31 December, 2008
Mostly, I had a terrible sleep last night, the LG had a terrible sleep last night and I messed up my shoulder so badly exercising yesterday that it's hampering my ability to breathe without pain. Bring on the New Year!
The great year of 2008 was pretty good with the exception of a few things, most notably my Mom's getting sick. However, looking ahead to everything we are anticipating in 2009 - all the things we can tell you about like a trip to Manitoba and the impending arrival of Sibling 'X?'* - and all the things we can't tell you about like that ___________ for _____ and we should _______ if _______. We are _________! Also, that ___________, which would be ______ for ____ and lots of _____________. Lucky ___________!
And so on.
So here's to 2008. And here's to 2009 trouncing it completely!
Happy New Year!
*For now, we will refer to The Baby as "Sibling X?." As you know, gender is determined by either an 'X' or 'Y' chromosome and since we know not which is it as this point, we will stick with a Question Mark and keep you posted. And yes, we WILL be finding out because surprises of this magnitude and me? NOT. FRIENDS. Actually, surprises in general - hate 'em. Hate.
26 December, 2008
*For the record, that is not a 'head' and 'body' in the picture, but something a little more like this. That picture was taken at barely 6 weeks along. By now it actually LOOKS more like a real baby!
25 December, 2008
24 December, 2008
In retrospect, we're a little heavy on the chocolate so perhaps next year we'll attempt to diversify, but I do like chocolate and I married a man who also has a deep appreciation for almost any incarnation of the cacao bean, so why not go with what we like best?
Should you find yourself, as we do, with a lot of time on your hands today or tomorrow or maybe on Boxing Day, or perhaps even Valentine's Day, here are some recipes and links for your baking pleasure.
1. Caramel Toffee Squares: these have been a favourite in my family for years but I'll warn you they are tricky - worth it, but tricky. I always have trouble with the filling. My Mom is a genius at making it in the microwave but when I tried that the other night, I cooked it way too long (at least to the soft crack stage), resulting in what Mr. J. calls the "best tasting flop ever." It's now some lovely hard toffee candy reminiscint of what my mom used to make when we were little, only with a slightly burnt flavour. Oops. The second batch I made turned out perfect, until Mr. J. opened the fridge door and dumped them out and filling was EVERYWHERE. (Don't worry, I left the kitchen to avoid ruining our Christmas spirit.) The third batch seems to have turned out just fine. Phew! [They also don't mail well (that's really too bad for such a tasty treat...mmm....yes.....too bad....).]
Note: 1/2 cup of s.c. milk is approx. half a can. Use the other half for a half-batch of Number 6.
2. Cake Balls: Bake a cake mix in a 9x13 pan. When it's cool, use two forks to tear it apart into crumbs. Combine with almost one tub of storebought icing. Chill in the fridge for about an hour. Roll into small balls and coat with melted chocolate chips or almond bark. For the macaroon ones we used coconut cake mix and also added in half a bag of shredded coconut. For the black forest ones, we used a dark chocolate cake mix and added in almost a whole can of blended cherry pie filling (no icing in those ones). Easy and great for potlucks.
3. Date-filled Cookies: These are really an old-timery cookie I think. I grew up eating these. They're some of my Moms favourites and they were a favourite of my Grampa too. A molasses cookie on either side of some delicious (and full of fibre and nutrients, I might add) date filling. For the date filling: Use kitchen scissors to cut up one package (8 oz.) of pitted dates. Microwave them in a bowl with 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of orange juice for about 4-5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 tsp. of baking soda. Let it cool, stirring occasionally, and it will thicken. Then spread on a cookie and top with another cookie. Like a sandwich.
4. Russian Tea Cakes, as previously blogged.
5. Chocolate Truffles: Not as decadent as these, which might actually be an act of divine inspiration (quick! buy some! they're on sale!), but definitely a little tasty treat. We always use non-fat sweetened condensed milk so I consider them a slightly lower-fat treat. Plus, nobody will guess you didn't slave for hours.
6. Finally, No-Time Chocolate Fingers. These are a delectable combination of chocolate, graham wafers/crackers and marshmallows and they almost never turn out well enough to serve to actual guests, but we like them just fine. That said, I'm not going to post the recipe unless my Mom can tell me what I'm doing wrong. If you really want it, you can email me and maybe YOU can fix it.
Have a delicious Christmas!
23 December, 2008
There is a tiny silver lining though and that is that the Little Goat and I will be making the trek Home (HOME!) for a few weeks to help out after the surgery. The LG will hopefully cooperate in providing positively delightful (hint, hint, Kid) entertainment so I can get supper on the table. And yes, Dad, I expect help and I expect you to rinse your coffee cup and also I don't clean bathrooms. Hey, I just want to lay our services out on the table before we get there.
Please be in prayer for Mom as she prepares for surgery - that God would give her both grace and peace about the process AND that she won't go crazy being off work for several weeks!
Love you, Mom! We've already started a list of everything we're bringing home.
22 December, 2008
Luckily for us, Mr. J. was on call last night! Oh yippee. The ER called shortly after five this morning to warn him that they would be calling in less than an hour because the EMTs had just gone on a call. So we hauled ourselves out of bed at 5:30, got more bundled up than I care to be and headed outside. SO. COLD. *chatter*
We dug just enough to get one car out (some of the drifts out there were past my waist) and Mr. J. left for work. I was not very happy about that because if it had been me, I would've called in and said, 'see you Tuesday,' but I don't feel the need to take risks in bad weather and be any kind of hero. Anyway, he called later and he had made it in so I guess that's good. Let the knitting party commence!
The Little Goat and I just stood by the window for a while watching the neighbours use their snowblowers. Sadly, a lot of the snow on the next-door neighbours driveway is, mostly because of the wind, now on our driveway, but I've been excused from further shoveling duty today so I'll take advantage of that. I really don't know how much snow we got, but most of you know that despite being born and raised in Manitoba where there are, in fact, many snow-loving people, I can hardly stand the stuff - at least not when it's snowy AND cold.
I'm too lazy to go take more pictures now, but I'll leave you with a few from just after our shoveling this morning. Pardon the fact that the light is bad and you can hardly see through the snow stuck to the window.
15 December, 2008
I was out of bed at 7:52 after I thought I heard some kids getting excited about seeing a fire truck. Naturally I wondered why they weren't in school (I thought it was later than 8am).
Then the siren got louder and closer and I looked out the window. There was smoke streaming out the door jam on the main floor and from underneath the eaves. The yelling I heard was our next-door neighbour helping Mrs. L. (she's the only one that lived there) away from her house and getting the attention of the fire truck. About a minute later, there were flames shooting up from the back end of the roof.
I debated about taking pictures and posting them - this is a tragedy as much as a spectacle, and I have no idea what might have caused the fire - but right around Christmas (and in winter) when most of us have Christmas lights up and quite possibly a space heater going, it's important to remember to make sure that all our lights and heaters are up to code and used as safely as possible.
I saw smoke at 7:52am. This was twenty minutes later:
This is after all the fire trucks/fighters have left*:
Please continue to pray for Mrs. L. It looks like whatever is in her (detached) garage will be fine, but I only saw the firefighters recover a single trunk from the house.
*These photos were both taken today so I'm not sure why the dates don't match.
13 December, 2008
(Except I can't remember if there's a peanut allergy in your family and if there is, I'm very sorry for forgetting.)
Peanut Butter Pudding - slightly adapted from the lovely folks at King Arthur Flour, where normally you can find a whole whack of tasty recipes...except maybe this one...
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 T. flour
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup butter (I used about 2 T. instead)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup peanut butter
Now the original recipe gives you the directions for making this on the stove, but I'm going to ONLY give you the microwave directions as they worked for me so hah! Use your microwave for something other than heating up food, okay? It's perfectly good for actually cooking in.
Directions: In a big glass bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt and eggs. Set aside. Measure the milk in a glass measuring cup and microwave it for 3-4 minutes or until VERY hot. Whisk it into the ingredients in the glass bowl. Microwave that mixture for 2-3 minutes, whisking every minute until it thickens. Immediately add the butter, vanilla and peanut butter. Whisk until everything is combined. Pour into serving dishes and serve warm or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.*
* I LOVE pudding skin, but if you hate it, when you use plastic wrap to cover the pudding until serving, making sure the wrap is pressing down directly on top of the pudding. Remove it before you serve dessert and behold! No skin!
Mexican Wedding Cakes (or Russian Tea Cakes)
1 cup softened butter (no substitutes)
1/2 cup icing sugar (that's 'powdered' sugar to my American friends)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (we use pecans)
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix the dry ingredients in until they dough starts to stick together. Let chill for about an hour. While the oven is preheating to 400 degrees, roll the dough into little balls. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are: slightly firm, slightly brown, and have a few surface cracks. Let them cool on papertowels on wire racks but while they're still warm, roll them in icing sugar. Then, when they're completely cooled, roll them in icing sugar again.
VARIATION: We decided to try some without nuts too and they turned out great! Replace the vanilla with 1/2 tsp. of almond flavouring and replace the nuts with the zest from two oranges. Everything else is the same.
I've decided it's time to post some recipes because it seems like it's been a while. Since Christmas is coming and we've all got lots of other things to do, I thought I would pass along three pretty simple recipes that are fancy without being overly irksome. I'm going to put them in three separate posts for the sake of ease.
You may recall that on Mr. J.'s birthday we ate 'fancy' crab cakes from the 'fancy' seafood department at a local grocery store. They were decidedly LESS than stellar (no thanks to YOU, Hannaford Inspirations!). A little over a year ago, I was watching some Paula Dean 'holiday' special and she was showing how to make "crab" cakes on a budget. The secret ingredient? Canned tuna. Well the first time I made them for Mr. J., he said he really couldn't tell the difference.So, because the ingredients are cheap and they taste superb (and because the LG loves them) we make them at least every few weeks. We don't use Paula Dean's recipe anymore becuase I found one we like better that includes more veggies. Here's a link and I encourage you to try them. We sometimes add some finely diced celery; we use Albacore tuna because the Wal...mart brand is cheap; and we usually bake them (with a slight broil at the end for crispiness) instead of frying them, but you do what you like.
If you don't have any tartar sauce to eat with them, you can try making your own by mixing some Miracle Whip (we use 'light') with a couple tablespoons of dill relish (or chopped up dill pickles) and some dried dill. Just make sure you let it sit for as long as possible so the flavours meld.
These are great with salad or a fresh veggie tray on the side!
09 December, 2008
Minnesota Mom tagged me for this Christmasy meme. Good timing because it gave me something to write about this week amidst a rather sizeable amount of Christmas busyness. This is the week we finish wrapping presents and get them mailed off to Canada, to the other side of this Continent, and overseas. Feel free to be 'tagged' for the meme, or just leave your answers in the comments!
Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate!
Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree? Santa? Who? Presents are wrapped by real humans (*gasp*) and put under the tree as we go - none of this waiting for Christmas Eve crap.
Colored lights on tree or white? We just got a prelit tree and the lights are all white. More lights than any tree of ours has ever had!
When do you put your decorations up? The first Sunday of Advent.
What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Christmas ham!
Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Pizza before the Christmas Eve service.
When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I have no idea when but I'm sure my parents just told us. I think my pragmatic mind and 'lack of imagination' (per the observation of my Grade 4 teacher) probably wouldn't allow me to believe in such foolishness.
Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Just one gift? Hah! We open them ALL on Christmas Eve. Getting up early is for crazies and we always spent Christmas Day with Grama & Grampa.
How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Carefully. 'Unbreakables' at the bottom.
Snow! Love it or Dread it? I do like snow on Christmas...pretty much I like it in December. Then that's enough.
Can you ice skate? Absolutely! What kind of Canadian would I be if I couldn't skate?
Do you remember your favorite gift? Nope. Can't think of a favourite.
What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Celebrating CHRISTMAS.
What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Christmas baking. I don't really care what kind, just anything baked with the intention of having around for visitors at Christmas.
What is your favorite tradition? Family Christmas on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with extended family.
Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving? I'd rather give. Honestly, I'm not very good at 'getting' gifts.
What is your favorite Christmas Song? Good King Wenceslas! That's the song I sing as the LG's 'lullaby' at night.
Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? *gag*
Ever recycled a Christmas present? I'll never tell.
05 December, 2008
On Wednesday, December 3rd, my Uncle and Aunt got home from a month and a half long trip to Ukraine. And guess who they brought home with them?
MY NEW COUSIN! Oh I'm so excited! We haven't seen pictures yet or anything but we can hardly wait to meet her even though that won't likely be until next year. Her name is Maryna and she's six and oh boy! oh boy! My Uncle and Aunt are PARENTS now and we have a new COUSIN!
Just wanted to share that with you. If you a person inclined to pray, please keep them in your prayers as they spend their first Christmas together; pray that they will settle in to being a family at just the right pace.
04 December, 2008
Last Saturday we were supposed to have four free hours of babysitting thanks to a planned event for kids at church. Sadly that all fell through really at the last minute and once again reaffirmed to me that Northern Mainers (or maybe it's just New Englanders in general) cannot be counted upon for anything, despite what the crazy lady on the radio commercial tells us about Mainers knowing "they can depend upon each othuh." I was more than a little annoyed because what was supposed to be a quiet child-free afternoon of Christmas shopping and going for coffee, turned into a rather disorganized evening of quite child-full Christmas shopping, definitely not quiet coffee, and late dinner. *sigh* I'm mostly over it now though and happy that we now have almost all the shopping done with one or two exceptions.
Yesterday was Mr. J.'s birthday! We had (sadly lacking) crab cakes for dinner along with a very lovely halibut fillet and BLT salad mix. The dessert he picked this year isn't a recipe I can link to, but it comes from the Company's Coming Everything Chocolate cookbook. If you're American, you've probably never heard of Company's Coming which is a series of cookbooks that I grew up with, the brainchild of Saskatchewan native, Jean If-I-have-to-strain-a -fake-smile-any-more-my-face-will-crack Pare. If you live in Canada and you don't own a Company's Coming cookbook, what is wrong with you!? Really, what kind of Canadian cook are you? Perhaps my favourite thing about the C.C. Everything Chocolate book is that when she talks about pie, she always tells you how many "wedges" it cuts into. Not 'slices' but wedges. (I don't know why but I just can't stand the word 'slices.' Ugh.)
Anyway, it was Caramel Truffle Pie and it was disgustingly rich but so incredibly tasty and here is a picture so you can all commence with the drooling. We each had a piece last night and the rest went into the freezer today for some future occasion.
Also, the LG helped me make the birthday pie! She helped crush the chocolate cookies to make crumbs, dumped them in the bowl, dumped in the pecans, stirred the caramels (and snuck one before they were melted too) and sit and watch things melt in the microwave. It was great. I can't wait till she's a little older and can do a little more helping too. We did try again today when we made bread, but it resulted in a rather sizeable yeast mishap, so maybe we'll wait a while before we bake together again. It does give us something to do in the mornings though....
She's getting really great at immitating. The other day when I put on my exercise DVD, she got all excited and started walking in place just like on the TV. Then yesterday afternoon, she was playing with this little chicken she has. She put it in this candle she's been playing with that comes in a little tin and proceeded to immitate seasoning the chicken. Hah! It was brilliant! I wish I had a picture. Watch out, Bobby Flay! If you're still around in 20 years, she might be ready to challenge you in Kitchen Stadium.