Archive for December, 2005

Christmas Eve Update

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

It’s 1:30 in the afternoon. I’ve been a busy girl, and things are going well. Joe has done a champion job of keeping Julie out of the kitchen this morning. I’ve made the sweet potatoes, prepped some other veggies, made two pies, and even put together a nice little lunch of leftover tacos, which Joe is helping Julie finish up right now. That kid can’t get enough black olives or gaucamole. I will be showing her how to put whole black olives on her fingers tomorrow night, just like I did when I was a kid.

Knitting night was a success the other night. Julie had a little meltdown just as everyone was arriving, since it was bedtime and she was overtired and didn’t want to miss out on the excitement – but Joe got her down and she slept just fine through the ruckus. I don’t believe anyone actually got much knitting done, but it was great to see the girls, especially Keri, who was in from out of town.

Now it’s time to go take a shower, get the kid dressed, then come back down and finish preparing the salad I’m taking tonight. I’ve got some dip to whip up, some furniture to move, and some more veggies to chop…but things are going pretty well. I don’t think I’ll be up to all hours tonight in the kitchen. I may be up watching Joe put together Julie’s train table, but that will be fun. And we’ll be able to relax and enjoy ourselves at the party tonight. The Game is always fun – who’s going home with the plastic poo?

I hope everyone out there is having a wonderful holiday with people they love.

Countdown to Christmas

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Here we are midway through the final week before Christmas. I feel like I am fairly well-prepared, but very much on the brink of a whirlwind of activity.

Most of the gifts are bought – tomorrow I’m going to stop and buy a few last things on my way home from my midwife appointment, and on Friday we’re planning to go to Target as a family and pick up gifts for the annual Christmas Eve Game at my cousin Ron’s house. I have a small pile of presents left to wrap, and I think I may tackle that yet tonight. All the presents are piled in my office closet to prevent conflict with Miss Julie over them, at least till after she’s in bed Christmas Eve.

Somehow I snookered myself into hosting seventeen people for Christmas Dinner, an exciting prospect for sure…I love cooking for others, especially if I feel there will be a chance that they’ll appreciate it…but I’m a little apprehensive about the actual cooking part since standing at the counter for long periods is really tiring when you’re carrying an extra 30 pounds around your belly. I did most of the grocery shopping last night, and all that food in the cart looked a little intimidating as I headed to the checkout. I’m going to start some of the prep work probably on Friday – stuff like cleaning and scoring the chestnuts for after-dinner roasting, maybe peeling some of the hardier vegetables, and definitely figuring out which serving dishes stuff is going into and digging it out of the basement. The pies and some of the casserole type stuff will be made on Saturday.

My menu is really almost shamefully simple:
-prime rib roast (with either spicy rub or garlic and rosemary – haven’t decided yet, and may do some of each)
-mashed potatoes (pretty plain-jane, but they’ll like it – I usually put a little sour cream in my version along with the butter and milk)
-gravy (at least I make mine from scratch, unlike many people I know. I DO NOT understand buying gravy out of a jar or a powdered envelope. YUCK!)
-green beans, stir-fried with red bell peppers and cashews in bacon grease with bacon crumbled in and some other seasonings. This is my compromise to the green bean/cream of mushroom soup casserole that I can’t stand and will not serve.
-sweet potatoes – I admit, I’m doing the marshmallow-topped casserole because it was one of my childhood holiday favorites and still is.
-Joe’s cousin is bringing a ham and bean casserole thingie, which tastes good and is, I’m sure, really bad for you.
-Joe’s mom is bringing chop che (probably not spelled correctly), which is a korean noodle dish and is my absolute favorite; and a big pot of rice
-Joe’s aunt is bringing some yet-to-be-disclosed korean dish, which I’m sure will be awesome
-Oh, and dare I admit that there are three cans of Pillsbury croissants in my fridge right now? They are gross, but I love them, and people seem to expect some kind of dinner rolls at these events.

For dessert, I’m making a french silk pie, an allergen-free pumpkin pie that is good enough to pass for normal. I cheated and bought Redi-Whip because I’m going to be exhausted at that point and don’t want to miss the party standing in the kitchen making homemade whipped cream that I will be the only one to appreciate. I bought a box of clementines and a couple of bags of chestnuts. A family friend is bringing some korean dessert-style rice cakes too. The koreans really only want the fruit and nuts for dessert, and I’ve almost gotten used to that as far as Christmas celebrations are concerned…but that won’t stop me from eating some of the chocolate pie…and there will be some other white-bread americans here besides me, too.

Oh, and appetizers include chex mix, a relish tray with olives and pickles and carrots and celery and stuff like that, and some chip and dip that I make which is super-easy but is awesome eats.

Saturday and Sunday will be crazy-busy days in our home. I really want to make sure I have and take the time to enjoy watching Julie experience this Christmas as well. This is really the first one where she’s aware that a holiday is happening and seems to be excited about it. I know she’s going to be excited about her gifts. I almost wish there could be two of me – one to spend the whole day in the kitchen making a perfect meal, and another to spend the whole day playing with her. Christmas is a crazy time. Nothing new there!

I’m also very excited that tomorrow is Knitting Night. I’m hosting it this time, and our friend Keri who moved to Pennsylvania a couple years ago is in town and will be coming. What a great chance to catch up with her! Luckily, that is a very laid-back affair, we will be ordering in pizza, and the most I have to do is excavate the living room from the normal daily pile of toys.

And finally, today’s holiday joy – Julie and I spent our afternoon at Marshall Field’s annual holiday display. For those of you not familiar with our local department store chain, soon to be assimilated into the Macy’s brand, they have an annual animated display that tells some story. This year it is Cinderella, last year it was Harry Potter. It is pretty neat, and it is free and something cool to do with a small kid. Julie was very patient as we waited through the long line to get in, and seemed to enjoy the scenes and maybe she even understood the story a bit too. When we got home, she kept talking about how sad Cinderella was and that she was locked in her room.

Now I’m off to wrap those presents, then bed at a more reasonable hour tonight! The in-laws will be here at the crack of dawn to watch Miss J while I go see the midwife.


Saturday, December 17th, 2005

I’ve been making some treats for Christmas, to give as small gifts. They are so yummy. Chocolate covered pretzel rods, some with nuts, others with a layer of caramel or toffee under the chocolate….and caramel corn with chocolate drizzled on it. Oh so good! This stuff costs big bucks at the store, and not only is it cheaper to make at home, but I think it means more when you give a gift that you made yourself.

Some would say that it’s too much trouble to make stuff like that when you can just buy it and life is so busy this time of year, yadda yadda. I can see that point of view. Thing is, I actually enjoy making it. Wanna know what the hardest part is? Not finding the ingredients, Not finding the time to make it, Not getting the recipe just right, Not keeping the toddler occupied while I do the work – heck, I gave her a couple of bowls and a pile of dried kidney beans and she kept herself happily busy for well over an hour then cried when I told her it was time to put them away! The hardest part? Not eating it all myself before I get it stuffed in the cute little cellophane bags and give it away. I am such a sugar addict!

Father Christmas

Friday, December 9th, 2005

Julie and I had our third annual Father Christmas photo session today.

The coffee shop where our Monday morning knitting group meets is owned by a guy who looks a lot like Santa, and they set up a little photo studio each year where you can have photos taken with him by appointment. He is great with the kids, they take their time and give you multiple pictures on a CD plus one page of your choice of prints to take home and use as you will – all for about the same price you’d pay to stand in line at the mall and get a crummy Polaroid. I just hope this guy stays healthy and that we can keep doing this every year till the kids outgrow Santa. This time, Julie even seemed to enjoy the process, and talked about having gone to seen Santa for the rest of the afternoon.

Busy Little Christmas Elf

Monday, December 5th, 2005

Okay, I have been busy. I have been playing Christmas Elf. Maybe I’m not so little, if we’re being really honest.

I really have no will power when it comes to sugar and all things fattening, and the pregnancy hormones are telling me to stuff my face constantly, and all the people around me swear “But you’re pregnant! You have an excuse!” Yeah, I have an excuse to be a beached whale. For now. But then, when the baby pops out and I’m still fat for the next year, I’m going to have to pay for it big time. Well, for now, I’ve had my evening bowl of peppermint-stick ice cream and I’m NOT going to go back in the kitchen and indulge in another scoop. Only because I want there to be some left for tomorrow night.

Let’s get back to the busy Christmas Elf part. That’s where the fun really lies. Friday Julie and I made gingerbread cookies. Fun was had by all.

I had fun cutting out the cookies and baking them, she had fun standing at the counter with her own lump of dough and some cutters pretending to do the same and semi-sneakily eating the dough. The good thing about having to make allergen-free cookies is that they contain no raw egg, so it’s safe for her to eat it raw. They turned out mighty tasty for cookies containing none of the normal cookie ingredients. As good as I’ve been about keeping Julie off the sugar, the poor kid has inherited my craving for it. She was begging for cookies the rest of the day. I’ve been limiting her to 2-4 per day (they’re really small, I swear). We still need to decorate them and then bake the sugar cookie dough that’s sitting in the fridge. Maybe we’ll get to one of those steps tomorrow.

Last night I made Joe drag up the fake Christmas tree and all the ornaments. While Julie slept, we put the tree up and added more lights to the pre-lit ones that come on it. This morning Julie helped us decorate the Christmas tree for the first time. Actually, Julie and I did it ourselves while Joe put some finishing touches on the kitchen trim. Fun was had by all…and I didn’t even have to nag Julie all that much to keep her paws off the blown-glass ornaments. Luckily, I have a selection of non-breakable ones that she got to put up and play with. Our tree is not one of those designer-themed things that so many people I know tend to put up. It is an eclectic mix of lights including white ones that come on the tree, big bright round bulbs, and a single string of Hello Kitties. We are a Hello Kitty loving family, after all. The decorations are ones that I’ve collected over the years, including some incredibly cheesy plastic canvas needlepoint ones that I love even more this year because they are safe for Julie. The pretty blown glass ones that I’ve collected (minus two of my favorites that died during the move) all go on upper branches where hopefully Julie will keep her mits off ‘em. I always buy a box of candy canes, and every year they are thrown away some time mid-February when I realize that nobody in our house *likes* peppermint candy sticks. So this year, I humored Joe and bought a box of Spree-flavored ones. They are not the pretty red-and-white ones I’m used to, but they fill in some holes and anything to make my husband enjoy family holiday stuff works for me. Oh, and we put up the paper chain that Julie and I made last week together. It looks to me just as a real homey Christmas tree should.

I spent this evening getting started on one of Julie’s presents…a pink tutu skirt for dress-up play clothes. She loves the dress-up clothes at ECFE, and so I got it in my head that making some would be a good idea. Even though I really don’t enjoy sewing and would much rather be knitting. I also bought fabric to make a velvety cape for her. There’s still 24 nights left before Christmas. I think I can get this done! I figure by making this stuff this year, she’ll have plenty of time to get use out of it before she outgrows it, and the new baby can enjoy them in a couple years if they haven’t been shredded by then.

Last night I spent a bit putting together a picture-web-page for my uncle, who likes to send out Christmas e-mails instead of cards. To each their own, I guess. At least I got that done within 24 hours of him sending me the photos this time, versus the several weeks it usually takes me to get around to it. My teenage cousins have apparently decided it’s fun to have shaggy hair, and I feel like an old fart laughing about it. Wanna see the page? It’s pretty basic but it’s what he wanted. The captions were specified exactly by him and everything.

Oh! and I finished writing out the Christmas cards. They’re not in the mail yet, but hopefully will be some time this week. Damn things were more trouble than they’re worth. Next year we’re going back to ordering them online.

Not Christmas related, but I finished that little sweater for the baby. It is pretty. Unfortunately, I think it’s slightly larger than newborn size. Remember how I was plotting my next project? Well, yesterday I bought yarn for another little sweater. This one will be quite plain and should knit up quickly. The yarn is like cotton candy it is so soft and fluffy. Bwuahahaha I love knitting oh-so-much more than sewing.

Now it is again way past my bed time, and I really must get to bed before I cave in to the siren call of the potato chips Joe keeps in the cabinet.