Everything’s better when it’s dipped in Chocolate

IMG_1329Off to a friends Open House, and whipped up some Chocolate covered strawberries, some with sprinkles, some with heath candy, and some with nuts or extra chocolate. They were gone before I took off my coat. They were a hit the last time I brought them to a family event as well so I have to remember this as a “go to” item for events, potlucks etc. I feel like I am always bringing a salad and since I’m gluten-free it’s usually a good idea so I have something to eat too, right? Since I knew what other folks would be bringing and we had already had a good meal prior to going, this seemed perfect! I would love to know anyone elses go to items that super easy and quick to bring to a potluck that isn’t the standard chips & salsa, humus and veggies.


Gingerbread Mania…

Every year since I’ve known my hubby, we’ve gone to his mother’s to participate in the decorating extravaganza of Gingerbread House making. This is not your Martha Stewart process of decorating, more like a wham bam, get it done while you can process. I do like to take my time, pay attention to detail and try to be somewhat inventive in the process but I’ve learned a lot from these Gingerbread excursions, let me tell you.

His mother use to live in NYC, so we’d drive out to see her and drive home for 4-5 hours while trying to maintain construction of a wavering gingerbread house..Oh my! That was fun! Some years she came to us. I have a Wonderful kitchen AID mixer, and the mom in law loves to use it! (I can still peel off Royal Icing from hard to reach places of that machine.) When our lil girl had a better handle on the g’bread construction process I left a lot of it up to her and something she does with her Grandma. I’ve learned the creative process is different for a lot of people. I’m visual and take pride in my creativity. I would say, my hubby’s fam is more about spending time together and not the end result, but laughing and having fun. Not bad, right? So about that letting go part, I let my daughter come up with her own ideas (granted I may toss in a couple of what if’s or hmmm, or your could try to see possibilities) and so the combination and polar opposites of the creative process of gingerbread construction comes through, in her eyes, her vision…..this year being almost 9. This is my daughter gingerbread house done independent of adult help, minus a few of dad’s royal icing patches….She had a wonderful time (as you can tell)!

The day continued with a tree purchase and decorations and always, always with her topping the tree!!!

And later on I got to tend to some Holiday knitting for a small little person in the family! Isn’t the Gnome cute!!! It’s the Gnome-baby from Ravelry! Created in some Patons wool.

There was also some more small gift knitting for a fun Aunt. A single lady who has a great sense of humor. Last year she was the recipient of the lacy blue knitted thong. This year it’s a chapstick cosy…..in the form f a penis, HAH!!! You gotta love the stuff you can find on Ravelry, really now, a penis chapstick cosy, I know have a line of her co workers who want one.

My sad news for some holiday projects was that I never got some pics. One of  the Urban Homesteader Ponytail hat, which kicked serious butt. And the other an American Girl Doll poncho for my nieces new Julie doll she was getting this year. It was similar to the Ravelry pattern, but not quite… Now that’s quite a busy day filled with some chuckles and grins-love those kinds of days!

When the Weather Gives You Rain, Make Rainbows…

We celebrated a birthday this month. It’s been 8 years, boy the time goes by. Due to all the rain this year and the kids growing like weeds my small home was unable to accommodate them so we had a birthday out this year. We did a paint your own pottery party and it was fun and the ladies were just the right age to enjoy it, plus I didn’t have to clean up anything, how awesome. Although, I really prefer having parties with family and everyone at home in the yard. This is the second time we’ve had a birthday “out” the other time was due to construction on the house and I have to say I can see why some folks get use to having parties at other locations, they are convenient but there’s just something so natural about having them at home and letting the kids create and be guided by their own instincts for a birthday gathering.

I decorated the cake the morning of, a little behind schedule you see. I had my 8-year-old helper and mom pop in to help and we each had a different vision of what an artists palette cake should look like, so we compromised and it did turn out cute. Nana and the birthday girl even made some quick edible paint brushes from licorice and fruit leather, which I was secretly asked to keep some aside for snacking on later….

So yes the color is a bit scary! But boy, what a fun cake to make and so fun to see everyone’s surprise when you cut into it. The kids thought it was so amazing and I must have told all the adults how to do it…I’m not a fan of food coloring (this cake used the food coloring gels) but once a year and the punch of these colors is enough to last till the next cake. I first saw this cake at http://www.omnomicon.com/rainbowcake but if you google rainbow cakes, you come up with all sorts of photos to peruse. I didn’t succumb to the  diet version with the soda that the link above suggests, I just added the coloring to the batter and went from there.

It was a lovely Birthday party, and turned out to beautiful day of course, the only one after weeks of rain. At least the ground got to dry up a little and later that afternoon about two dozen mud pies were made in the yard and baked a few days on our picnic table. I had to do some cleaning afterall, quite a feat compared to a birthday, but it was so awesome to watch them go to town on that mud!

Morning Bliss and Banana Bread…

I’m the only one in the house who eats bananas. So often times I end up buying 2 or so at a time instead of an over ripe banana fiasco occurring and a fruit fly intervention. Sometimes I forget about how bananas I have or purchase to many with the intention of making smoothies or some fancy dessert. Frozen bananas freak me out a little, it’s that dark skin, it just isn’t appealing. I like a good ripe banana but I go as far a speckles and can go no more…

I made the quickest, easiest Banana bread ever, in small loaf pans with Chocolate chips (YUM!) and packaged them up to hand out randomly as a nice gesture and rid my home of bananas so I don’t get ridiculed for again contributing to the compost from my hubby, UGH!  The recipe was from Orangette and it was fantastic, forget Food Network and the like, stick to blog- land for recipes, they seem tried and true!

Next I utilized a much anticipated Christmas gift of the Caramel Macchiato kit from Starbucks to complete my morning. I made a mean macchiato I tell you. I get up EARLY (not my choice, but school calls) and it’s a bit overcast so the image appears to be a bit of a looming Caramel macchiato, but frothy none the less and delicious. Oh how a simple special drink and a sweet warm treat really can make your day….

Synopsis of December

We finally found our tree! It felt like we were really late getting it this year, but it was only the 2nd week of December. The hunt for a great tree wasn’t as epic as it usually is for us, but we were all happy with this tree it even received a name.

It went in a new spot this year near the front of the house by some windows, it smelled wonderful and the lights at night just soothed the spirit in the air. We realized we have quite a few handmade ornaments on our tree that get saved each year and the lil girl had an amazing time remembering all the stories that went along with them while she was busy decorating.

There was some serious makings of all things holiday related. We created garland and have now hid the glitter succumbing to using the remaining glitter that is now embedded in rugs and tables. It was a permanent collection here for a long while. Guests would come and go and leave complete and full of Christmas spirit as the trail of fairy christmas dust followed them. We found it in our food, on the dog, in our hair, on our beds and let it be known that every time we discovered it somewhere else it brought laughter and smiles.

December09_ 234

December09_ 227

December09_ 216

Our gingerbread house, a tradition from Grammy, was created yet again. Structural design was initiated by our 87 year old Great Grandfather… and like always, it held up against all odds. It’s fascinating to watch these houses change over the years, and also to reflect upon how much more my daughter becomes involved in its creation and decor. Since this year she’s VERY into Ice skating, we had a much bigger pond and several skaters (some skaters in photo may have been consumed.) We look forward to designing a new house next year with inspiration from the Food Networks GIANT gingerbread houses or this…and to the detail and accuracy of  my little one gathering her continued inspiration with all things sugar.

December09_ 208

Although we had many places to be on Christmas Eve and wished we could have slowed the holidays down, as usual, we’ll attempt it again next year. We do ALWAYS make time to leave out some milk and cookies for santa as well as a few healthy options and treats for his entourage. This note gets right to the point!  Can’t wait til next year!

Prepping for the sweep…

Typically after Halloween you hope to absorb a bit of Fall to enjoy and savor before the BIG holidays. Well, after hitting a local store on Halloween day and finding the shelves being stocked with Christmas items and holiday tunes playing, I became distraught! UGH, already! I love being in the moment, not being rushed, having time to enjoy the changes in seasons and the build up to each holiday. So, in beginning to aquire materials and supplies for creating gifts and crafts for fairs and family I’m trying to follow the flow of the season and sink into it’s transition slowly and between all of it, there’s nothing like a nice bowl of comfort food.

Ahhh, a rice bowl! I love rice bowls, a mixed collage of flavors and colors sprinkled in a bowl. I get a quick creative fix whenever there’s spare rice around, and there always is, whether brown, basmati or another grain like quinoa.

This bowl contains:
Rice, Black beans, Chick Peas (Garbanzo beans), Spinach, Salsa and some cashews. Add any spices you prefer, maybe tabasco? Add some cheeses or any veggies floating around and serve warm. One of the best comfort foods around! Enjoy!

We Made Bread

…and the lil girl put the luv in it! It was yummy when it came out of the oven all warm and then sliced with some yummy sweet cream butter on it, Delish! I used the recipe for the tassajara bread.  A bit to much on the whole wheat side for me, I’ve always loved white breads. Next I think I’ll try a sourdough, oatmeal or multigrain bread, hmmmmm! It was lots of fun especially with a little one, watching her knead the dough and knowing that all bread does not come from the supermarket, phew!