Thursday, December 18, 2014

CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPE ROUND-UP (LINKS)

Well, I've just about managed to give away all my teacher/therapist/neighbor gifts for the year.  It felt like a bit of a feat this year, because when all totaled, I ended up doing 16 boxes.  I *tried* to keep it simple, but that is not what I am known for.  The truth is, I really do love baking, and most of the time, this baking was a labor of love.

Sugar cookies are my very fav, mainly because of how pretty they can be.  Here's a blog post I wrote sometime last year with the recipes I use for cookies and various icings/glazes.  I have LOVED the set of Helvetica letter cutters I got earlier this year.  My other favorite cookie purchase of the year was an airbrush machine.  It makes stenciling a breeze and is so much fun to use.

If you are ever looking at a cookie cutter and wondering what you should put on that cookie, you can always google image search something like "Elf on the Shelf Sugar Cookies" and find more inspiration than you can handle.  There are so many fun options out there!

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Last year, I wrote a long post with links to several good cookie recipes - check it out if you need some new ideas.  This year, I used this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (the pics aren't working - it seems I lost a few months worth of blog pics from 2011, and I just don't have the time to go back and put them back on, so you'll have to suffer through, but I think you'll manage just fine.) and stuffed a Rolo inside and sprinkled them with sea salt.  Very craveable.

Here's a great post on cookie decorating by Bridget of Bake at 350.  It has lots of fun pictures and some great ideas.  I wish I had time this year to compile and try more recipes, but it is not in the cards.  So - enjoy these links!  Happy baking!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A SWEET GIFT

It's the gift giving season, and family keep asking us what we want/need for Christmas.  The truth is - we've already got plenty.  What I want the most this particular Christmas is time together.  It's a bit on the scarce side these days, but this past Sunday, we took some down time as a family, and it was such a sweet gift.

We headed to the park and let the girls ride bikes while John ran/jogged along, and I trailed walking behind with the twins.  The weather was unseasonably warm and despite the wind, we weren't cold.  It was beautiful.

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The girls did awesome bike riding and only slowed down towards the very end of the 2.6 miles.

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The babies and I listened to Christmas music while walking, and Violet stood and stared at me much of the walk.

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At the end, John and the girls rolled down a big grassy hill while William looked on jealously.  The twins love being out and walking - especially William.  He acts like the owns the world.

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John would run the girls back up the hill, which definitely meant they were winning at life.

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The sunset was gorgeous, and on the whole, it was as close to an ideal afternoon spent as a family as we could ever hope for.  Later that night, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights.  We got a little over-ambitious and the whole ordeal lasted at least 20 minutes of screaming longer than it should have.  You win some, you lose a lot.  It was such a sweet gift to have a beautiful, fun afternoon together.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

DECEMBER HIGHS & LOWS SO FAR

What have we been up to?  Honestly, my brain is spinning so much right now that I find myself regularly walking into a room and wondering what I came for.  John has found himself double marking the Dodger's summer schedule on our calendar in hopes we will be able to go.  While working out this morning, I found myself so distracted that I kept missing steps.  There's a lot going.  Here a rundown of the highs and lows.

Low:  We had the twins' follow-up swallow study.  When we went back in April, it was a family affair.  Since Lily is now in school and MDO was available for Bella, I took the twins by myself.  All in all, the experience was pretty good considering what we were doing.  They got us in and out, and everyone was so kind.  William got cleared for thin liquids, which is definitely a win.  Violet - oh poor Violet our medically high maintenance child - still aspirated silently with thin liquids.  I was pretty bummed to find out that she still needs thickener for the next 10-12 months.

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High:  I'm pretty much done with Christmas shopping.  And my presents are all wrapped thanks to my awesome friend.  The girls were delighted to find presents under the tree magically one day.

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Low:  John has worked A LOT.  We knew this was going to be the case, but like all things - knowing it beforehand and actually living it are two different things.  We are so thankful for the great business, but we are definitely looking forward to the January slowdown this year.  But - how cute are Santa and Santa cow together?

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High/Low:  Because John has been working a lot, we've been to the mall a lot.  We are definitely starting to learn the mall ropes.  We've visited Santa several times.  We've met friends there for dinner.  We've worn Christmas jammies and walked around to kill time before bedtime.  There are obvious pros and cons to all of this.

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Low:  Trying to "do" anything while my children are awake.  I think we are at a new low as far as productivity levels while my four pack is roaming the house like a hoard of wild dogs looking for things to destroy.  This is when I was trying to get ready for our D-Group's Christmas party.

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(Just realized I was doing an elbow pop for this photo.  Do I look skinnier to you?  Also, side note - I made this skirt for myself while I was in college.  It was a great find during the closet clean-out of this fall.)

High:    Our D-Group party was a wonderful evening with just adults.  We missed a couple of couples, which meant it was lacking our complete circle.  But, it was a great night celebrating the season.

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Low:  I've started to realize how many things have eggs in them.  Now that I know that Violet is severely allergic, I'm trying to strategize things to bake that she can eat.  From what I understand, replacing eggs in brownies is border-line impossible.  I've found myself on all kinds of websites that I normally would not traffic that PETA and random vegan sites looking for egg-free recipes.  I did successfully make pancakes using the age-old flaxseed for egg substitution.  They were a hit.  Especially with the Christmas M'Ms.

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High:  Holiday baking.  I love doing it - even when it just about overflows my Kitchen Aid.

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High: WE WENT TO SEE GARTH BROOKS.  I feel the need to put that in ALL CAPS, because here in Central AR, this concert was a big deal.  It sold out quickly, and they opened up another show, and my social media new feeds were hijacked by it for all three nights.  And it was a great concert.  If you had an itch for a certain song, then Garth made sure to scratch it.  He played all of his hits, which was super fun.  We went with great friends and had an amazing time!

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December really does take the cake on activities, and this one has been piled onto with a second restaurant.  It's been so good.  But so full.

Friday, December 12, 2014

CFA CHRISTMAS PARTY 2014

Last weekend we had our CFA Christmas party at our house.  We thought about having it elsewhere to save ourselves a bit of hassle, but when we polled the team, the resounding answer was that "YES - we still want to party at your house."  And party we did.

There was tons of food.

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There was a photo booth.

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There were tons of people.

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There was a gift exchange where we landed this jewel of a present.

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This year we added horse and carriage rides for everyone, and that seemed to be a big hit!  I know the girls enjoyed going with anyone who asked, so they managed to ride four or five times.

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There were lots of people to hold the twins once I woke them up from a nap.

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And, of course, no CFA Christmas party at our house would be complete without the piƱata.

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All in all, it went quite well.  We have an amazing team of people at both stores, and I am infinitely grateful for the work they do on our behalf for our guests.  We couldn't do it without them!