Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What I wanted for Christmas

Some of you may know that there was only one thing on my Christmas list, but I knew I would never get it, so I didn't have my hopes up. But on Christmas morning, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a Bosch mixer, blender, and cookie paddles too! We are talking little-kid excitement here, with the jumping up and down and clapping. And yesterday, I used it for the first time to make whole wheat bread, which I have finally mastered after many trial loafs that resembled collapsed bricks. So delicious and healthy!

Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 4 loaves
Grind together:
6 cups wheat kernels (makes 9 1/2 to 10 cups of flour)
3 500mg vitamin C tablets (break in half)
Mix until smooth:
4 cups water
½ cup honey (or heaping 1/2 cup sugar)
½ cup powdered milk
½ cup oil
3 cups whole wheat flour
Add, and then mix for two minutes:
2 Tbsp SAF instant yeast
½ cup vital wheat gluten
2 Tbsp salt
Rest of whole wheat flour
Mix for 10-12 minutes in heavy-duty mixer, or turn out onto counter and knead for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 150 degrees (or warm setting). When it’s preheated, turn it off.
Put dough onto oiled counter, roll into a log, and cut into 4 equal parts (3 if your pans are large). Roll dough into loaves, as if you're rolling up a sleeping bag, and plop into sprayed bread pans, seam side down.
Put pans in oven (make sure it’s warm, but turned off). Let rise for 40 minutes, then, leaving pans in the oven, turn it to 350 degrees, and bake for 20-25 minutes (total time, including preheating).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas at the Ranch

Every year, on the Sunday before Christmas, all the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids gather at my Grandma and Grandpa Kelly's ranch for lunch. Bree had a blast, playing inside with the girls, and outside with the boys (she prefers outside!). It's awesome that there are so many of them close in age.

Ward Christmas Social; the Nightmare is Behind Us

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy our Christmas social. It's our best-attended social of the year (I don't recognize a third of the people there). But this year, as the Relief Society president, I feel that I had more than my fair share of headache. I wasn't supposed to be in charge of the activity, by any means, but I guess when people have a problem or question, they assume I will have a solution for them.
After stressing for weeks that not enough people were signing up to bring food, I finally resorted to mild threats. I also bought the hams and turkeys to cook for the main dish. Luckily, I was able to borrow roasters, and I figured I'd cook them myself--no big deal; it's just as easy to cook 7 as it is to cook 1. However, the day of the social turned into a nightmare when I did not do a mental calculation of how many amps our kitchen breaker could support. So, of course when I plugged all those roasters in, our breaker failed. A simple reset didn't fix the problem, and while I drove the roasters to the church kitchen, I prayed that the food would be cooked by 6:00. It wasn't. So, at 6:45, I apologized to the gym full of hungry ward members, and told them that while the ham was pre-cooked and safe to eat, the turkey wasn't done yet, and that they'd have to come back later if they wanted any.
I quickly realized that RS presidents don't get to actually enjoy socials, since they are busy finding serving spoons, refilling water jugs, and answering questions about the program for the evening, including at what time exactly the Santa should get dressed. And, of course, the closing prayer was a signal for everyone to hurry home, without a thought to helping clean up, and half of them forgetting their dishes. (Thank you Amy, Joanna, and Rose for all your help--you saved me from a breakdown!)
So, one of my New Year's Resolutions is that I will never do this again. Ever. My counselors and I will plan and carry out events for the RELIEF SOCIETY only, as intended. Watch out, Ward Council, I'm putting my foot down.
Anyway, while I was in the kitchen washing dishes in the hopes of getting home by 9:30, I persuaded Chad to take Mason to see Santa (Bree was at my Mom's). As Chad pointed out, there's really no point; he's too young to know any better. But he sure looks cute.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Light Parade

Who says there's nothing to do in Globe? Okay, okay, that was me. However, there are some advantages to living in a small town, and one of them is the cute little light parade that anyone who feels the inclination can be a part of. So Amy and I took our kids downtown (I walked the 5 blocks to get there) to see all sorts of firetrucks, police vehicles, buggies, trailers, school bands, and dancers, all decked out in Christmas lights. A lot of the "floats" were representing a company, and advertised accordingly (Globe Cinema, which burned down 3 years ago, had a float with a sign: Theater coming in 2009!). And then there were a bunch of random people, like the guy on his lit-up bicycle who kept going back and forth. The highlight was definitely Santa at the end. Bree and Calan got so excited, and Bree was waving, and saying "Hi Santa! What're you doing? That's Santa, huh, that's Santa." (the video was rather dark and noisy, but you get the idea.) In the past I haven't been one to take the kids to these community things, because Chad's always working, and I have to take the kids myself. But Bree enjoyed it so much, that I'm sure I'll do it again next time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pottery Barn's got nothing on me!

When the weather finally turned cold here (just before Thanksgiving), we decided that in order to keep our heating bill down, Bree would need a quilt that would actually cover her toddler bed (the quilt that came with her set was baby-sized). Since we're trying to be frugal, I decided to make one. Luckily, my friend Amy has a very large stash of quilting material that she's always offering to anyone within earshot. I found some adorable fabric that matches the kids' room. That, paired with an old red sheet that we never use, and some batting that my grandma donated, completed the necessary materials! Free! And I got to use my grandma's amazing quilting machine to quilt it together with a gorgeous rose pattern. Now Bree is all snug and warm under her custom-made Pottery Barn worthy quilt. I'm not sure if she fully appreciates the work that went into it, but I know she appreciates being warm!

The perfect Christmas cookie

I love frosted sugar cookies, especially at Christmas. And, in case you don't know, not all sugar cookie recipes are created equal. They range from the amazingly delicious to the absolutely disgusting (Chad points out here that everyone has different tastes, and what I may think is disgusting might just be the way someone else was raised. Whatever.) My mom's recipe has always been my favorite--crispy, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery. Chad's a fan of the soft Lofthouse-style cookies. So I went in search of a compromise. I found a few recipes online, and this was the third one I tried. It's easy to roll out and handle, and is so delicious. When I asked Chad if these were the best sugar cookies I've ever made, he looked at me like, "Do you seriously not know?" So, here it is:
1 cup butter, softened (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1) Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla for a few minutes until fluffy.
2) Mix in 1 cup of flour, and the baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix in rest of flour.
3) Cover bowl and chill for 2 hours (I can never wait this long, so I'm sure not to soften my butter too much)
4) Roll out on floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on ungreased pan and bake at 400 degrees for 4-6 minutes.
Let cool completely before frosting:
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk
(Mix butter, vanilla, and sugar. Add enough milk to desired consistency & mix until fluffy. Keep chilled)

Family photo...oh boy

After about 50 takes, and fiddling with lighting in my poorly-lit living room, this is the best we came up with. It was quite a challenge to get the kids to smile at a self-timed camera, and Bree spent a lot of time rolling her eyes and making fishy faces when we weren't looking. I'm pretty happy with it, although it's a little grainy. Maybe Santa will give me a light kit for Christmas. So Merry Christmas from Chad, Megan, Bree, and Mason!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A word on mistletoe

I've always thought kissing under the mistletoe was a cute little tradition. When I was a kid, I'd drag my parents under there for a kiss on the cheek. When I was a teenager I'd fantasized about a romantic kiss with the guy I liked. As an adult, I include a bundle of mistletoe in our Christmas decorations every year. But this year, mistletoe has reared her ugly head. A large, formerly beautiful tree in our front yard has completely succomed to mistletoe's deadly force. Yes, it was a gradual process, but unfortunately, when we moved into this house, the parasite had already infested every major branch. This spring, when I didn't see any new leaves, and then when the mistletoe itself turned yellow and died, I knew the tree had given up the ghost. The tree is a sad sight, and is a constant reminder of my newly-developed dislike for mistletoe. Of course, the plastic version hanging on our ceiling never hurt anyone, so I guess I can still endure a kiss or two beneath those green leaves.

Christmas Tag

This was emailed to me this week by my sis-in-law Jenn in Missouri and friend Tina in Florida, who don't know each other. Don't know why I thought that occurrence was cool, but for the sake of being Christmasy, I'm posting my answers here. Feel free to post it on your blog too.
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. Bags are so lazy.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Real trees belong outside. Besides, by the time they make it to Arizona, they're all dried and crispy anyway.
3. When do you put up the tree? This year it was the day before Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down? After New Year's festivities are over and depression has set in.
5. Do you like Egg Nog? Just the name makes me cringe.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Humongous homemade Barbie house that my mom made for my sisters and I, complete with wall-to-wall real carpeting and 3 bedrooms. Can't tell you how many hours we spent playing in that thing, well into my middle-school years.
7. Hardest person to buy for? Fran (sorry, but it's true)
8. Easiest person to buy for? Bree
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Two: one that Jessica gave me the year I moved away from home, and one that Chad got in Africa on his mission.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? This year I'm going with email.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? How can a gift be bad?
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I love so many...maybe The Grinch
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? November
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, but I've given a few to D.I.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Fudge, pie, and cocoa.
16. Lights on the tree? White only. Sorry Chad; colored lights belong on the exterior of the house.
17. Favorite Christmas song? N'Sync's acapella version of Oh Holy Night. Okay, so I'm a dork.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Usually at home, since Chad doesn't get time off at Christmas.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yep. And they're reindeer.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Pajamas Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? My calling. Whoops, did that slip out?
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Really loving the homespun look. And the greens have to be apple green, to go with my kitchen walls. This drives Chad nuts.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I love beef roast with potatoes and carrots, rolls, and salad. But this year Chad wins, and we're doing ham.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A Bosch mixer with blender and food processer attachments. So if anyone feels like blowing $600 on me, feel free!
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