We had the sweetest, jolliest Christmas - all 7 of us at my parents' house for 3 days of wonderful family togetherness. I'm hesitant to say a lot about it because I'm afraid that too much description will somehow diminish my memories of it, if that makes any kind of sense. For now, I'll keep our time close to my heart and just give a small glimpse into our days:
One of our holiday treats this year was a trip to Seattle to see 'White Christmas' at the 5th Avenue Theater. We began our fun with lunch at Elephant & Castle (thanks, Dad & Mom!) and then meandered down the street for the matinee (thanks again, Dad & Mom!) We laughed & sang along & oohed and ahhed as snow fell over the audience in the final scene. After that, everyone made their way back to our house and we had a slumber party, which involved pizza and gabbing, and lots of cookies & coffee & lying around in our jammies. I love these memory-making family times; they're the very best presents ever. Adam was with us, too, of course, but is lurking around in the background somewhere. I may have mentioned once or twice that my family can be....pills, for lack of a better word, about having their picture taken. Ryan even suggested that I go on a picture-taking hiatus until he turns 30, which is about 4 years away, and which is also completely preposterous. Sorry, little brother! :)
I'm so tardy in showing off our third date, it's almost time to talk about #4! But first, last week we decided to decorate gingerbread houses. Then, because I'm cheap and the already-baked-just-needs-to-be-assembled-and-decorated kits at the grocery store were not, I bought just one and we shared. (Sharing is more fun anyway!) We had some structural difficulties because we couldn't be bothered to let the icing dry before slapping on the roof, and then I grew impatient about placing the gumdrops just so, and so.... we hurriedly tossed some candy around the bottom... and then the poor house met it's demise.... because.... we ate it.
For this week's date, we took our annual trip to the Garden d'Lights, which grows bigger and more lovely every year. Then we ate oatmeal. Then we wrapped ourselves in Christmas blankets and played Super Mario Brothers on the Wii. Splendid, from start to finish.
Just recently we've decided that we will go on one date each week for the whole month of December, and each date will have something to do with Christmas. Tonight was dinner and meandering around Fred Meyer (we're fancy around here, remember), looking at aisles and aisles of holiday everything. I even managed to sweet-talk my way into an early present [Jan Michael didn't take much convincing :)] - another Christmas moose (or two!) to add to my prized collection. Hooray for December dates!
As the kids of a Mom who has survived a fierce battle with breast cancer, this is the kind of thing Jan Michael and I really appreciate. Right this second is the perfect time to cut a rug in honor of such an important cause, don't you think?
Oh, and click in the middle of the video just after you push play. That will take you straight to youtube so that you can watch it from there and see the entire thing. For some reason when I post it here, the right side of the screen is cropped out and you miss seeing some of the dancers. And a big thank you to Anne for sending the video and text!
"Emily (MacInnes) Somers, created, directed and choreographed this in Portland last week for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community. Please check it out. It's an easy and great way to donate to a wonderful cause, and who hasn't been touched by breast cancer?"
- Puppy kisses - Coffee and gingerbread - Brothers & sisters, talk, talk, talking - Old records on a brand-new record player - Brothers & sisters, Dad & Mom, gabbing upstairs & downstairs & all around the house - Billiards in the basement - Basting and chopping and mixing in the kitchen - Thankful prayer - Feasting, oh the feasting - More & more puppy kisses - Dinner-induced napping - More & more yakking - Dining room table poker - Apple pie & trifle & cheesecake & coffee dessert-ing - Apples to Apples playing, all 7 of us - Family hugs & kisses & see you in the morning - Sleep, sleep, sleep
Another happy, HAPPY Thanksgiving for the books!
[I've shamelessly stolen this list idea from Amanda - thank you, friend!]
I've been feeling a little sheepish for carrying on so gleefully about all of the Thanksgiving dessert I'm about to indulge in (4 days & counting, ahem!) and thought that instead of sharing another cheesecake recipe, I'd post a tried-and-true, simple & quick, really scrumptious recipe for cranberry sauce. It would be nice, I thought, to show everyone that our Thankgsiving dinner will include something other than butter and cream cheese and pudding. Then I looked at the nutritional information and discovered that one serving of this stuff probably has the same amount of calories and fat as a doughnut. Sigh. Well, I tried, anyway :) Baked Cranberry Sauce (again, from Taste of Home)
1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans 1 cup flaked coconut 1 cup orange marmalade 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup water
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Pour into a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until cranberries are tender. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate leftovers. Yields 10 servings.
We have the great fortune of celebrating Thanksgiving twice this year, which means....two days of dessert! The Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle will make its appearance at feast #1, and for the second go-around, we'll enjoy a parade of cheescakes. After searching high and low, I've found a set of mini springform pans - only about 4-1/2 inches across. This means I'm going to try a few different kinds and we can all have tiny pieces of each. No one should have to suffer through only one cheescake choice, after all!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Deluxe (from the Taste of Home website)
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted 32 gingersnap cookies, coarsely crushed 3 tablespoons brown sugar 6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened 1 cup packed brown sugar 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 1/4 cup maple syrup 3 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 4 eggs, lightly beaten Sweetened whipped cream, optional Pecan brittle, optional
Place a greased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil; securely wrap foil around pan. Place pecans in a food processor; cover and process until ground. Add gingersnaps, brown sugar and butter; cover and pulse until blended. Press onto the bottom and 2 in. up the sides of prepared pan; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin, cream, syrup, vanilla and spices. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour into crust. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan.
Bake at 325° for 60-70 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove pan from water bath. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Chill overnight. Remove sides of pan. Garnish with whipped cream and pecan brittle if desired.
Thanksgiving is only 8 days away, so let's talk about dessert! First, though, I must qualify the previous post about our weight loss challenge by saying this: It is my intention to eat everything in sight on Thanksgiving. This is not an exaggeration, and I'm really excited about it.
I found this recipe (and the picture, too) on the Food Network website. It's by Paula Deen, which means it's bound to be yummy. It will also be astronomically high in calories and fat, but for me that's the very definition of a Thanksgiving dessert, so I don't mind a bit.
Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix 1 (5.1-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix 1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping 1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional
Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cardamom into the pudding. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large bowl. Pour half of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl.
Quite literally, actually. Three weeks ago we started a Weight Busters Challenge at the YMCA, which means that for three weeks we've been taking all kinds of 5:00 a.m. spin classes and running a thousand miles on the treadmill and making the supreme sacrifice of only eating one measly vanilla tootsie roll on Halloween. Each week we're given exercise and nutrition assignments, and we earn points for each task we complete. We're also weighed each week and earn points based on the percentage of weight we've lost. The person with the most points at the end of 12 weeks is the winner and right now.....
Jan Michael is beating everybody by a country mile. He'll wish I would have kept that quiet, but it's so neat to watch him work so hard and see such amazing results. Besides, I'm a proud wife and must crow about him :)
Anyway, this is such a super time of year to be involved in this kind of thing, what with the heaps of holiday food lurking at every turn. It's nice to know that when January rolls around, we'll be ahead of the game instead of scrambling to whittle away the damage of several eggnog cheesecakes and piles of Christmas cookies.
So, wish us luck (although Jan Michael doesn't need it), and eat something terribly fattening in our honor, since there won't be much of that coming our way in the next couple of months :)
Halloween this year was almost too fantastic for words. We high-tailed it to Derek & Sara's, jumped on the cruisers, which had been gussied to the hilt with lights, and rolled all over Olympia. You wouldn't believe the hooting and hollering and very near fainting we witnessed every time we turned a corner. Someone in a car stopped paying attention to what he was doing and drove up onto a curb as we rode past. Other cars slowed down and honked for all they were worth. Parents clapped and small trick-or-treaters ran after us, begging to know, "WHERE did you get those bikes?!" One little boy was heard muttering, "Who ever heard of a kid on a motorcycle?!" in a somewhat offended tone - I suppose that's what we get for whizzing by at the speed of light, bikes a-blazing. And then, towards the end of our cruise, another boy said, with awe in his voice, "Are you human?....My name is John..." as though he was in the presence of some majestic, other-world creature and thought he should introduce himself. I don't think any of us stopped smiling the entire time we were out. Never mind candy - the biggest treats definitely went to the four of us; it's hard to beat bringing so much happiness and delight to so many people. We're already planning next year's outing :)
This gang of bikers chased us down the street, were excited to have their picture taken with Jan Michael's warhammer, and pronounced us both 'Beast' and 'Legit.' We now know what it must have been like for the Beatles :)
These are the Japanese Gardens at the Arboretum. If you live around here, and have any sense at all :), you will hop in the car with the ones you love this very minute and get yourselves there. Gracious sakes, it takes my breath away.
First of all, this is the tree that sits at the end of our driveway. We're dazzled by it every day this time of year, and it's one of the things that makes saying good-bye to summer awfully easy. Second, a recipe from our friend Kristin, who is really very handy in the kitchen. I baked the cake just this afternoon and our house smells fantastic.
Icing: 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp well-shaken buttermilk 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bundt pan generously & dust with flour, knocking out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour through salt. Whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl at med-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5minutes. Add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until batter is just smooth. Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top & bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Invert rack over the cake and reinvert onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more. While cake is cooling, whisk together buttermilk and powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle icing over the warm cake; cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.
Eric & Tessa are selling their boat. It was a sad day around here when we heard the news; we've had all kinds of fun tooling around in it over the years. I suppose, though, that because we aren't responsible for maintaining it or storing it (or hauling it or filling it with gas), we don't have much say in the matter. Anyway, on the very first day of fall, which was a brisk 80 degrees, we were invited for one last spin around the lake.