Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Holiday haze has started already. It probably started sometime back in October honestly. I don't if it's my age or the age of my kids or what, but it gets worse every year. Wasn't Halloween  like a week ago? And Christmas mean it's time for that?

Slow down world. I'm afraid I might fall off.

After Thanksgiving, we lept full force into Christmas decorating and grabbing online deals for gifts. Clark Griswold Jeremy was a little under the weather after pouring all his blood, sweat and tears into our we didn't finish Christma-tizing the house last weekend. Meaning there are boxes everywhere and we are swimming in a sea of decor.

And suddenly I remembered that just a week ago today we were furiously baking pies and getting ready for Turkey Day, and I had still yet to post pictures here on the blog!

It's not my fault. It's the haze.

It was a beautiful day. 60 degrees or more, which is crazy warm for us. Since it was so nice, I forced the little guys outside a bit.

We stole the football from our neighbors (well technically they left it in our yard and we played with it) and Charley liked it so much, I'm thinking it's high time we get one.

Look at the old man go. He still has moves.

Since we had a nice small crowd, we all fit into the dining room (with the help of the extra card table).  I had used more dried hydrangeas to make centerpieces and napkin holders. Probably one of the easier (and cheaper!) crafts ever!

You can't see it, but Tessa and Charley had their own little table in the corner.

Tessa's grabbing herself some hot cider from the drink, snack and pie table. She decided to forgo the cinnamon whiskey addition. By the way, did you know that diet coke mixed with cinnamon whiskey is surprisingly delicious? I think it got named 'the red headed step child'.

Charley made a fast friend in my cousin Joel. 

This is Whitney, new addition to our holiday gathering.

I was thinking about holidays and how if I look back on the last 10 years, the profile of our family is literally different EVERY holiday.....marriages, deaths, births, moving away, divorce, more births, moving back, more births. It's perpetually changing. And I suppose that's the nature of life and age. And yet we continue to gather and have a good time and love each other because we're family. So this year was different, just like every year before it and every year to come. And the world keeps on turning and the family keeps on cookin'.

Deep thoughts by Laura.

Jeremy and his beautiful turkey.

On Black Friday, we did what we try to do every year and got as far away from malls as possible. Literally. The little town of Metamora has a lot of cute little shops where you can find Christmas pretties at good prices and things like homemade fudge.

And there's not even 4G. It's awesome.

I'd rather be in this kind of store than a mall.

Mom tried to snap a good pic of us for our Christmas card but we kinda failed. None of them were very good. We might have to go back to the drawing board.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Broccoli Strong!

In comparison to Tessa, Charley's a bit of a picky eater. That's not to say he's a chicken nugget only kinda kid (cause he wouldn't last long in this house), but he won't sit down to a bowl of olives like his sister.

Veggies are a hard one, sometimes for both kids. Maybe for ALL kids in the world? Who knows.

But one this is for sure, the kid LOVES brocolli.

His love for brocolli started about a year ago when we came up with the concept of being 'broccoli strong'. It was one of those strokes of parenting genius where your spouse looks at you and wonder did you think of THAT? In those rare instances I have to plead that only God gave me this parenting wisdom, cause I'm simply not that smart on my own.

Broccoli strong simply means the more you eat, the stronger you get...and we would test this theory by having the kids do feats of strength right there in the kitchen. Eat a brocolli tree, lift up a chair. Eat another one, lift up a bigger chair. Eat another one and do ten push ups.

Yes right in the middle of the meal. Yes is competition with each other.

They ate it up. And the broccoli. 

The best has always been to ask Charley for a broccoli hug. Ask him next chance you get. He will hug you so hard around the neck that your face starts to turn blue. And if it's been a few days since the consumption, I'll simply tell him that he's growing broccoli weak and we need to have some more soon.

It's been a while since we've actually done the feats of strength in the kitchen, but they remember it and still love to eat the trees (with butter and salt of course) cause now it's just part of their life and diet.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Doll Hair Salon, Don't Forget the Downy!

I've been meaning to do this project for some time now and we finally got to it...detangling those horrible matted heads of doll hair! Someone had suggested using a wig brush and special concoction of fabric softener with water.

Why the extensive measures? That question would only be asked by someone who had never played with doll hair. Its like a combination of wool and straw and Bob Marley dreadlocks that no normal brush can handle.

Those little brushes that come free with the Barbie? Puh-lease.

We assembled everyone with tangled hair, which included 10 Barbies and 3 big dolls. Then I used an old hairspray bottle (properly washed out) with 1/4 cup fabric softener and water.

Rather than traipse all over town trying to locate a wig brush, I bought a hard wiry one in the pet section. We didn't have any of these because all the hair our dogs shed out are the size and color of eyelashes.

 A few sprays and brushes and the Barbies go from matted mess to sleek shine.

 Rapunzel was the hardest. Brushing her out took a good 10 minutes.

This Barbie came to the party naked but probably has the best before and after, including strategically placed thumb.

It was so encouraging to see these dolls who were afraid to face the camera suddenly come out of their shells.
The best part is that they all smell so dang good. Who doesn't love the smell of fabric softener? Even though I make my own detergent, I am guilty of buying and using copious amounts of Snuggle ONLY for the smell. Then I obsessively sniff my clothes. I've got issues.

I asked Tessa to say 'ta-da' but it looks more like she's saying....'I rule over you,  my silky haired minions!! Mwahaha!'

Turkey Prep with the Sous Chef

We hosted Thanksgiving for a nice small group of family members on Thursday. There was only about a dozen of us, which for our family is a tiny crowd. And it was really nice and lovely and we all fit in one room.

Being the culinary over-achievers we are (and when I say we, I mean Jeremy)...we did a LOT of cooking the day before. So much so that Jeremy took the day off work.

Big holidays really are Jeremy's show and I assist him as sous chef. Because he's more knowledgeable about food and willing to get messy and take time to be fussy about things like scratch made pie crusts. I'd be fine with scalloped potatoes from a box, and whipped topping from a frozen blue tub....but what do I know?

I have learned a LOT from him about cooking over the years. Practically everything I know. So now I can really hold my own in the kitchen a lot better than I used to. Years of observance....I think that's what's known as an apprenticeship.

But being an apprentice is not simple either. In our house the apprentice did all of the cleaning and decorating, and the majority of dish washing. She also had to run interference when the head chef starts to lose his mind or cool. 

Once in a while I feel vindicated because I can cook something better than him, but that doesn't happen very often. Usually if it does it's because I'm willing to follow a simple plan rather than make something overly-fancy. A good example of that would be mashed potatoes. I did those because my recipe is simple and delicious...milk, butter, salt and pepper. Jeremy might be caught trying to add truffle oil or something ridiculous.

I'm also the queen of gravy because I'm not ashamed to openly use corn starch to thicken with. That's what my Gramaw Sargent taught me and probably many generations of women in the kitchen.

On Turkey Day morning we had almost everything pre-prepped or cooked with the exception of a few items, mainly the bird.

Jeremy toasted the bread in the oven because we forgot to dry it out the night before. I did manage to talk him out of making his own bread for stuffing, because no one can deny the fluffy absorbancy of wonder bread...nor should we try to replicate it.

Mamaw brought her cornbread dressing patties as well, which are a family delicacy and always required. Baking them makes them deliciously crispy and the secret ingredient...Ritz crackers.

We put a bunch of gubbins in the bottom of the turkey pan, which Jeremy insists on calling his 'mirepoix' because it makes him feel French. He also makes little prep stations and calls them 'mise en place'. Then I roll my eyes and open my green beans with a can opener.

BTW- the word gubbins comes from a British boss I used to have who said it. It apparently means a bunch of things that you stuff inside of something. Trying using it.

This is a stuffing assemly line. Those bread bits get some sausage added and chicken broth to mushy it. Plus some other herbs and spices. Before joining Jeremy's family, I had never had sausage in my stuffing. It really is delicious.

Before joining my family Jeremy had never had Ritz crackers in his stuffing. It really is delicious too.

Charley had seen a turkey day cooking show and declared that he wanted to be in charge of the 'turkey clock'. So he was!

Jeremy rubbed the bird up with some of the herb butter that I made all BY MYSELF, then we used the rest for dinner rolls later.

There's this whole mysterious procedure of sutering the bird together with toothpicks and stray pieces of bread. Charley helped.

Then it baked for about 5 hours and was beautiful and delicious. We all gobbled (get it?) and there wasn't even alot left over, which is great. A picked apart bird carcass is a happy one.

While the bird was baking, we waiting for family and got the kids dressed in their adorable holiday outfits, did some themed coloring pages and watched the Macy's parade.

More pictures to come!

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Harvest Bough- Using the Yard

We're hosting Thanksgiving for our family this year and I really wanted to use some natural things to decorate with. Because it's pretty, and also free. And also creative. But I wasn't sure exactly how or if it would look any good.

So I am VERY pleased with the garland I made...which I am calling our Harvest Bough. At first I wasn't sure how it would hold together until I remembered the huge branches of grapevine outside, ready to be trimmed down. A perfect foundation.

Last year Jeremy made a huge 7 foot cross out of our grapevine cuttings. If  you get it a just the right time it's nice and moldable, then stayed in place forever as it dries. I think he's already taken requests for a few more of these this year....

Back to the current project. We have a hydrangea tree in the front (yes I said tree, different than a hydrangea bush) which gives us these nice dried flower bundles each year.

The cool thing is that like the grapevine, these hold up well over time. They are not delicate to work with so they don't fall apart, and also don't get all dark and droopy looking like some dried flowers. By the way, I didn't hang dry these or anything, this is just the way they came off the tree.

This is rafia, the only purchased part of this project, for tying and bundling. Cool stuff, super cheap, a little messy. Pronounced like mafia.

Ornamental grass from the backyard, complete with furry tassle things on top.

And a couple of berry clusters from our tree. The pink one. I don't really know what kind of tree it is. Pink. With berries.

And one huge piece of grapevine.

I bundled the grass.
Tied it up with rafia.
Then tied on the hydrangea and trimmed the excess.

Jeremy's idea for mounting it was to use the sticky 3M hooks and tighten the metal bit with plyers.It's working so far until it looses it's stickness and sends my bough flying through the window.

 I did about half of it on the counter, then had to finish it while hanging.

 Don't be intimidated the hotness of my red hooded sweatshirt.

Best shirt ever, by the way. There are holes for the thumbs.  

 So I kept bundling and tying and bundling and tying all the way across. I had the glue gun on standby just in case, but never needed it.

Ta-da! I think I might leave this one even after Turkey Day...which sparked this conversation. 

Me: I think we should leave this bad boy up for Christmas.
Jer: But we always hang those poinsettia lights on the mantel. 
Me: You mean the cheap plastic greenery with plastic poinsettia flowers lights?
Jer: Yeah
Me: Instead of this beautiful, natural handmade creation that uses no electricity that I slaved over for two days?!?
Jer: Uh....maybe I'll just hang the other in my office.

I also tied the hydrangea around our Thanksgiving napkins (from Target).  I think I'm going to throw some in mason jars and put them around to complete the look. It's amazing how many clusters came off our one tiny tree. I don't think I'll end up using it all.

There is rafia and grass everywhere of course. Good thing we have a trusty dusty vacuum.