Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

Santa came!!! On Christmas Eve, I asked K what he wanted to leave out for Santa and he said, "two Christmas cookies, a slice of apple pie, orange juice and milk. And carrots for the reindeer." To which I jokingly commented, "Wow! That's a lot of food for Santa - he's going to get fat at our house!!" K didn't want Santa getting too fat and having to stop at the doctor mid-present drop, so he edited the apple pie of out the spread. He also insisted that we label the carrots for each reindeer. Silly Dasher and Vixen only ate half of their carrots.

K woke up on Christmas morning to find this:

He was so pleased that he had, in fact, been a good boy and that Santa had come. Gah, I love that little guy.

While that was our actual Christmas Eve and morning, our Christmas celebration started on the 23rd when we had two families over. These two families are so wonderful and I 100% consider them our family here. (That's not to be rude at all to Y's family, it's just that we don't live anywhere near them either.) This post is going to be kind of a long one, but it will have lots of photos of delicious foods.

As you may recall, up until a week or so ago, we were all sick. This put my dinner prep way behind given that I first had to catch up on everything else that I didn't do while I was sick. Last Friday, we finally went to buy the turkey and other groceries, but by the time we got home, put everything away, ate dinner, and put the boys to sleep, I was too beat to actually start cooking. This means that all of the foods you are about to see were made between Saturday and Monday - mostly Saturday and Sunday, of course. Y is a complete saint. He cleaned the house and took care of the boys so that I could focus on food. It was a ridiculous amount of work to be doing while sleep deprived and with a lingering cold and a 4-month old, but sharing a delicious meal and a wonderful time with our family was well worth it.

Here's what I made: Before dinner, we started with K's favorite Christmas cookies, as well as mint chocolate chip and M&M cookies, candied pecans, and some savory snacks - cheeses, veggies, crackers, and chips.

The ginger Christmas cookies (K's favorites) were delicious as always. I love how all of the spices meld together making this the most Christmas-flavored cookie.

The mint chocolate chip and M&M cookies were a new recipe and they turned out really good. In K's letter to Santa, he asked what Santa would like to eat when he stops at our house. K recommended "mama's M&M cookies" because Santa "would certainly like them." How could I not make some M&M cookies after that raving review?! That being said, I just recently made some M&M cookies and wanted something a little different. Mint and chocolate are another of my favorite Christmas combos, so I went with it. For the most part, I followed the recipe aside from the refrigeration bit - I was in a bit of a rush, people!

Also I used peppermint essence instead of extract. I don't know what the difference is, to be honest, but it did not have the disastrous results that the recipe's baker had. These were quite nice.

The other change was that, of course, I had to add in some M&Ms. I went with half chocolate chips, half M&Ms. Also, when I said they were quite nice, I meant to say they were awesome and I ate my weight in them.

I rolled them into little balls and baked for 8 minutes. Delicious!

The other new recipe that I tried were candied pecans. Holy moly, these were amazing. Unfortunately we have eaten them all. Fortunately, we are headed to Y's parents' for New Years. I think I need to make another batch for the occasion.

These were so super simple. Mix sugar, cinnamon and salt in a big ziplock.

Whisk egg whites, water, and vanilla in a bowl.

Stir in some pecans.

Put the pecans in the bag and shake. Then spread them out on a baking sheet and bake. The recipe says to bake for an hour, but mine were still slight sticky at that point, so I put them back in for 20 minutes. They were phenomenal.

 Dinner consisted of: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole (from the can, not that homemade business I usually slave over, thanks to my little brother who FedEx-ed me the ingredients!!),
 roasted brussel sprouts, applesauce with dried cranberries, carrot ribbons with cashews, and stuffing.
This little princess of a girl kept saying "oishii!!" (delicious) as she ate her dinner. Gah! Be still my heart! What a cutie pie!!!
 I wasn't going to make a pecan pie, but one of the friends who came over halfway requested it, so I threw it into the mix as well. As far as pies go, it's a pretty simple one.

I also made my favorite, apple pie. Turns out I am one of the only ones who actually ate it. Pecan pie for the win! (Note: the below photo was taken about 10 minutes ago, I didn't eat that much pie!)

It was a pretty mental three days in the kitchen, but I haven't cooked since, as we have been living on leftovers. I guess maybe it was worth it?? Who are we kidding? It was totally worth it! I love this meal!!!
As a final little story of from the evening, my favorite line of the night comes from our friends' 9-year old son, while playing MarioKart against K. K is fiercely competitive and if he is losing or loses at something, he generally doesn't take it well. This is something we are working on, but it's not going so well; he just hates losing. Naturally, he was losing. In the middle of a race, K goes, "Z!! Slow down!! I want to win." Without missing a beat, he replies "No way. I'm not losing to a 3-year old." Man, I love kids!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bearded Babies

It's Christmas Eve here and K is spazzing out! He is so super excited and keeps asking if I think Santa will come to bring him a present. "Mama, do you think I am on the nice list?" "I think so, K. You're a pretty good little guy." We have gone through those two lines roughly 1,372 times today. Back to the matter at hand - babies in beards! Ha!! I don't know why, exactly, but the bearded hats have cracked me up since I first saw them a year or two ago. I thought they would be the perfect winter accessory for my little ones and also for a good friend's baby. Last night we had some very close friends over for Christmas dinner, including the other recipient of the bearded hat, so I had to whip these up really quickly last week.

I used this pattern for both the beards and the hats. I started by making a green and blue hat in an baby size for T. The same night, I did a grey and green toddler one for K.

It turned out that the baby size was way too tiny for T and the toddler way too tiny for K. Luckily, the toddler fit T perfectly!

The next night, I did a child-sized blue and grey one for T and it fits him just right.

Finally, I made a second green and blue one in the toddler size, but with a slightly bigger hook and it ended up right in the middle of K and T's.

They look so clue all lined up!

The next step was to get the beards done. I did one extra small, for T, and two smalls, for K and our friend.

The pattern has you sewing the beard to the hat, but that seemed like a bad idea to me. I figured that all three boys would probably hate the beard, which would render the hat useless. Instead, I sewed two buttons to the inside of the hat and the beard can just loop through the buttons so it can be easily taken off. I sewed the buttons on really simply as well, so if it seems that the beard is never going to happen, I can always just take the buttons off.

Hahahaha! They look so goofy!

K LOVED his hat. In fact, the morning after I had finished it, he insisted on wearing it to kindergarten so he could show his teacher. A few weeks ago, we bought him the cutest beanie from Gap, but he won't wear that one anymore - it's only this blue one for now. I am so pleased he likes it, I just wish I would have made it a month ago so we never would have bought the Gap one. When we attached the beard, Y and I both cracked up. It seemed K got the humor in it, so he is happy to put it on for photos, but won't wear it outside. I'm not sure if he won't wear the beard because he knows it's funny and is a bit shy or if it is just uncomfortable.

T doesn't seem to mind the hat, but he isn't super stoked on the beard either.

I gave the hat to our little friend last night and all of the adults got a good laugh about it. The little guy, however, HATED it! He's just worked out how to take off hats and couldn't get it off soon enough. I tried to get a few photos, but this is as good as we got...

I could look at these photos all day. The whole scene was hilarious. K was so super excited about presents that he was being a complete monkey holding T. He was shaking him and shrieking with excitement, scaring the bejesuses out of T. The friend's mom was trying to shove the hat on, only to have the little guy (who is wearing a vest and bow tie, by the way) rip it off as soon as he possibly could.

I know I should feel kind of bad that my kid is freaking out, but really, I just think this photo is hilarious.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Aprons and Christmas Cupcakes

Every year around Christmas time, instead of a regular lesson, I do a Christmas party for my little English girls. I give them a gift and then we do some sort of activity. The first year, I made them little handbags and we decorated cookies. Last year, I made them DS cases and we made snowglobes. This year, I made them aprons and we decorated cupcakes.

To be honest, with K, T and I all being sick over the past two weeks, the idea of the Christmas lesson had escaped me until Saturday. I quickly mailed the girls' moms and asked if it would be okay to do it in lieu of their Wednesday lesson. Both moms were on board, so I ran to the fabric store on Sunday and after putting the boys to bed that night, I got started on the aprons. As I was low on time, I decided I would just do a skirt apron and all in the same size, although one of the girls is a year and a half yonger than the others. While I didn't have a pattern, I did have a good idea of what I wanted to make. I drafted the skirt bit, and cut out the fabric - two skirt pieces and three strips of 10cm by 110cm per apron.

The first thing I did was prepare the ruffle. I sewed two of the strips together, so I ended up with one super long piece. Then I zig zagged the edge with a piece of really thin yarn in the middle. When it was time to ruffle up, I just slid the fabric down the yarn and it was way easier than pulling strings and having them break on me.

Once the ruffle was about half the length it once wasy, I pinned it to one of the skirt pieces, raw edges together.

I wanted the edges to taper off, so I angled the ruffle out a bit instead of keeping the raw edges flush together. Once the ruffle was pinned on, I pinned it to the other skirt bit so that the wrong sides of the fabric were showing.

Then I sewed it up, flipped it around and ironed it down. Finally, I had to do the waistband. I folded and ironed the last long strip as if I were making bias tape. Then I folded the piece in half and sewed the short ends together. Then I flipped it right side out, centered it on the skirt and topstitched all around.

I love how they turned out. I was so lucky to find the dessert print canvas-y fabric and some cute dots to match.

Each girl was given two cupcakes. I had made some regular whipped cream and chocolate whipped cream, and also had a bunch of toppings they could use - powdered coconut, dragees, candy stars, "Merry Christmas" chocolate piecees, strawberries, candy balls, etc. When I started to get all of the decorations out, the girls gasped. They had never decorated cupcakes before and were so excited.

There was a lof ot concentration going on at the table.

Of course K wanted to join in. (Notice the orange tape on the wall in the background? That was K helping with the Christmas decorations.)

The girls asked if they could cut up a strawberry. I took them to the kitchen and gave them a knife and a cutting board. I asked if they wanted help, but they were pretty insistent that they could do it on their own. K wanted to cut a strawberry too. He used a butter knife and was all boys-gone-wild just cutting it right on the table. He was so proud of himself when it finally broke in half. What a nutter.

All of the girls got really into the decorating. One of the older girls did a Rudolph cupcake and a Santa one. I think they both turned out really sweet.

Because of the plague that took over for a while, I am really behind on Christmas stuff. I feel so bad about it. Before he got sick, K had been begging to do some Christmas cookies. We still haven't gotten around to it. I would like to think that we will make some this weekend, but let's be honest, I am going to be crazy preparing for the "Christmas dinner" on the 23rd that we are hosting. Maybe Christmas Eve can be a day full of last minute Christmas shopping and cookie baking? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Calendar - Part 3 (The Final Product)

Ugh. We have had quite a rough few weeks around here. K caught some gnarly virus and had a crazy high fever for four days, and then he got all better. The next day, my throat started hurting and by the following day, I had a fever of 103. And it stayed like that for the next five days. T ended up getting a fever as well, but only for one day. I took him to the doctor the next day and he tested positive for the virus as well. Luckily, his never got bad. The doctor told me to keep a super close eye on him, but he stayed pretty healthy throughout it. Thank goodness. As a result of the plague, which is now gone, I did very little over the past two weeks. The one thing I was sure to stay on top of was the Advent Calendar. Over the weekend, I finally finished the entire thing! Wahoo!!!

The remaining ornaments that I made were two old-fashioned lights, a Santa hat and some holly.

The berries on the holly are super tiny, so I sewed them to a larger green piece of felt first and then cut that out and sewed it and the two holly leaves together.

Next up were a bell and candle.

Then a wreath and a dove with an olive branch. I thought it would be cute to sew randomly through the wreath so it would look like ribbon. It didn't quite end up looking the way I had anticipated, but oh well.

Finally were Santa, Rudolph and an elf. Rudolph is a hot mess, but I wasn't interested in fixing it. I figure this thing is going to be around for a while. I have so much other stuff I need to do before Christmas, so making a new Rudolph (or possibly switching him out for something else) can wait until after Christmas this year. Also, K immediately knew what it was, and that's the important bit.

For these three, I cut out a flesh (or brown) colored square and then drew the face on to the square. Then I cut out the details and sewed them to the square. I did the final outline and then cut out around it all. This was way easier than trying to navigate around a tiny piece of felt. I kind of wish I would have thought about that earlier.

Here they are pre-face, post-cutting.

And the backs of them.

There are four presents: one for K, one for T, one for Y and one for me!

Last up is the star.

Here is the tree as of this morning. K is so super cute about it and adores putting up a new ornament every morning. He rearranges them every day to make sure they are as asthetically pleasing as possible (to him). Basically, he thinks this tree is the best thing ever. I love him. 
Here's a close-up of the tree with ornaments and presents. Looking at it makes me so super excited for Christmas!!!