Dec 22, 2008

Almost ready for Christmas

I thought I was having a pretty calm December this year. But then I realized a few days ago that I had only days left and a lot of things to do before Christmas! I was in a panic mode a couple of days ago. But tonight, I feel so much better.

The reason: The biggest Christmas project is finally completed - a doll house for my daughter M is finished. Completed. Done. Ready to go under the tree.

It took a lot longer than I thought to finish. The tricky part was that I was able do work on this only after kids go to bed. But it's done! And I am very happy with the result (thanks to my husband for his help with his tools to make windows and a door). My favorite is the checkerboard floor/yellow wall kitchen. My husband made fun of me that I was making my own dream house. Well, maybe.

A friend of mine often say "You are crazy!" when she sees things I do. And I agree. This was probably beyond what 2-year-old usually plays with. But I wanted to do it for her to play many years to come.

The house itself was a gift from my sister-in-laws for M's birthday. They know me well enough and gave me the house, small cans of paints, and a scrap carpet. With my craft supplies and scrap fabrics, it turned to be a mansion (at least I'd like to claim). So, this is a gift from Mom and Dad. And if M is being nice, not naughty, Santa is going to fill the house with furniture for her.

I can't wait for M to open on Christmas morning! But I have a few more things to do before that, so I'm almost ready for Christmas.

Dec 18, 2008

Mission Impossible: Building a Gingerbread house without a kit

On Monday night, we made a gingerbread house as a family night - without a kit.
It was our first attempt without a kit and it turned out great!!

I had baked my first gingerbread house the prior week. I used a free pattern from internet.
Candies were leftover from Halloween (I had saved them).
Frosting was a mixture of 1 egg white, a little bit of water, and a lot of powder sugar, beat in a Kitchen Aid mixer for at least 10 minutes at the highest speed.
Oh, good ol' Kitchen Aid mixer. How can I live without? (Thanks to Tami for letting me use hers while mine is not working right now)

Here is J decorating the house

I cannot take a full credit of this beautiful gingerbread house. It was a true teamwork of our family!

I baked and put the frosting on the house and J put all the candies.
But that sounds too easy, doesn't it?

What really happened was:

While I tried to put houses together on the tray with frosting - M was trying to destroy the other house parts AND eat candies, J was sucking the tube of frosting, and my dear husband was trying to keep those kids off the table.

While I tried to put frosting on the house - M was still eating candies and J decided to join too. Of course, my dear husband was still trying to keep kids off the table and keep them from eating candies.

While J tried to put candies over those frosting - M was being restrained (ahem, I mean being cuddled) by her Daddy who was really trying to keep his precious daughter from those sugary candy to avoid evil sugar-high while singing lovely Christmas songs.

While I tried to make icicles on the roof and J tried to decorate the house with candies singing along with those Daddy's Christmas songs - M was trying really hard reaching out for "just a lick" of frosting between Daddy's arms screaming crying, while Daddy still singing Christmas songs to destruct her little girl. J was placing candies in his own pace.

When J and I finished decorating the house - M was having a total meltdown because Daddy was changing her into her pajamas and she is no longer within reach of candies. Oh, poor girl! And thanks to Daddy for making this mission to be possible!

By the way, here is how J decorated the house:
With army pants, beads on the shoulder, sitting on the table....not exactly a picture of a sweet little child, is it? But, that's okay.

Good time. Good family time. Good Christmas time.

Time really flies in December!

I was reminded by my boss that I haven't updated my blog. Wow, time really flies in December!
Here is one of belated updates. Thanks, Deanna for a reminder!

On December 6, we as a family were in our local downtown Christmas parade - the Dickens Christmas parade. We joined with my co-workers and their families. It was a really cold snowy day, but kids had a good time being in a parade. J enjoyed tossing candies to the crowd and M was waving just like a princess. (The below picture is from our local news paper.)

Week of December 8, I was baking many kinds of cookies almost everyday to make plates of cookies - plates for our neighbors, plates for our friends who have been attending our kids while I work, plates for gatherings, plates for a Sorry. I was a bit busy between sugar-high kids (they might have had some cookies for their breakfast and lunch....maybe) and piled-high dishes. A plate of cookies for you? If you haven't got one, I'll take a request! Delivery before Christmas is not guaranteed :)

On December 14, I joined my friends and went out for a caroling. My kids are still too young, so my dear sweet husband volunteered to stay home with kids. I had a good time singing along with good alto, tenor, and bass.

Did I mention I love this season? It's been busy, but full of fun and happy moments!

Dec 6, 2008

Martha Stewart moment

I have been often told that I am frugal, resourceful, or thrifty. I love those words. I take them as compliments. I guess I like the sound of "resourceful" the best. It sounds wise and smart and...I don't know, it just sounds nice. I love creating things without buying things.

Here is my little Martha Stewart moment (minus elaborate price tag) today - I made my real Evergreen Wreath for the first time.
Oh, I am so happy how it turned out!!!
Thanks to our local tree farm, I got extra branches for free on Monday when we went to pick our Christmas tree. A frame from a craft store was only $1.50. And I already had a ribbon.
And Ta-Da! Woo Hoo!
Ahem. Um, sorry, I was just excited...
Here is my creation

Here is after mess
The part Martha won't show.

A trip to a Santa House

We went to a Santa House last night. Here is M loving the view of all the toys in his house. The house was full of lights and toys. It was not so full and kids got to play with train set and a doll house while waiting for their turns. Both of them sat on Santa's lap without crying (Hooray! First year of no cry!) and enjoyed a visit with him. We even got souvenirs of coloring books and candies! I enjoyed it.

J is a bit concerned though that he didn't get to tell Santa what he wanted. As usual, J was being shy and didn't want to answer the question, "What do you want for Christmas?" Well, we'd better write a letter to Santa!

Ghost factory

A box of 100 count cookie cutters was probably one of the best purchases ever. They are quite entertaining. Not only they work for cookies, they also work for pancakes, sandwiches, and even playdough!

Here is J making "ghost factory" with home-made playdough* and a ghost shape cookie cutter (yes, it's still out in this season). I showed him how to make a face (i.e. 3 dots) with the back of plastic fork. He's got the idea! So, he made one after another. It kept him busy for a good hour. He was very proud and asked me to take a picture, and here it is! Good job, J!

*Playdough recipe

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
food coloring

Mix flour, salt and oil, and slowly add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff. Turn out onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the playdough with your hands until of proper consistency. Use as is, or divide into balls and add a few drops of food coloring. After use, place in a plastic bag and keep refrigerated.

Dec 1, 2008

Family night - trim a tree

As a family night tonight, we went to cut our Christmas tree at a local Christmas tree farm.

Here is J with our snowman-themed tree. The theme of snowmen started from my bridal shower. My sister-in-law's idea: each guest bring an ornament that reminded them of us. The result: a lot of snowmen. And I love them!

I love the smell of fresh-cut Christmas tree.
I love the smiles of all the snowmen on our tree.
I love everything about this season.

My husband knows this is my favorite season, and he does everything for me so that I can enjoy this season 100%.

He suggested to go get a Christmas tree today so that we can enjoy the tree for a month.
He put Christmas music on. We sang. We danced.
He held the tree up, so I can decide what angle I like the most.
He walked around the tree right next to me holding a bundle of lights, so I can place them where I want.
He helped me get ornaments out of boxes, so I can decorate them.
He took care of kids tonight all by himself, so I can enjoy decorating the house.
He did everything else for me so that I was able to enjoy the process of decorating our house with Christmas decoration.
Is this selfish of me? Or selfless of him! What a guy!
Thank you, honey! I really enjoyed it!

Turkey Dinner

We had such a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. (I couldn't fit all of them on one plate)

- Oven roasted turkey, AND Deep fried turkey - my brother-in-law tried it and it was delicious!
- Stuffing/dressing - my mother-in-law makes it really tasty
- Mashed potatoes and gravy - best gravy on the creamiest mashed potatoes.
- Cranberry sauce - It was chunky and tart, just the way I like it.
- Corn pudding - I made it and it was a hit!
- Candied Yam - not a canned kind, a real sweet potatoes! One SIL did an awesome job.
- Squash - my first try on squash. The key is a LOT of butter....Mmmm.
- Green Bean Casserole - another SIL (BTW, I have many SILs) makes the best green bean casserole. I can probably eat them more often than just holiday dinners...
- Dinner roll - another SIL's famous dinner rolls.
- Fruit salad - I believe my daughter M's main dish was this
- Pies - pumpkin pie, pecan pie, banana cream pie, cherry pie, Bob Andy pie, cream cheese somethin', etc...oh, I lost track! Which one did I have? A sampler plate - a little bit of everything!

I'm sure I'm missing some other dishes, but these are the main one. It was GOOOOOOOOD!
Yeah, I think I gained about 5 lb. from that meal :)

My lil' chef

On Thanksgiving morning, I gave my husband and J haircuts. To bribe J to get a haircut, I told him, I'd bake cookies if he let me cut his hair.

So, I decided to try a new recipe, sour cream sugar cookies - a recipe from my friend. Original one is called 1962 Betty Crocker Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies, but she modified - 100% butter instead of part butter and part shortning, bake at 400 degree F, and frost the cookies instead of sprinkling sugar.

I started the process while he was getting a bath with his Daddy.
J came out of bath right when I started rolling the cookie dough, of course. (You notice here that he just got a bath!)
Usually, he would play with the cookie dough, making construction site or building a fort...

But this time he really baked his cookies - he rolled, cut out, placed on a cookie sheet, sprinkled sugars, and baked in his small oven, a toaster-oven!

It's a serious business!
My little chef J

I had only red sprinkle sugar, and they almost look like for valentine's or Christmas or some other holiday, but hey, he did a good job. The right bottom corner one is an up-side-down turkey shaped cookie.

He baked them just for his cousins. He didn't want to eat them. He wanted to take them to the Thanksgiving dinner at his Papa and Grandma's to share with them. Isn't that sweet?

And you know he said?
"I'm not eating them (red cookies). They are for my cousins. No one eat them before we go there, okay? But I can eat Mommy's cookies!"

Yes, he ate the cookies I baked, not his. His cousins loved them. J was very proud.