Saturday, December 22, 2012

Teen Angel {Abby's Birthday Retrospective}

When Abby was an every-other-weekend kid, we would read American Girl books out loud to her before she fell asleep.  Some nights we got through two or three chapters, some barely one.  But it was what we did every other Friday and Saturday night.  It was a good thing that there was a Half-Priced Books in our neighborhood because we read a lot of American Girl books.  So it was no surprise that her deepest wish was for an American Girl doll.

 Uriah and I had been on the fence about it for months before her 8th birthday, knowing that we would be celebrating her birthday over the Christmas holiday, we didn't want to combine Christmas and Birthday presents.  We couldn't decide if it was going to be a very fun toy if she only gets to play with it two weekends a month, adding on top of that the explanation that this particular doll would be an Kansas City toy only.  We finally decided that, regardless of how much she would or wouldn't play with the doll, we were going to get her one.  We had decided on the Kirsten but as it turns out they were in the process of retiring the doll and when I tried to order it that fall, I was told they wouldn't have any more until the following spring.  So back to the drawing board we went.  I didn't want to get her a look-alike doll, I wanted it to be an original American Girl, and while Felicity was one of our favorite series, we finally decided to go with Kit.

 There is nothing as awesome as watching a kid open up a gift that they have truly wished for in the deepest part of their heart.  Abby was so surprised and so excited. She nearly fell over she was so happy and that doll did not leave her side – awake or asleep –  for the remainder of the weekend - or for months afterward.

Abby turned 9 shortly after she came to live with us full-time.  It had been a tough summer and fall, so we wanted to keep her birthday relatively low-key.  Abby, however, doesn't like to do anything low-key.  She wanted to celebrate her last year as a single digit in a big way, so we compromised and invited the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins over for cake and ice cream.  I don’t remember what we got her.  I remember only that she wanted a jell-o cake with pink sprinkles and our little apartment was loud and bursting at the seams.  And that everyone made the effort to be there, cementing, at least a little bit more, that Kansas City was her home. 

For Abby’s tenth birthday, we did it up right, after all  two digits deserves a big celebration.  Compounding the fact that Uriah and I had just gotten married and we’d just told our families we were expecting a baby, Abby’s tenth year was going to be chock full of big changes.  We got dressed up and took her out to eat at whatever restaurant she wanted   She chose the Cheesecake Factory, and although she pouted for a minute because we made her order off the kid’s menu, she couldn't even finish all of her dinner.  But trust me when I tell you, she sure saved room for cheesecake!

When Abby turned 11, Uriah and I decided to do something we never do – we pulled her out of school for an afternoon with just the two of us.  Considering that a new baby had entered our lives and turned everything upside down, it’s not surprising that Abby was feeling neglected and overshadowed by her new baby brother.  We took Finn to daycare and proceeded to make the afternoon as much about just Abby as we could.  I got tickets to a kid’s production of Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Santa Smells at Union Station in Kansas City and then we took her out to lunch.  And this time we let her order off of the adult menu!  The best part was her face when she came into the office and saw us waiting for her – I'm pretty sure she thought she was in trouble!  I think she was equally surprised that we pulled her out of school (I forgot to pack a change of clothes for her, so she spent the afternoon in her school uniform) and that we didn't have Finn with us.

Last year was probably the crappiest birthday we've ever celebrated with Abby – only because she was sick.  Actually, first Uriah got sick so we had to postpone her birthday party with her girlfriends, which turned out to be a good thing, because Abby got sick that weekend, too.  She’s wearing her jammies in all of the pictures opening her gifts (because we had to celebrate a little!) and she mostly looks pale and faint  She spent most of the day sleeping, actually.  She did manage to eat part of a cupcake (she insisted) but I don’t think she really enjoyed it.  We were able to have her girlfriends over the following weekend, which was, as luck would have it, the weekend that Finn had his tooth pulled, so the girls were on their best behavior and had to keep their late-night giggling and chatter to a whisper!

And so here we are at 13.  The teenage years.  She’s not the impressionable little 7 year old girl who loves Polly Pockets and could spend hours playing Barbies.  Now she could spend hours singing Taylor Swift songs and painting her nails and reading (actually, the reading part isn't any different than when I first met her!).  She’s got opinions and an attitude large enough to fill a circus tent.  As we’re only hours into these ominous teenage years (and to be perfectly honest, she’s been at school all day) I guess only time will tell what this year will bring for us.

Happy (belated) Birthday, Abby.
Don’t forget to do your homework.  And clean your room.
Most of all, though, let’s make this a good, good year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

All Elf-ed Up. {Elf on the Shelf: Days 1-12}

  1. Reginald VanWinkle arrives with a letter from Santa and delicious (cheap, waxy) donuts.  He must be on a North Pole budget.  Finn kept telling me (read: yelling) that he was just looking!
  2. RVW changes the milk in the refrigerator red and green.  I could not handle having an entire gallon of milk turned red or green, so they each got their own little cup and straw.  Abby couldn't find him all morning and was allegedly getting very annoyed.  We learned that red and green milk does, in fact, make tongues red and green.
  3. Reginald inspects the Christmas stockings to ensure they will be fully functioning for Christmas morning goodies. 
  4. Reginald lets all of the animals out of the barn.  He did give the sheep some snuggles, though.  Finn immediately relocated RVW back to the little Christmas tree so that he could play with the farm.  I didn't get on his case for touching the elf because he moved him and then didn't touch him again.
  5. Reginald brings the Merry Madigascar movie - and proceeds to watch it with Gloria, Melman, and Alex (no zebras to be found in our house.).  We have now watched this movie 100,000 times.  Finn has taken to wishing people a Merry Julianuary.
  6. Reginald fishes for goldfish crackers.  With an ice fishing pole and a very real hook.  I do not recommend using dangerous things with your elf, but we told Finn to look with his eyes, not with his fingers and nobody was impaled with a sharp hook.
  7. Reginald makes an obstacle course out of aforementioned delicious, cheap donuts.  He borrowed Barbie's seldom-used motor scooter for his antics.
  8. Reginald brings breakfast to be eaten out of new snowman cereal bowls.  He hung around all day and watched the initial Christmas cookie dough making.
  9. Reginald makes a race track out of masking tape for Finn's cars.  I think that this was my favorite morning...Finn came downstairs looking for Reginald and he kept exclaiming  "He's playing cars with me, Mama!  He's playing cars with me!"  Also, I don't know why we didn't think to make him a race track with tape before.  He played with it for days (until we had to peel it up to wash the floor!).
  10. Reginald hung out in the "B" of the Happy Birthday banner on Abby's birthday morning.  Again, Abby couldn't find him in the morning and told me she happened to glance up while she was eating her breakfast and there he was, staring at her.  She was kind of creeped out.
  11. Reginald makes a snow angle in the flour.  It is not easy to get flour off of the felt suit the Reggie resides in.  As an added bonus, Finn loves to run his cars through the flour and make tracks, so the angel didn't last long and there was flour all over my kitchen.
  12. Reginald brings some new Christmas books and reads with all of Finn's best friends.  The fun part was putting Finn to bed with Bear, Kitty-Kitty, Grover, and Nigel and then sneaking in there to untangle them from Finn's little arms and sneak them downstairs for story-time!  He was so excited that morning that all his friends were together reading about Santa!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...or not.

{ 2010 | 2011 | 2012 }

We finally got around to decorating our tree last night.  You know, 6 days before Christmas.  Better late than never?  I've decided that we'll leave it up at least until January 6th (Little Christmas, when the Magi visit Baby Jesus) and we'll celebrate with three little presents for the kids to help them remember Christmas all year long.  What those three little presents will be, I'm not sure yet.  I have some ideas, though, and they did not come from Pinterest this time!

Finn and I returned Monday from a whirl-wind trip to Kansas City where we spent time loving on the newest, teeny-tiniest member of our family.  We went with my youngest sister, and as she is gainfully employed, her time away is limited, so it was an incredibly fast weekend trip; I didn't get to do or see everyone and everything that I wanted to (next time, I promise!) but I did spend an inordinate amount of time holding that sweet smelling baby.  Finn travels like a champ (probably because we've been grooming him from week 2 of life to make the trip between Minnesota and Missouri).  I, however, am starting to feel the effects of 20 hours in the car in a 72-hour span.  And although I still have laundry galore all over my house and empty Christmas totes to take downstarirs and general straightening up to do, it was totally worth it.  I can confidently say that my new nephew is the cutest baby I have seen in two and a half years!  And my sister is amazing.  She is already an awesome mom and I feel really lucky to have been able to share that early time with her and her boys.

So now we have Christmas to prepare for.  A very small, quiet Christmas with just the 4 of us since Uriah has to work on Christmas day.  This is a novelty for us, we've had only one Christmas in our own house with just our little family in all the years that we've been together. The last time this happened was the Christmas before Finn was born; Kansas City had a huge snowstorm and we couldn't go anywhere.  It was awesome.  As much as I will miss my family this year (and I will! A bunch!) I'm very much looking forward to Christmas Eve mass at our church and dinner on our wedding china and staying up late with my husband to put together some awesome gifts and then waking up Christmas morning to find Santa has come!

Between now and then, though, we need to get rid of the laundry piles, go to the grocery store, finish making Christmas cookies and generally make our house less of a tornado and more of a welcoming Christmas retreat!  I'm going to get on that...pinkey swear.

Tomorrow I'm going to share with you the first 12 days of our Elf on the Shelf.  I did really good following my calendar at the beginning, but then we went to Kansas City and somehow I got a little lazy, so this last week has been a bit lame, but Finn still loves looking for Reginald every morning, even if he is only hanging from the chalk board with a naughty and nice list!

Happy Thursday, friends!
Only 5 days until Christmas!
Wishing for some snow here, but I'm quite certain we will have only a spotty-White Christmas!

And P.S. -  Can you even believe how big Finn has gotten in those Christmas tree pictures?  I can't (but then, I mostly live in denial!).  I think he should still be my teeny-tiny boy baby instead of the ball of energy that he has become!

And P.P.S - I just noticed that I never did finish/post Abby's Birthday Retrospective.  Saturday will be a day devoted to our teenager (my list of things to accomplish just got longer!).  I saw last night that she had the movie 13 Going on 30 in the DVD player and I had to smile!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Best Christmas {song list} ever.

Once, a long time ago, my sister and I found ourselves home alone for Christmas.  Our parents had headed south to celebrate in Kansas City, and I had to work around that holiday, so I didn't have the time off.  I'm not sure if Emily had to work, too, or if she just chose to stay back with me so I wouldn't be all alone (cue sad music here for poor me.).  At any rate, we had, quite possible the best Christmas ever*.  We pulled out the sofa bed in the living room and proceeded to watch every Christmas movie we owned.  We made steak and lobster for our Christmas dinner.  We did not get out of our jammies.

And we created, arguably,  the best Christmas mixed tape ever.  Okay, fine.  It was a CD - it was 2005 after all, but a mixed tape sounds so much better!  It is a CD that I look forward to pulling out every year, although this year it is starting to show some wear (some of the songs are skipping; I think the disk has been compromised   You can really cue the sad music here!) but we still listen to it; Finn and I dance to it almost every evening as we make dinner.

  • Mele Kalikimaka - Bing Crosby
  • Santa Baby - Ertha Kitt
  • Oh, Holy Night - Celine Dion
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Jessica Simpson
  • Merry Christmas/Cannon in D - Trans Siberian Orchestra
  • Home for the Holidays - Perry Como
  • Charlie Brown Christmas
  • It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas - Bing Crosby
  • Winter Wonderland - The Carpenters
  • Baby It's Cold Outside - Zooey Deschanel & Leon Redbone
  • Where are you Christmas - Faith Hill
  • Merry Christmas, Darling - The Carpenters
  • Hanukkah Song - Adam Sandler
  • White Christmas - Home Alone version
  • Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
  • All I want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
  • White Christmas - Bing Crosby
  • It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas - Alvin & the Chipmunks

Now, obviously some songs are repeated, but it's the entertainers that make the song - Alvin & the Chipmunks version of It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas is just as awesome as Bing's!  And I challenge you to judge Celine Dion's Oh, Holy Night.  I would add Dolly Parton's Hard Candy Christmas and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey.  

What's your favorite Christmas song?  Is there something you look forward to hearing every year that I can add to my play list?

And also, here are my kids, since I know some of you (side eye to my sister) only come here to see them.  They are weird.  I thought I'd share their weirdness with you to get you through the weekend.  

We're going to make some Christmas cookies, listen to our Christmas songs and hunker in for a big old-fashioned snowstorm that is (allegedly) headed our way this weekend.  Abby's birthday is Monday.  She's going to be thirteen.  You will probably find me hiding under my covers for the next 6 years, but only after I write about the previous 5 years that I've shared with her.  You can see it here on Monday - or, as Abby likes to call it - AbbyDay.

*This year might be the best Christmas ever if new Baby Cousin shows up before Jesus' big day...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter walks & the best Hot Cocoa in the world.

We had our first real snow over Thanksgiving weekend.  Of course, it’s all melted now and we are left with patches of dirty snow lining the streets and a yard too cold and soggy to play in.  But Christmas lights are starting to light up our streets and so the early onset of evening takes on a twinkly orange and red and green glow.  It makes the lack of snow a little bit cheerier.

Last week, though, when we did have snow, I took Finn on a quick walk down to the break wall to check out the waves.  When the wind is just right, and if the waves are big enough, we can hear them in our back yard.  It was snowing lightly (or so it seemed at the time) and I though a quick walk would do us both good.  We bundled up, retrieved the sled and started walking.  The whole walk is about a mile round trip if we don’t walk out to the end of the break wall (which, for obvious reasons, we did not do.) and Finn chose to pull the sled for most of it.  He’s turning into a very good walking partner.

Unfortunately, the closer we got to the lake, the less we were sheltered from the trees and homes in town and the harder the wind blew.  We persevered and made it down to the bay to take in the spectacle of the waves crashing up on the rocks, the snow hanging heavy on the air before filtering down around us and filling up the spaces where moments before our foot prints were visible in the snow.  The force of the waves on the rocks caused Finn to jump a few times and as there were no boats in the harbor, he soon grew bored with sitting on the beach (because I wouldn't let him anywhere near the shoreline to throw rocks in).  I wrapped my scarf tight around Finn’s little face, pulled up my hood to block the wind, and turned around to walk briskly back home.

Once we were back and mittens, hats and snow pants were drying on the radiators, Finn requested his new favorite, hot chocolate.  Coming out of his little mouth, the words are a bit slurred and sort of stuttered and it makes me want to pour gallons of cocoa down his wee throat because he’s just so cute when he fills his cheeks full and then tries to smile at me!  This cocoa is nothing fancy or difficult, in fact, when I was growing up, every time we visited my grandma in St. Paul she made this for us.  I like that I can share this special treat with my best boy to warm him back up after a cold walk outside.

I am looking forward to our next snow fall – hopefully in time to give us a White Christmas** and another walk or two in our Winter Wonderland**.

Best Hot Cocoa (In the World Galaxy)

½ cup sugar
¼ cup Hershey’s Cocoa
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in saucepan; stir in hot water.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir 2 minutes.  Stir in milk and heat.  DO NOT BOIL!  Remove from heat; add vanilla.

Optional additions: candy canes, whipped cream, chocolate chips, marshmallows - big and small, and if you're a grown-up and you're really cold, add a shot of peppermint schnapps to really warm your bones.

**Tomorrow I'm going to share with you the best Christmas play list ever!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reginald VanWinkle: Resident Elf {Elf on the Shelf}

 We are all elfed up in this house.

True story: Uriah wanted to name our elf Babe Winkleman and Abby admitted that she would have named him Buddy (as in: Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color Will Farrell fame?!).  Finn's choice when I asked him?  Thunderbolt.  Of all of them, Finn's name had the most potential, but I have a firm grip on reality and, obviously, control of this house, so we named him Reginald VanWinkle.  I call him RVDub.  The kids call him Reggie.

Reginald VanWinkle arrived Saturday morning on a small Christmas tree with a bag of the cheapest, most delicous powder sugar donuts and a letter from Santa explaining his duties.  I did a quick world wide interweb search for the best Santa letterhead and some ideas for the letter from Santa.  Turns out I didn't have to look very far because one of my friends is doing this with her girls, too, so I borrowed her letter - it was perfect for what I was looking for, a little bit of Christmas magic, a little bit of Jesus; I only had to tweak it a bit (when I added to the original letter it was 2 pages long; who would have thought I could be so wordy?  It needed to be narrowed down a bit and I edited it down to 1 page!).  So in addition to talking about Jesus being the biggest and best gift and reminding the small humans to be kind to each other and helping others, the letter also gave some of the Rules of the Elf.  For example, RVW watches all day long for good and bad behavior and reports directly to Santa every night and  you can't touch the elf or he loses his magic.  Finn kept yelling at me, "I'm not touching him, Mama!  I'm just talking to him!"  The elf moves every night and in the morning the small humans have to find where he is.  Some days he'll be doing mischievous things, like drinking our pancake syrup or hanging socks and undies on the Christmas tree.  Some days he's just in a new observation spot.

Yesterday morning, for example, he showed up in our refrigerator, having turned a glass of milk red and one green for Abby and Finn.  Abby claimed to have looked all over the house in the morning before giving up and going to the refrigerator to get the milk out for some cereal - and finding RVDub in the process.  Finn, of course, was pretty much told where to look, but he laughed when he opened the refrigerator to find Reggie just hanging out and chose to drink the green milk, leaving the red for Abby.  (Sidebar: Cursive handwriting is so hard!)

It's been well established that I like to be organized (and also I like to not have to think about where I'm going to move Reginald VanWinkle each night) so I made up an itinerary of where he's going to be each morning.  At least once a week he has a gift for the small humans, mittens or a new Christmas CD, but mostly he just does fun things.

I am looking forward to Reginald VanWinkle's Christmas season in our house.  I'll try to post some more pictures on the blog as we work through his itinerary, and I'll probably be posting  more of his super fun capers on Instagram (Do you do Instagram?  I love it.  It's my go-to for pictures these days because it's so easy and fun!) or if we're friends on Facebook, you'll probably see some pictures there, too.

Happy Monday, friends!  Finn and I are still stuck in the house again today trying to get rid of his hacking cough so that we can be healthy enough to head south when the new baby comes.  In the process, we are busy making this house merry and bright!

Friday, November 30, 2012

24 Days of Christmas Books

{ Titles are listed below. }

Last year I saw on Pinterest (of course) the idea to have 24 Christmas books to count down to Christmas.  The idea is that the books are wrapped under the tree and each night the small humans can open one book and we'll read that book for bedtime.  

Our Christmas books only come out at Christmas time, so at most, we read them once a year (some of the more favored books get read two or three times in the Christmas season.).  I have quite a stock-pile of Christmas books, some the kids have received as gifts, some I have collected over the years, and some came from my mom's Christmas book collection.  Last year I headed over to Barnes and Noble for their day after Christmas sale to supplement my supply for this year.  I stock-piled a few books at a deeply discounted price, which was awesome (because I'm cheap and I'm pretty sure our Library would frown upon me wrapping up their books and leaving them under my tree for the month of December.).  I did not buy 24 new books, although I easily could have, but I tucked the special new books away in our Christmas totes and proceeded not to think about them until I started digging around downstairs for some decorations last week.  And then I remembered my plan for this year!

Below is our list of books in no particular order:
  1. Froggy's Best Christmas - Jonathan London
  2. The Christmas Magic - Lauren Thompson
  3. Huckleberry Hound and the Christmas Sleigh - Little Golden Book
  4. Little Golden Book: Christmas Favorites
  5. The Biggest, Most Beautiful Christmas Tree - Little Golden Book
  6. The Last Straw - Fredrick H. Thury
  7. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Little Golden Book
  8. Santa's Toy Shop - Little Golden Book
  9. Jingle Bells - Little Golden Book
  10. The Night Before Christmas - Jan Brett
  11. The Littlest Elf - Brandi Dougherty
  12. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bell - Lucille Colandro
  13. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss
  14. Mooseltoe - Margie Palatini
  15. Christmas Trolls - Jan Brett
  16. The Wild Christmas Reindeer - Jan Brett
  17. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (movie version)
  18. Olivia Helps with Christmas - Ian Falconer
  19. A Cars Christmas
  20. Bialosky's Christmas - Leslie McGuire
  21. Bear Stays Up for Christmas - Karma Wilson
  22. Room for a Little One - Martin Waddell
  23. A Very Mater Christmas
  24. The Christmas Baby - Marion Dane Bauer***
The kids always get a book in their Christmas stocking, so December 25th will find a new book for each of them.  This is clearly geared more towards Finneaus, but Abby likes to listen to bedtime stories occasionally,  too.  I have very fond memories of being read to as a child and later of reading the American Girl series to Abby when she was just a small girl.  My favorite time of the day these days is a snuggle and a book with Finn (and it happens often, not just at bedtime!).

There is something about being read to; I think reading out loud is my love language.  

Tomorrow our Elf on the Shelf pal, Reginald VanWinkle, will make his grand debut in the Hefter home, so I will share my calendar of Reginald VanWinkle's events and a few pictures of what I have planned for this season.  Hoping for a Christmas tree hunt this weekend and maybe some snow time outside on the trails if Finn is feeling better...enjoy your weekend!

***This is my most favorite book this holiday season; I can't read it without tearing up.  I will neither confirm nor deny that I cried in the middle of Barnes and Noble reading this.  Obviously with a new small human on the way in a few short weeks (not mine!) it is perfect for our family, so I sent it to my sister.  I believe that she cried, too, but she's pregnant, so her tears are expected.  If you happen to be at B&N, go to their children's section, pull it off the shelf, find a relatively private corner and proceed to have plenty of kleenex handy while you read.  Or maybe it's just me and I'm too emotional when it comes to babies, in which case, ignore the kleenex advice.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

After Thanksgiving Turkey Turnovers

I look forward to After Thanksgiving Turkey Turnovers every year.  I love these.  Love, love, love them.  Especially since Uriah makes gravy to go with them - and he is the gravy king.  You could easily use some sort of packet, mix in water and go, brown gravy mix for these.  They would be just as good.  And if you have some leftover stuffing, add a little of that to the turkey and condensed soup mixture (does it get any more Minnesotan than adding cream of mushroom soup to something?).

I would have served these with leftover cranberries, but we didn't have any of those left by the time I got around to making turnovers this week.  Really, I'm lucky I was able to make any turkey turnovers this year since there wasn't much left in the way of leftovers.  They are not the best dinner option WW points-wise, coming in at about a whopping 15 per turnover (not counting the gravy!  But I tend not to count gravy as points or calories; it should be viewed as angel nectar and therefore free of all things bad for you.). In their defense, these turnovers are sort of large and they are very filling and if you pair it with a dinner salad, you've got a pretty decent meal (I usually save my biggest points meal for dinner, so this works for me.).  If I were to eat this for lunch (which I did.  Yesterday.  Minus the gravy.  Go ahead and judge - once a year, people!), I would only eat half of it and still pair it with a big salad to bulk up my meal, which would easily be a satisfying mid-day meal

And I the only one who's getting a tad bored with turkey for every meal?  It's time to add some fish to my menu.  And Christmas cookies!

Turkey Turnovers
Makes about 5-6 turnovers
  • 1 lb ground turkey (or 1 1/2 cups leftover turkey, cubed)
  • 10 oz. cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cook ground turkey if that's what you're using or chop up leftover turkey.  Combine cooked turkey, cream of mushroom soup, water, and Worcestershire sauce.  Set aside.

To make the pastry, combine flour and salt.  Cut in shortening and add ice water slowly just until combined.  Gather pastry dough together into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or quick chill in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  

Roll out pastry dough and cut into 5 -  6" squares (mine might have been a tad bigger than 6").  Put about 1/4 cup of filling into each square, making sure to get a little bit of the turkey into the corners of the pastry, and fold pastry to form a triangle.  Seal edges with a fork.  Place on a cookie sheet.  Beat egg yolk and water lightly with a fork and brush over the tops of triangles.  Prick tops of pastry several times with a fork.

Bake for 15-25 minutes or until brown on top.

Make your favorite gravy and serve over the top of the turnovers. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I will be grateful for this day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Very Turducken Thanksgiving

The small humans and I enjoyed a very quite, uneventful, travel-less Thanksgiving Day. Uriah was out the door long before Abby made a morning appearance, but Finn and I were awake shortly after he left (such is the case when you have a creaky old house.).  We had breakfast and plotted and planned our day.  The sun peeked out early and the weather was somewhat warm, so after watching a bit of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on tv, Finn headed outside to play.  What I love most about this house is that he can play in the back yard and I can be in the kitchen and because of all of the windows, I can track his moves.  I also had the door open for awhile to let some of the fresh fall air in.

I had already spent most of the week preparing for Friday's festivities, and since I plan everything with lists and time tables, I was pretty well prepared on Thursday for what was to come on Friday. Uriah had de-boned the birds Wednesday night, I had casseroles prepared, bread dough proofing for dinner rolls, sweet potato sticky buns ready to go in the oven Friday morning so really, the only thing I had left to do Thursday was to make a pumpkin pie - I chose to veer away from the norm and made an Amaretto Pumpkin Pie with Almond Praline. I'm somewhat of a pie crust failure, although I've studied diligently at the knee of my mother; she is the queen of a light, flaky crust. Mine tend to be over-rolled and a bit gummy, so I took my time with it. I walked away a few times to play outside with Finn and it took me most of the morning to finish it off and bake it.

I surprised the small humans with build your own pizzas and the movie Brave Thursday night. And as we settled in to enjoy our dinner picnic-style in the living room with our movie, the first flakes began to fall.  It didn't take long for the back yard to be covered and the words to Winter Wonderland began to filter through my head. Unfortunately, my parents drive took them about an hour extra due to the crap roads, but they made it. Finn and I had just gone outside on a snowy adventure when they pulled into the driveway (read: Finn was dying to go outside into the snow and I could see that the sidewalk needed some serious shoveling done, hence the "adventure.").

Our family and friends arrived on Friday afternoon for the feast.  There was lots of snacking, lots of puppy dog kisses, a few baby melt-downs, and some family pictures taken in the snow.  There was a long drawn-out game of Monopoly between the tween crowd, Abby fell down the stairs - and remained unharmed, and Ginny the dog tried her hardest to make friends with Finn (he was having none of her adorableness and chose instead to be held.  By me.  A lot.).  Two 6-foot long tables surrounded by 14 chairs held the masses of food and people for dinner.  We all said what we were thankful for, which takes a minute when you have 9 adults, 3 tweens, and 2 toddlers.  I was - and still am - thankful for every person who happens to find themselves around my table at any time of the year, for plenty of food to eat, and for safe travels.

We pretty much ate everything; there was not much for leftovers, which is a good thing for my refrigerator (and my waist), but not so much when I really wanted a snack of mashed potatoes and gravy on Friday night (there were no potatoes leftover to snack on.  Or gravy.  I probably would have eaten the gravy with a spoon and no potatoes.).  For as much work as I though the turducken would be, it seemed to be no more time-consuming than doing a traditional turkey (which we've done in a brine before, and also takes preparing a few days in advance.).  I wanted to take more pictures but I don't even know what I was doing  - setting the table, probably, or holding Finn - and I turned around and it was in the oven, roasted and done.  It was pretty tasty and I would not be opposed to doing it again.

We did have leftovers of the turducken beast and let me assure you, it does make some mighty tasty turkey/duck/chicken/stuffing turnovers a few days later.  And my pastry crust was flaky.  And Uriah even made gravy for them.  I might still be dreaming of Turducken Turnovers.

I think I want to have Thanksgiving at my house every year for the next forever.  Whether our families will oblige remains to be seen.  But I love Thanksgiving and so I will cook for whomever wants to come to my house and eat at my table.

And also, I really (selfishly) loved not having to travel, because this is what a few hours difference will make:

Thursday at 11:49 am (L) | Thursday at 8:40 pm (R)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


We are hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year.  A small gathering of Minnesota family on Friday since Uriah has to feed the masses on Thursday.  The small humans and I have big plans to watch movies and eat pizza on Thursday and I am actually looking forward to the quietness of Thursday as we gear up for Friday.  We tend to be a little over-zealous when it comes to entertaining, so Uriah is making a Turducken, which is a duck inside of a chicken inside of a turkey, layered with venison stuffing and roasted.  Each bird needs to be boned and the idea is that when you slice it, you'll have a layer of  of each bird.  I am not sure how one goes about boning a chicken, duck, and turkey; add to that the fact that Uriah threw out his back yesterday and is hobbling around like I did two summers ago, it's going to be an interesting weekend.  But we do nothing if we don't do it big.  If I have my wits about me, and my camera, I will blog about it next week - the turducken, not the hobbling; although I will probably have stories about that, too!

Anyway...things I am thankful for this year: another year with Uriah (and Finn and Abby, too), family - and soon a new member niece or nephew to make family gatherings a little bigger, a new beginning, having an over-all healthy family, Minnesota and Lake Superior and hikes and walks and runs, positive steps toward potty training and a little boy who's not such a baby anymore, the men and women who have served our country and those who continue to do so, nap time, books and hot coffee and cozy slippers, being home.

I had the lofty attainable goal of loosing 8 pounds by Thanksgiving and I didn't quite make it (I blame the martinis and daylight savings time and my own unambitious ways), but I did lose a little bit of weight, so I will mark that as a success. I've been almost a year on WW, and in that time I've managed to maintain a 25 pound weight loss (give or take a couple of pounds in either direction)  I am very thankful for that.  I've recently found that counting calories has its place, too.  It's a balance and I'm trying to remember that some days are easier that others and sometimes I just need to make it easier for myself.

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!  May you eat until you are content, enjoy family and friends, and save room for pie (or, with the demise of Hostess, perhaps a non-traditional Twinkie Cake?!  I might just have to add it to my already gigantic weekend menu...).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You Capture | Weekly Favorites

It's been an instagram kind of picture-taking life these days.  My phone is convenient and some days (lately) I'm just too tired to dig out my big girl camera.  We've been holed up in the kitchen working on potty training (read: floor is easy to clean, no stairs to climb, big-boy potty tucked in a corner right next to the Target Toy Catalog).  Some days are crap - Sunday Finn sat on the potty for 20 minutes.  We talked about church and songs and dump trucks.  He hopped off with a quick, "All done!  Play cars."  I swear, not two minutes later I went to check on him in his room and there was a mysterious puddle on his car's street mat.  It looked as though Hurricane Sandy had visited the red house on Matchbox Street.  And he was adamant that he did not pee, in spite of the evidence to the contrary.  Some days are good - like yesterday when we made it through our entire walk/run route and then to the park and finally to the library with dry pants.  We headed straight for the bathroom when we got to the library and, success!  Then we were back home and it was like starting over at square one.  Today we're about equal with accidents vs. in the potty.  I've been peed on twice and have already done a load of laundry dedicated just to Finn.  

Nobody said this was going to be so hard.

Made some Honey-Cinnamon Granola.  I've been eating it for breakfast with yogurt and trying really, really hard not to snack on it throughout the day.  I have plans to blog the recipe.  Stay tuned if you're interested.

There is not a happier boy than when Uriah gets home from work; Finn can be such a show-off, trying to squeeze every last bit of attention out of Uriah that he can.

Whole Wheat Blueberry-Cinnamon Swirl bread.  It just occurred to me that I must be on some sort of cinnamon kick.  This made amazing French toast.  I still have to figure out the whole wheat to all-purpose flour ratio; the bread didn't rise as much as I'd like, but I've been trying to substitute whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose in a few of my recipes.  I guess there really is a science to baking - I should stop rolling my eyes at Uriah when he tells me that.

When I found him, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry.  And for the record, as soon as your kid figures out he can climb up onto the changing table it's time to take it down and dive into potty-training with a vengeance   Also, sunblock is a beast to get out of hair.

Hope you're having a somewhat better week than I am, although I can't complain too loudly - the small snow flurries haven't accumulated yet, so there's still time to be outside.  Speaking of, it's time to run off some steam (and hopefully lull a little boy into a stroller nap on the trail!).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Halloween 2012

It was an evening full of monkeys and princesses and a spooky pumpkin that I carved in 20 minutes flat because our previous pumpkins were moldy (note to self: 2 weeks is a little early to carve pumpkins).  It was knocking on a few of our neighbor's doors and telling them "Happy Halloween!" followed closely by, "Go next house, Mama?" It was crunching through leaves and comfortable weather.  It was ghouls and goblins and a few Hunger Games and Abby exclaiming over every awesome costume that rang our bell.  It was Finn saying hi to everyone who knocked on our door, as if they had come to see him personally.  It was a sugar high that lasted into the night.  It was the sound of kids running up and down the street long after porch lights were turned out.  It was a good night.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloweener!

I think by now it's safe to say that I get nostalgic around the holidays (any holiday, really, except possibly Columbus Day.).  I like to look back and see how big my baby has gotten and Halloween is no different.  Plus, Finn has finally fallen asleep from his sugar high and Uriah and I are going to sit down to a quiet- adults only - dinner, so my photo editing minutes are numbered.  

Enjoy Finn's Halloweeners:

2010 - 3 months old
2011 - 15 months old
2012 - 2 years old

More kiddie costumes tomorrow...or the next day.  And I have a granola recipe that I want to share and, of course, another soup (weight loss has been shaky, but I'm back on the wagon!  None Not a lot of that blasted candy for me!).  Finn and I have been filling our days with stuff and at the end of it I'm not really sure what we've accomplished but I am sure that I'm tired.

Happy Halloweener!

Monday, October 29, 2012

20 minutes.

Yesterday Uriah had to run into work to place an order.  He typically does this on Sunday mornings, and although it's technically his day off and our "family day," it doesn't take that long and I've gotten used to the hour or so that he's at work before he comes home and we make a great big brunch and spend the rest of the day together. Yesterday he offered to take Finn with him on an adventure.  I hastily scribbled a grocery list and sent them off to do their man-chores.

I was staring down the face of at least an hour to myself.  We've had a full-on week of entertaining.  Daniel and Ady had spent the previous weekend with us doing fall things like pumpkin carving and walking to the lake and counting deer in our yard.  That was followed closely by the arrival of my in-laws.  Uriah was off for (almost) 3 whole days in a row, a rarity for this family, as his parents had made the trip up from Kansas City, so we got to play tourist in our own new city, which is kind of fun, actually.  But Uriah's day off was spent playing tour-guide and not doing our regularly scheduled programming (chores) and that sort of takes it's toll on a house of 4 after a few days.  Usually, I try to take advantage of Finn's nap time as my time, but inevitably I find myself emptying the dishwasher or folding a load of laundry or sweeping something up and by the time I do sit down, he's ready to be up and playing.

Yesterday morning was no different.  The moment the door closed behind the boys, I looked around and decided to just water some plants real quick.  That turned into sweeping up the dead leaves that had fallen, taking out the trash and tackling a load of dishes that had mysteriously piled up.  Before I knew it, I was upstairs in Finn's room sorting toys and switching out what he had upstairs with what was downstairs.  I paused long enough to make a list of some preschool ideas I want to work on this week with Finn and was quickly back to making the bed, watering more plants, and doing a bit of dusting (read: I wiped away the dust only where I could see it.).

Why do I do this?  All of these tasks I can do easily during the day with Finn underfoot, but there is a little nagging feeling of guilt in taking a few minutes for myself when I can see stuff around me that needs to be done.  I'm learning, however, that what needs to be done is relevant to the situation.  Does the dryer need to be emptied?  Yes, obviously.  My family likes to wear clean, semi-wrinkle-free clothes (I draw the line at ironing.).  But it can also be done eventually, and spinning a load for an extra 20 minutes to get the wrinkles out while I enjoy a cup of coffee and a chapter in my book is okay, too.

Sometimes, what needs to be done is taking care of myself.  This week I am going to try to give myself a little gift during nap time each day where I unplug, enjoy a chapter in my book, or an uninterrupted cheese and apple snack that I am not required to share.  For 20 minutes, I will not be answering my phone, logging into Facebook,  Pinterest, or my email.  I will not sweep or wipe or fold anything.  20 minutes of quiet just for me.

And then I can go back to being Wonder Woman and getting it all done for everyone else.
What are your plans for this week?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This day is a gift.

I am printing this and putting it by my bed so that it is the first thing I look at in the morning.  
This day is a gift.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What we've been up to...

Finn was the lucky recipient of some Elmo bedding from Cousin Dane.
I finally got my sofa up here Missouri.  It is good for naps and for watching the news.
5 months without a sofa is a long, long time.

 Leaves are falling and raking takes more time because someone wants to jump in every pile.
I also caught him "fishing" in a pile with a stick.  He told me he wasn't catching anything.
Sort of like his Dad...

 The rain has finally started to come and Finn wants to use the umbrella all of the time.
We also looked at some rain boots at Target.  There were firetruck rain boots and Hello, Kitty rain boots.
Finn wants the Kitty rain boots.

 This is the only photo I have from our 3rd anniversary.
Trust me, we dressed up - I wore make-up! Uriah wore a tie! 
We went to a fancy-pants restaurant and discussed wedded bliss and kids and life.
No photo from that, but bedtime stories pretty much sum up our happiness.

We were able to spend an afternoon having lunch lunch and hiking with some old-for-me, new-for-Finn friends.  I love catching up with girlfriends as if it hasn't been years since we were able to sit down and talk about our lives.  Conversation fell into place easily.  I like friendships like that.

And then Finn snoozed all the way home. 
I love that, too.

Pumpkins have been carved - a fun project with Uncle Dan and Ady.
Finn tried to eat the pumpkin guts again this year.  We let him.
Abby changed her mind about her design again this year.  We waited patiently.
Abby's has seed teeth and Finn's has angry eyes and a sad mouth, but he loved the eyebrows on Ady's the most.
They look so cute glowing.

 Uriah's parents are in town for the week and they have brought Finn Uriah's old firetruck to play with.
Finn wants to ride it constantly.  And ring the bell.  Luckily it's a quiet bell.

I like bath time the best these days.  
We've been so busy that it seems the only time I have to lay back and rest is when Finn is splish-splashing.
With a baby and the holidays fast approaching, I think it'll be awhile before we sink back into our quiet days.

Monday, October 8, 2012

On my mind today...

  • I made cider doughnuts for my small humans last weekend - small circles and hearts of appley goodness on a chilly Friday morning.  
  • They were tasty and a bit reminiscent of fall in Kansas City - a place where temperatures still get downright warm in the afternoons and the sun shines more than it doesn't.
  • Will-power became my middle name, but I managed.  One tasty doughnut dipped in hot coffee got me through the morning.  Finn, on the other hand, was a sticky-cinnamon-sugary mess, and he kept trying to sneak more little doughnut holes when I wasn't looking.
  • You can go here to make them if you'd like, but I forewarn, the dough is really sticky and not that easy to work with.  I added extra flour to mine.  Regardless, I'll probably still make them again.
  • We walked by the lake this morning and Finn yelled: "Want to RUN!"  Apparently he likes a quicker jaunt on these chilly mornings.  I obliged.
  • The waves were high and loud on the break wall, so I kept him in his stroller and we passed the time counting the dogs we saw on the trail.
  • Our bathtub faucet is leaking.  Downside: I think we need to call a plumber.  Silver lining: I've been using the extra water to give my houseplants a drink.
  • I've decided to suck it up and drive into the Big City once a week for an actual WW meeting - and I'm going to stay for the whole thing, not just weigh in.
  • Finn will need lots of books and coloring crayons to get through.
  • Maybe I can bribe him with hot chocolate if he's a good boy...or a trip to Target.
  • Abby's almost done with volleyball, I think she has one more home game.  My goal is to bring the camera and get some pictures.  I haven't yet this year.  Slacking, I know.
  • I planted my tulips and hyacinth bulbs last week.  I check daily to make sure the squirrels haven't dug them up and eaten them. 
  • This week, Finn and I are doing this turkey art project.  I just need to get some new paints...last week we painted fall trees with leaves that are hot pink, purple and blue.  I think they're hippy trees, but that was all I had for paints.  Luckily we have to go into the Big City anyway, so I guess a stop at Michael's Craft is in order!
  • And then it will be time to work on raking our leaves.  But today it's supposed to rain, so I think I'll curl up with my book instead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall in love with fall.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Soup-er! (Yes, I did go there.)

Soups to try:
  • Lighter Italian Wedding Soup
  • Asian Chicken & Watercress Soup 
  • Veggie Split Pea Soup 
  • Sweet Potato and Chipolte Soup
  • Mushroom & Barley Soup
  • Onion Soup with Cheese Toasts
  • Chicken Posole
  • Butternut Bisque
  • Broccoli Rabe & White Bean Soup

I've started making a big pot of soup on either Sunday or Monday to get me through the week for lunch.  It’s quick, easy to heat up and Finn eats it, too, so it’s a good extra serving of vegetables for him.

The key to really good soup, I think, is homemade stock.  I obviously don’t sit around and make stock all day, because, really, who has that kind of time?  Actually, who am I kidding, some days I do have that kind of time because I stay at home.  But it is hands down the easiest, best thing in the world, albeit a little bit time-consuming.  Everyone makes stock different; I make mine the way my mom taught me – vegetables, slow simmering, and a whole chicken carcass.  I usually make chicken stock when we've had a whole, roasted chicken for dinner – and it can even be one of those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store.  I clean most of the remaining meat off, which I set aside to use for chicken salad sandwiches or, if I’m making chicken soup, I’ll add that later, after the broth is done.  Then I put the bones in a big ole soup pot, add chopped celery, onion, carrots and a couple of cloves of garlic and fill the stock pot with water.  Add some herbs – I use oregano, thyme, basil and a bay leaf and bring it all to a boil.  Then I turn the heat back, put a cover on it and let it simmer on low until the broth has reduced by about half.

Usually at this point I’ll turn the stock off and let it cool down to room temperature then stick it in the refrigerator over night.  The point is to let the fat from the chicken congeal on the top so that the next morning I can skim it off…you want a little bit of that fat as you’re simmering the broth because fat adds flavor, but you don’t need all of it and it can make for kind of a greasy broth if there is too much.  And we all know that at this point, the less fat, the better (my bum will thank me come beach season!).  Then I put that big pot back on the stove and bring it up to a low simmer for maybe about 20 minutes to a half an hour and then strain all of the chicken bones and vegetables out, leaving a really nice, intense broth.  And then I freeze it in 2 cup portions for use later.

The same theory applies if you get a soup bone from the grocery store for beef broth or a ham bone for ham broth.  I've never made fish stock, so I’m not entirely sure how that process would work (I’m sure Uriah can give me a tutorial on that some day when I'm less busy doing stay-at-home mom things.).  You can also use whatever veggies you happen to have in the house.  I've added red onion, leek, and green or red peppers to my broth before because they were in the fridge and needed to be used.  Don’t worry about saving the vegetables from your broth to use later in your soup; you've already leached all of their good flavor out and into the broth – which is also why you want to remove most of the chicken from the bones and add it in later.  Even if you’re making  vegetable soup or chicken noodle soup, you want to discard the simmered veggies and use fresh in your soup.

Sometimes, however, I don’t have the patience for all of that simmering and straining and cooling and skimming, so I just make my broth, strain out the veggies and bones and then use the broth to make my soup the same day.  It’s just as good and if I have leftover broth, I freeze it.

Today was technically my first day of Soup for Lunch, although last week for my lunches I ate the Ham & Pot Liquor Soup I made when my parents visited.  The ham soup is a little bit spicy, so Finn wasn't sold on it; today we had a fall vegetable soup that I made yesterday with some chicken broth I found in the freezer and some veggies I had in the refrigerator.  I deliberately left out any sort of barley or noodle filler in my soup this week – I wanted just a broth with vegetables soup to kick my healthy eating into gear.  I paired my big bowl of soup with some low-fat cottage cheese and a banana, over-all a relatively healthy, filling lunch.  I think tomorrow I’ll have a salad with it and maybe on Thursday I’ll add an open-faced ham sandwich with low-fat cheese and spicy mustard.  I realize that for some people, eating the same thing for lunch 5 days in a row can get a little bit boring (and I’m one of them) so the sides I put with my soup need to be different each day and a healthy supplement.

LoveSo that’s soup week one… I've added the Ham & Pot Liquor soup recipe below – it’s really good if you don’t mind a little heat; you can always cut back on the hot sauce for a less spicy soup.  The vegetable soup recipe is really easy and made my whole house smell amazing yesterday.  I’m planning to work my way through the list of soups between now and Thanksgiving and then add some more for the weeks after Thanksgiving.

Today I felt much better about my choices than I have in a while…and more in control of what I’m doing.  I logged everything I've eaten and pre-pointed out my dinner, so I know that I can afford a small snack this evening if I need it and if it’s before 8 pm.  I didn't work out hard, but I did walk a bunch this morning taking pictures of Sarah and Michael, so I feel pretty good about getting some movement into my day today.

One day at a time...

  • 2 pounds kale*
  • 1 (2 lb) ham steak
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 red potatoes, diced
  • 3 (14-oz) cans chicken broth
  • 2 (16-oz) cans black eyed peas**
  • 2 cups water, use reserved kale cooking water from second boil***
  • ½ cup vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Remove and discard stems and discolored spots from  kale; rinse with cold water.  Drain and tear into 1-inch pieces.  Cover kale with cold water and bring to a boil in a large Dutch oven.  Remove from heat; drain.  Cover again with water and bring to a boil.  Drain, reserving liquid.

Toss ham with hot sauce.  Cook in oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender.  Stir in kale, potatoes, and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally  45 minutes.

*Original recipe called for collard greens - couldn't find them, so I substituted kale.  I've never had kale before, but it was really, really good.
**I used dried black-eyed peas because Uriah couldn't find them in the canned aisle (probably looking with his man eyes.).  Soaked the peas overnight and then added 2 cups to the broth to simmer and cook through.
***The original recipe doesn't say to use the cooking water from the collards/kale, but I think it gives a little bit of extra flavor to the soup; if you don't have 2 cups, add water to make the full amount.  You could just use 2 cups of water if you forget to reserve your cooking water, though!  Sometimes I like to get a little over-zealous...

8 servings
Adapted from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook, 2005

Fall Vegetable Soup

  • 1 leek, white and most of the green part sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ acorn squash, seeded, peeled and cubed
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh broccoli heads and stem pieces, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon each, oregano and thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat, add leeks and saute until tender.  Add squash, carrot, parsnips and broccoli; stir to combine with leeks and saute 3 minutes.  Add broth, water and herbs.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4 servings