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.