold for about half an hour before I got the ok to turn on the truck again.

Not content with having convinced me to go out jacket-less, leave the new, not-expired-like-the-one-in-my-glovebox insurance card at home, and take the back way home from my parents' house to avoid school buses, Murphy's Law decided it had just one more trick up its sleeve.  Naturally, one wouldn't expect a no-injury fender bender (well actually, less than a fender bender for me, but a complete front bumper loss for the other lady, so if this was math, it would probably just average out to fender bender, right?) to be on the very top of the list of priorities for the State Troopers on the best of days. But apparently the whole space-time continuum synced up just right yesterday afternoon, so not only did that lady pull out of her driveway just in time to hit me, but also just as the Troopers were changing shifts.  It took an hour for a State Trooper to show up.  ONE. HOUR.  Half of that spent shivering in my truck.  And of course, once the Trooper showed up, it took another half an hour to go through all the motions of insurance-taking, license checking, etc.  Two hours after the initial collision, I finally got to go home.  And I made the mistake of thinking, "Well, after two Monday-ish days in a row, tomorrow should be a breeze!"  I probably should have knocked on wood before bed, but I like to think I'm not very superstitious.

Guess who, once again, forgot that a load of Ben's uniforms was in the washing machine?  But it's ok. I had plenty of time to wait for them to dry.  Because it turns out that, after idling in my already-low-on-gas truck for half an hour then driving the mile between where we got hit and home, I was out of gas.  And had to wait until Hubby could leave work to bring me some.

After the week I've had so far, there's nowhere to go but up, right?  *Excuse me while I knock furiously at my wooden desk.*

(***Edit:  I just spent the past 10 minutes cleaning my kitchen floor as the dust receptacle on my vacuum cleaner just fell off for no reason as I was carrying the vacuum cleaner to the living room.***)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Ok, I'm Still Here... Sort Of

Welcome to December!  Where in the heck did November go?  For that matter, where has the rest of the year gone?  I swear August was just a couple of weeks ago... what happened?!  Who hit the Fast Forward button?!  And when's it gonna stop?!

The past week has been crazy.  We haven't been particularly busy (although if you happen to stop by and see the shape my house is in, I will lie to you and say we've all been just so, so busy so that you don't wonder what sort of wild animals live here), but we've had just enough going on that, on top of trying to recover from a five-day weekend (why is it that the more relaxing we do, the harder it is to get back into the groove?), all the normal day-to-day things have been slipping through the cracks.  My hubby who, thankfully, is mostly understanding of the fact that I am a whole new breed of scatterbrained, volunteered to clean the kitchen last weekend.  I have never seen anything so sexy in my life.  I'm not exaggerating.  We've had lots of running errands to do, mostly because businesses had odd operating hours last week.  (Side note: I did my first ever camp-out-at-a-store-until-they-open-on-Black-Friday this year!  I got to Target two hours before they opened.  On that "morning," I was thankful that A.) the expected rain decided not to come, and B.) it was about 65 degrees out.  Freezing my butt off, sitting on a curb at Target would most certainly have dampened my spirits!  But I got what I went for and I now own a brand new camera that I paid almost 50% off regular price for.)  So Monday-- all day long-- was spent running errands.  Tuesday was spent attempting to make the house look habitable.  I didn't get far-- it was raaaaaaaainy alllllll daaaaay loooooong, which means I was trying to work and provide entertainment for O.  Not exactly the conditions most conducive to productivity.  Yesterday I had a meeting with Ben's teacher, and guess who inherited his mother's extreme scatterbrainedness?  Sorry, buddy!  On the bright side, he's a joy to teach and very intelligent.

But now I come to a day where, finally, I have absolutely nothing scheduled until after dinner (Christmas program at Ben's school), so guess what I'm doing today?  Brace yourself, house: you are no match for me and my three cups of coffee.  Prepare to be spotless!  (Or at least clean-ish.)

(I was hoping to work decorating the Christmas Tree into this post somewhere, so I could justify adding a picture of it.  I think I might make it the subject of a whole post soon instead... although we know what happens when I say that...)