Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011 Round Up

Click mosaic to biggify. Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
Still chipping away at A Mystery of Errors by Simon Hawke. I'm about half way done now (which means I've had too many doctor's appointments recently). Really want to finish it in January, if possible.

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
* TV Time: With most major network shows in reruns for December, I spent a lot of time watching movies this month, but I did do *some* television watching. Caught the excellent San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker (from 2008) on PBS (though I can't hear the Chinese dance without seeing dancing mushrooms). TNT shows were back briefly, so we did watch The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles. Finished up The Next Iron Chef, though I was disappointed with the end result (even of the two finalists, I would have chosen the other one). Plus there were some standard Christmas shows: Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Prep & Landing, and the new Prep & Landing: Naughty vs Nice (not as good as the original, but Luke likes it).
* New Films: I saw 10 new movies this month! (I know, that seems like a lot, even to me.) They were:
  • Twilight: Eclipse (they're not really getting any better, but clearly they aren't so bad that I've stopped watching)
  • Pirate Radio (not typically my kind of movie, but it was very interesting; loved Kenneth Branagh and Jack Davenport!)
  • Burlesque (completely predictable, but good heavens, does Christina have some pipes!)
  • Cinema Verite (quite interesting)
  • White Christmas (yes, the original; no, I'd never seen it; have to say, I didn't love it, prefer Holiday Inn)
  • Dorian Gray (the 2009 with Colin Firth; it was just okay, not really my thing)
  • The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (this was very sweet and charming)
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (yes, the original; no, I'd never seen it, and I'm not at all sure how. I mean, come on - Ian Flemming, Albert Broccoli, screen play by Roald Dahl! it was okay, with some good spots, but I didn't love it)
  • Lost in Translation (I clearly did not get it; I mean, it was fine, it was just sort of there; I don't see how/why it was nominated for Oscars)
  • That Lady in Ermine (1948 Betty Grable and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.; quite disappointing, actually)
* Old Favorites: Hello, Dolly!, The Princess Bride, That Thing You Do!, The Incredibles, WALL-E, The Dark Crystal, Ocean's Eleven (Clooney/Pitt), Three Men and a Baby, The Three Musketeers (1993), Somewhere in Time, Housesitter, Grinch Stole Christmas, Gladiator, The Replacement Killers, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Little Women, The Young Victoria, Speechless, An America Tail, Muppet Christmas Carol, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Sommersby, Inception, Tarzan, Ice Age, Toy Story 3, Jurassic Park

What special days did I celebrate and how?

Spent the days before Christmas with DH's family. Spent Christmas Eve with my grandfather and mother in law. Spent Christmas with my parents and brother. Spent New Year's with my mom's family. Can't really ask for more than that!

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
You know I always feel really awkward covering all of my Christmas gifts, so let's just say I got a bunch of stuff that I absolutely love (including new kitchen tools, woohoo!), and leave it there. I'm sure you will see/hear about quite a few of them as the year progresses (like the two LEGO Wii games!). I also made a temari for my friend Melissa.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
Luke being sick (again!) was no fun, but the bacterial conjunctivitis from getting poked in the eye was the worst! Actually, Luke *still* has a runny nose. Feel like it's been running for months now. Really getting old! Also, for me, my ENT follow up showed that my ear is simply not getting any better. We'll give it to March to see if it will get with the program and start healing itself, but the doctor didn't seem hopeful.

However, for the first time in several years, I managed to *not* be dead dog sick on either Christmas or New Year's. Such a nice change! However, we also have not yet had our "movie day out" yet either. Apparently, I have to wait until then to be sick.

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
Cooking and eating and chatting with my family is always fun!

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
A whole bunch! We made all kinds of new things over the Christmas holidays, most of which I profiled here (with recipe links). Peanut Butter Creme Cookie Cups, Tree Breadsticks, Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup, Creamy Chicken Marsala Pizza, and the most excellent Swedish Meatballs (yes, I keep talking about them; yes, they were that good!). I think there was a new squash recipe and two new broccoli recipes, but I didn't try those.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
I made up a basket of gourmet type items for my mom and brother for Christmas, and I couldn't just let them have all the fun, so several of the items I also got for me! Examples: black lava salt, pink Himalayan sea salt, balsamic vinegar, vanilla beans (both Madagascar and Tahitian), and saffron. Can't wait to start playing with them!

What were this month's disappointments or frustrations?
I also got a bit frustrated with myself. It took me forever to figure out a gift for my mom and brother. To compensate, we overspent on Luke by, well, a bunch. ::sigh:: The CD calendars I ordered that should have arrived within a week took 11 days to come in. I was already out of town by the time they showed up. I was NOT happy!

What were my accomplishments this month?
Finding the Swedish Meatball recipe! (I know, I'll try to stop, I promise.) Getting acceptable gifts finally rounded up for the rest of the family was a last minute accomplishment, but accomplished nonetheless. I also spent the last few days of the month writing over 30 blog posts to try and get caught up on November and December blogging that never got done. I knocked off a few 101 Things items.

- 33. Acquire 5 new kitchen tools. Must be "new to me" tools, not just replacing tools I already have. - Knocked off all 5 of these at Christmas. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
- 74. Have family portraits made with parents and brother. - My friend Christi took our portraits on Christmas Eve! (Really need to get some prints ordered.)
- 77. Visit Trader Joe's. - I know, it's about time, though I will say that I didn't see the fascination. Maybe this one was just super small and had a more limited selection? It was not large at all inside! Still, it was interesting, and they did have some specialty items I can't find elsewhere.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Luke received a certificate at Winter 2011 Awards Day for being on the Principal's Honor Roll (all A's and S's). He's already leveled up one of his Skylanders to maximum levels! LOL He was *extremely* well behaved for the entire Christmas break, which was very nice. He definitely enjoyed the Christmas break. I think he really needed the break from school, though I hope it won't cause trouble getting back in the swing of things in January.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
Not really.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: rounded up for the year

Friday, December 30, 2011

December 2011 Pinterest Inspirations (Recipes)

We were busy making Pinterest food over Christmas! Some Mom found, some I found; she made some, I made some. These are pictures of the actual food that we made. Here's a quick recap:

Peanut Butter Creme Cookie Cups (Pin, Direct Recipe Link) - This was Mom's find. There was no doubt that these would taste good, but I admit that when we read the recipe, both Mom and I were skeptical that it would work. There's no way dropping packaged cookie dough into a baking cup in a muffin tin was going to bake up the sides and then fall in the middle to create a well, all by itself! Well, the joke was on us; they did *exactly* that!!! It was the darndest thing I've ever seen. Instead of rolling the cookie in nuts, we just used the Pecan Ultimates which have nuts on top. We also used double the peanut butter filling, since one batch didn't seem to fill the cups enough for our liking. I think they would be absolutely perfect if we could figure out a way to do a bite-size version. Super simple, super yum. Winner!

Breadstick Trees (Pin, Direct Recipe Link) - This was another of Mom's finds, and also another case of "it can't be this easy, can it?" Yes, apparently it can! I thought they would puff up to the point that the tree would be unrecognizable, but obviously they didn't. We didn't sprinkle them with anything because we were afraid Luke wouldn't eat them if we did, but the definitely could have used a hit of something salty, either straight up Kosher salt (or other flaky salt) or maybe parmesan cheese.

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup (Pin, Direct Recipe Link) - This recipe was my find, but Mom and Jacob did all of the cooking on it. All I did was eat it! (Wait, I think I opened the cans of tomatoes, too. We used garlic and olive oil diced tomatoes.) It was very good! We made it on the stove instead of in a crock pot, but I definitely think I will try it in a crock pot next time. I think the extra time involved would make it even better! (Sorry, it doesn't photograph well.)

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pizza (Pin, Direct Recipe Link) - Mom did all of the chopping on this one (we chopped the sliced mushrooms so they would be a bit smaller), but I did all of the cooking. Everyone seemed to like it. I thought it was quite good, but I would tweak it slightly, I think. I think I would back off the mushrooms a bit (good, but not my favorite) and use a bit more chicken. I would also ironically back down the Marsala wine some (it was sweeter than I like with that much in it) and add chicken stock to make up the difference and intensify the chicken flavor. Still very good and worth trying to tweak.

Swedish Meatballs (Pin, Direct Recipe Link) - These were *the* find of the week, possibly of the year. They are phenomenal!! It was one of the last recipes I pinned before we left for Christmas, and Mom saw it and thought it looked good. Boy, was it! Wow, were these yummy. We made them nearly exactly as the recipe called for, with just a couple of very minor changes. We used 90% lean ground beef instead of 80%. We whizzed up the onion in the food processor instead of grating it. Nutmeg and Allspice are both pretty powerful, so we knocked them down to half what the recipe called for, figuring we could add more in later if it needed it. We used Anne Burrell's trick of making a "tester" and thought the seasoning was perfect just as it was with the half level of seasoning, so we left it there. We actually only made a half batch of meatballs but a full batch of the sauce (effectively doubling the sauce recipe for the amount of meatballs we had) and served it over rice, though it would probably be good over egg noodles, too. The half batch of meatballs (with the rice and a side dish or two) was still plenty of food for 4 adults with two small lunch-size portions left over. They're not fast, and they are extremely unhealthy, but holy cow, are they fantastic! I can't wait until we can make them again. You know, next Christmas.

We tried some other recipes, too, but they weren't from Pinterest. Besides, these were really the best of the bunch. Hope you enjoy!

Currently feeling: yummy in my tummy

Thursday, December 29, 2011

So how was your Nov and Dec?

Long time, no see, I know. Obviously, blogging has taken a back seat for the last couple of months, primarily to work. Between the volume of projects and the learning curve, I am exhausted by the end of the day. The thought of the time and effort involved to write things down, and especially to process the photos, made me want to cry. Other than the October Round Up that I finally got posted on November 12, I haven't done any real blogging since October 31.

Things are a little calmer for the moment (if you consider traveling for Christmas "calm," though we are home now). I expect them to get crazy again by January 9. Between now and then, I'll do my best to start getting caught up. Forgive me if things start posting in batches or are posted out of order. I apologize now for filling up your Twitter and RSS feeds. I'll be backdating things to the appropriate time in a couple of weeks.

Hope you all had a great fourth quarter 2011! I really did miss you.

Currently feeling: outta time

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Christmas Temari

Another Christmas, another temari. Gee, I wonder what inspires me to start working on these again each December? Last year, my friend Melissa commented that she didn't have any special Christmas ornaments. Well, we can't have that, now can we? So I promised her one, thinking I would get to it right after Christmas. I didn't, and rather than send it to her in like April and her have to keep up with it, I waited until this December to make and send her one. I am absolutely thrilled with how this one turned out!! (And she seems to like it, too, which is the important thing.)

Please pardon the crummy photos; I was in a hurry to get it in the mail. Melissa's photo of this temari is actually much better than mine! This was my first time stitching this design, and I usually keep my first attempt at any new pattern (because, let's all admit, the first time you do anything it doesn't always turn out the best). But this one turned out *so* well, I decided to send it on instead of making a new one for her. It's not perfectly round, but it was pretty close. I also feel I have a much better grasp on the C8 division. I don't know why I had it in my head that dividing the ball into C8 was hard. It's not! Now, to conquer my fear of C10....

Currently feeling: crafty (sorry,they don't make temari emoticons)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011 Recap

Our Christmas has been very busy so far, but it's good busy. Thursday was DH's annual pot luck lunch holiday office party, so I went ahead and took the day off. They get to leave after lunch without taking vacation time for the remainder of the day, so we headed on down for the next stop on our tour: Vidalia. We hadn't see DH's dad's family since Labor Day 2010, so we were way overdue. Had a great dinner and really enjoyed the time visiting, though I somehow managed not to take a single picture! There were other out of town guests taking up most of the spare sleeping quarters in the various houses, so we went on and drove the remaining 2+ hours to my parents' house. It was a long but enjoyable day.

Friday, we didn't have many plans. Mom had to work part of the day, and Luke actually slept in (for Luke), so we met up with her for lunch, then did some shopping for Christmas clearance sales and groceries. As you know, we're usually at our house for Christmas, but with my grandfather having more frequent spells, it made more sense for everyone to be down there in case something happened. Luke doesn't remember ever being at Nana and Papa's house for Christmas, so it was a great novelty for him. Mom even had a small Christmas tree just for him to decorate.

We checked in on Luke before we went to bed Friday night. For a minute there, we thought we'd lost him! Where's Luke?

Can you see me now? LOL Crazy kid.

Saturday, Christmas Eve, was an absolutely insane day, but we did manage to get it all done, and miraculously without a single meltdown. First up was a portrait session with my friend Christi. This is the same Christi that I didn't get to see when I went to Virginia/Washington DC back in September due to all of the flooding in the area. She is an avid amateur photographer, and we really enjoyed the session. I'll post some of the images later when we get them. We invited Christi and her mom to lunch with us, then it was time to hit the road.

Our next destination was Waycross to visit my grandfather. He was having a pretty good day (though not a great one) and we enjoyed seeing him. I forgot to download those photos before we left, sorry. Next stop was Kingsland to visit DH's mom. We chatted for a while and played with the dog, then went to dinner, and back for a present opening session. Again, I somehow forgot to take pictures (bad case of camnesia this trip, except for Christmas morning, of course). The elves were busy while we were away, and nearly all of the gifts were wrapped and ready by the time we returned. Next stop, Christmas!

But first, we have to eat some breakfast.

And take pictures of the tree, though it is impossible to get one of those beautiful glowing long exposure shots of a tree that spins! (Mom's tree is on a turntable.)

Come on, Papa, is it time to open gifts yet?!

First, we pass them out.

Luke's first "real" stocking (that he can remember). He was very excited.

Okay, go!

Nope, can't open that one yet! It's "the big one" and needs to wait a bit

Try some others.

Yes, other people got gifts, too.

And just to be fair, here is a picture of me, and it's even a candid that I don't completely detest.

Still working on the "enjoying everyone else opening their gifts" part. He was (for the most part) very patient.

Okay, now it's your turn again.

You know you're getting old when...

... not only do you get luggage for Christmas, you are very excited about it! (He travels a lot, and he is going on a cruise over New Year's, so he needed it.)

Okay, Luke, *now* you can open "the big one." Wait for it....

Oh my gosh, is it?


The look every parent wishes for on Christmas morning; success!! He's been wanting a Nintendo 3DS for months now (over a year, really), but he wasn't "ready" by his birthday. For the past several weeks, every time someone asked him what he wanted for Christmas, 3DS was always his one and only answer. His behavior and maturity have increased dramatically since then, so we granted his wish. Yes, we his parents, not Santa. A) You don't "go around" Mom and Dad and get what you want from Santa. And B) If you get it from Mom and Dad, then Mom and Dad can (more easily) impose rules on its use.

We got him all set up, then took a quick Christmas cake breakfast break for the adults. After that, it was time for Papa to open his "big one." Like a lot of fathers in this world, we all feel like Dad tends to get the short end of the stick most Christmases. He's fairly difficult to buy for. Either he buys himself anything he wants or needs, or the few things we can think of need to be specific types or models, so it is really better if he buys them himself. This year, however, my brother hit on the perfect gift.

It is called the Saint John's Bible, the first hand illuminated and lettered Bible since around the invention of the printing press. You can read more about it here. Jacob saw a segment on it on television one day and mentioned it to Mom and me as a possible Christmas gift for Dad. We loved the idea, so we all split the cost and purchased the reprint volumes of it.

I think he likes it, what do you think?

So that was our Christmas day. Mom and Jacob loved their box of "gourmet goodies" I gave them, DH adores his slippers (again, you know you're old when....), and I need to add on to my kitchen to hold all of my new kitchen gear (food processor, immersion blender, cast iron dutch oven, waffle maker). We'll be leaving Tuesday evening, and we don't really have any plans between now and then. Just chill, relax, enjoy each other's company, and eat lots of yummy food (will share some recipes after we get back). At least we know what Luke will be doing.

:-) Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Currently feeling: Christmased