Saturday, November 27, 2010

Almost Thanksgiving Photos



Gratitude Day #25


#1. I am grateful for Thanksgiving Day - for waking up with a morning full of baking ahead. I am grateful for waking up with anticipation of a day spent with good friends and an amazing meal.

#2. I am grateful for Jeff who picked up my kids in the morning and for Deb who took them to see Tangled at the movies while I finished up the last of the cooking. All of the kids thought the movie was awesome and I appreciated the quiet.

#3. I am grateful for an incredible meal. Honestly, it was sooooooo delicious. I have photos and recipes for you. There were seven pies.

#4. I am grateful for good company and conversation. We ate and chatted and ate some more for hours and hours.

#5. I am grateful for all of our friends and family. We are very lucky to have so many loving people in our lives.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gratitude Day #24


#1. I am grateful my parents can now Skype. The kids chatted with their Grandparents and Uncle last night. Isn't technology wonderful?

#2. I am grateful for the a warm house full of delicious smells. By the end of the day I had made six pies and the chutney.

#3. I am grateful for funny goals. My kids want to see the new Harry Potter movie so I made a deal with them. Once we watch all six of the previously released movies, we can go to the new one (they have never seen 5 or 6). We watched the first one last night while cuddled up on the couch with lots of blankets and pumpkin pie.

#4. I am grateful for safety. At 11:15pm, I left the house to run to the store one more time. On my way, the car in front of me hit black ice and spun around several times, landing up off the road on the curb. I stopped to make sure he was OK and we tried to dig out and then push out his car. Anther guy pulled over as well, but the car was not moving. I finally suggested he call our neighbor who has a truck and a chain to pull him out which is what he did. I would like to let you know that I was in my green flannel Christmas pajamas and a down coat during this entire experience. I was not really planning on running into anyone at that hour!

#5. I am grateful for those who serve our country in the military. A friend of ours from Vermont is coming home from Iraq for Thanksgiving - it will be a wonderful homecoming for his family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cooking Class Photos

Gratitude Day #23


#1. I am grateful that the nice policeman who pulled me over Monday morning did not give me a ticket. My tags are expired on the van. I did not know; I don't ever think about or check my tags. When the renewal comes in the mail, I pay it and when the stickers arrive, I put them on the car. This year, the renewal must have been forwarded to my ex (the car is registered to both of us) who never gave it to me. So, I have to go down to the DMV and take care of it. Thank you policeman for believing me.

#2. I am grateful for the girlfriends I met in line at the opening of Costco. The nice guy handeling our memberships let us sign up one at a time with the first referring the next and so on. By the time I walked inside I had $40 in gift cards for Costco.

#3. I am grateful for grand openings. The kids ate so many samples at Costco that they had no interest in lunch. We only had time to see about 1/3 of the store before having to go and pick up more kids from kindergarten.

#4. I am grateful for eggnog. I am also grateful that it is only available for a limited time every year.

#5. I am grateful for the anticipation of a winter storm tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Somewhat Reluctant Model


I pay him with kisses.

Gratitude Day #22


#1. I am grateful for this short work week. I am looking forward to having two days off from the daycare to enjoy time with just our little family.

#2. I am grateful for our friends who convinced us to combine Thanksgiving with them. We are now going to their house with the family we had invited and an additional family from our ward. This change means I am not cooking the main dishes this year - though I will most likely buy an inexpensive little turkey that day after Thanksgiving to cook up and eat with leftovers. Thank you Paula - we are excited for Thanksgiving with good friends!

#3. I am grateful for baking and cooking and trying new recipes this week! I will start baking pies during the day on Wednesday. Would you like to know what I'm making this year? OK.

  • Leek and Gruy√®re Bread Pudding
  • Cranberry, Sour Cherry and Grapefruit Chutney
  • Mashed Squash and Potatoes with Amaretti (I still need to find the amaretti!)
  • Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Pine nuts
  • Sweet Potato Biscuits
  • Chocolate Mousse pie
  • Peanut Butter Pie
  • Lemon Cream Pie
  • Panna Cotta Pie with Poached Fruit
  • Pumpkin Pie (for Friday morning breakfast)
I will also make a batch of rolls for turkey sandwiches throughout the weekend. I will let you know how the recipes turn out. I love cooking.

#4. I am grateful for my little shopping buddy, Sophie. When the last child left yesterday, the two of us took our Thanksgiving shopping list and headed first to Sam's Club and then to Cub Foods. We found everything except two items. It was a COLD shopping trip - winds are about 5 degrees right now. When we got home and unloaded the piles of groceries from the van, Max managed to drop 36 eggs on the kitchen floor. I am grateful only 16 of them broke.

#5. I am grateful for the helpful guys at Sam's Club who brought out a forklift to get me a box of birdseed. The kids were excited to have the birds and squirrels back on the porch this morning!

Gratitude Day #21


#1. I am grateful we were able to get home Saturday night before the ice storm. Several of our friends ended up stranded as the roads quickly became impassable. One of my daycare parents was up in the cites and could not get home until 4am. We were tucked into bed long before that time.

#2. I am grateful for the rain which melted the ice on Sunday. By the time we left for church in the afternoon, the roads were fine. The morning ward was canceled. I had spent so much time on my lesson and had baked two pans of pumpkin chocolate chip bars for my class so I was happy to see the classroom so full for Gospel Doctrine.

#3. I am grateful for the interviews I had Sunday night. I may be adding a new child or two as I have lost a couple lately due to changes in their families. I have two Mothers of current children who recently lost their jobs and I am grateful their children are still coming to daycare. I am grateful for my employment and the income it generates to support us.

#4. I am grateful for warm slippers.

#5. I am grateful for giggling children. Calvin makes us all laugh.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gratitude Day #20


#1. I am so very grateful for 12 hours of sleep. Yes, you read that right.

#2. I am grateful for Saturdays with nothing written on the calendar. We enjoyed a lazy Saturday morning, I chatted on the phone and cleaned while the kids played on the Wii. I actually managed to get to the gym and run and if that meant I did not get showered and dressed for the day until 3:00, oh well.

#3. I am grateful for fun adventures with just my children. We finally hopped in the car and left the house late in the afternoon in search of fun. We were planning on going to the Macy's display "A Day in the Life of an Elf" in Minneapolis, but the GPS took us to the Macy's in St. Paul instead. We took advantage of the mistake and popped into Candyland for dessert before dinner. Max tried some squirrel poop (peanut butter candy), Sophie got a little bag of candy rocks and Calvin opted for the chocolate covered animal crackers. We then climbed back into the car and drove to Minneapolis for the Elf display. It was very cute and I recommend you go, but try and go on an off time. We had no wait but in previous years have had to wait for over an hour just to get in. After writing and mailing letters to Santa, we walked back to our car and drove to our favorite hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant - Jasmine Deli. We drove home full and happy.

#4. I am grateful for Christmas anticipation. Calvin was in my bed this morning when I woke up and the first words out of his mouth were "Mom, how many days until Santa comes?" He then came downstairs and made a chart with the number of days until Christmas Eve. The holidays are so much more enjoyable with children in the house.

#5. I am grateful for my lesson this week. We are studying Ezekiel and the lesson touches on repentance, making … a new heart and a new spirit. Ezekiel also teaches that all are responsible for their own sins. Children will not be punished for the evil actions of the parents, nor the parents punished for their children’s sins. The lesson also touches on our charge to act as watchmen and shepherds (to strengthen, heal and feed) of the fold. There is far too much to cover in a hour, but it has been a very interesting and uplifting lesson to prepare.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gratitude Day #19


1. I am grateful for the energy I managed to have on Friday despite the fact that I got practically no sleep. I think it was primarily adrenalin but it got me through the day.

2. I am grateful for modern medicine and for doctors. On Friday morning just twenty minutes after the first wave of seven children left for school, my youngest charge fell off his little chair while coloring. He managed to fall in such a way that he whacked his forehead on the corner of the base of my banister putting a half inch gash on his head. It was one of those moments when, as a Mom, you just know that this kid is going to need stitches. I threw all three kids into the car and drove to the nearest hospital where sure enough he ended up with three stitches and glue on his head. His Mom met me there about an hour later and we stayed there with her until he was discharged. It was a long adventure and the little guy is going to be just fine.

3. I am grateful for childhood obsessions. My children (especially Calvin) are still into collecting squishy pencil toppers. They were introduced to them by the daycare kids and all of them still play with them. I actually do not mind this trend. They are small and inexpensive and are an imaginative toy. The kids have squishy wars and build lego homes for them. On Friday, after the ER visit, I came home and took four kids over to the Mall of America on a hunt for the new releases. The kids were very, very excited and spent the rest of the day playing quietly with their new finds.

4. I am grateful for one of my daycare moms who picked up her daughter and my son from half day kindergarten and fed them lunch for me as I was still at the ER.

5. I am grateful for kids who can fend for themselves once in a while. When the last child left at 6:00 on Friday night, I could literally just feel the adrenalin leave my body and all of the sudden I was completely exhausted. I was in bed by 7:00 and asleep by 8:00. The kids made themselves sandwiches and had bananas and kiwi for dinner and Max made sure they all got in bed by 9:00. He is awesome.

Gratitude Day #18


1. I am grateful for photos of our cute little nephews who we have yet to meet. The children have two new cousins out in New York and we love seeing them grow through photos on facebook. Hopefully we will get to see them in person before too long!

2. I am grateful for the fact that I can fit the van in the garage right now. Winter is much easier when you do not have to scrape off the windows every morning.

3. I am grateful for leftover cookies. I also curse those leftover cookies because I consumed too many! We did send two plates over to the neighbors on either side of the sledding hill as my kids are over there constantly!

4. I am grateful for lists. We are making Christmas gift giving lists, Thanksgiving menu lists as well as to-do lists this weekend. The holidays are coming up fast and there is much to do around here.

5. I am grateful for the conference issue of the Ensign.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gratitude Day #17


#1. I am grateful for teaching. I had a group of ten little girls over last night for a cooking class. We made two Martha Cookie recipes - vanilla and chocolate mice and lemon wreaths. I love this age group. They are young, enthusiastic and eager to learn and made great little students. We baked and sampled and had a great time. I am so glad Sophie has the wonderful group of girls in her life. By the time they left, my lack of sleep for the week caught up to me and I could only manage to read about a page of my book before crashing.

#2. I am grateful for Marsha who drove from store to store yesterday searching for black licorice laces for the mice tails. We ended up settling for red laces, but I appreciate her help in finding that last ingredient for me.

#3. I am grateful for a packet of photos from a scouting camp out this summer. Because of my job, I am unable to volunteer at many of the children's events these days. It was very fun to be able to flip through the photos and get to see Max at camp - the boys had a lot of fun! Thank you Heather.

#4. I am grateful for nothing on the calendar for this evening. I plan on going to bed early.

#5. I am grateful for change. We have some big decisions to make as a family in the next few months. I am grateful for prayer and for the listening ear of friends and family as I try and make the correct decision for our little family of four. Change is good. Scary, intimidating and a lot of work, but good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today



Gratitude Day #16


#1. I am grateful for my bed. Yesterday started at 5:15am. I ran three miles at the gym (go me!) and started work at 7:00. The last child left at 6:00pm at which time I darted out to the car and drove to my class in a mini snowstorm. Class finished at 9:00, but I had to go to the grocery store, so I finally got home at 10:00pm and still had to do the dishes, pick up the house and put away the groceries. When I am bone tired, the thought of finally sinking down into the warmth of my bed to relax and sleep sounds like the best gift ever. I love my bed - I wish we spent more time together.

#2. I am grateful for another photography class. The teacher whipped through the syllabus at 90 miles an hour but I managed to keep up - at least until the last 10 minutes or so. I need to spend some serious time with my camera this weekend. This class was much more intimidating than the last class and really helped me comprehend how little I know about photography! Also, this class reinforced my theory that photography is a really expensive hobby!

#3. I am grateful for warm soup on a cold day. I have been eating roasted red pepper and tomato soup for breakfast this week (from Trader Joe's). Last night for dinner I boiled up some chicken bones and made chicken tortellini vegetable soup. Somehow soup in winter is very comforting.

#4. I am grateful for the sister in my ward who contacted me yesterday and offered to watch the children during the day tomorrow so I could go to the temple with the RS sisters. I can't leave the daycare kids with anyone not licensed by the state, but it was a very kind thought from one of the many kind sisters in my ward. Thank you May.

#5. I am grateful for sledding. Ever since the snow fell, the kids go out sledding every morning before school and then again after school until it is too dark to see. I am grateful for the neighbors behind me that let them use their hill.

I have an extra one today. I am grateful for babies. The little guy who has been coming here since he was three months old, is now almost 18 months and he is hysterical. This morning his Mom was telling me that they have been finding mice in their house. She looked at the baby and said "What did Mama say when she saw the mouse?" He threw up his hands and screamed "aaaaaaaaagh!" So cute.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gratitude Day #15


#1. I a grateful for family night at the zoo. I took the kids to see the IMAX Bugs 3D. For $18 we received four tickets to the movie and four big dishes of Cold Stone ice cream - a pretty good deal. Sophie brought along her toy preying mantis and about hyperventilated she was so excited. She proclaimed it to be the best movie ever. It was hysterical to watch the kids reaching out trying to touch the butterflies in the air during the show. At one point this big spider came dropping down and it looked like it was going to land on my nose. Calvin took off his glasses and leaned over to say "It's OK Mom, it's on the screen; it's just on the screen".

#2. I am grateful for my dishwasher and my washer and dryer which have been running most of the day. I am grateful for the furnace which I turned on for the first time today (we have just been using the fireplace). I am grateful to have a warm home this winter season.

#3. I am grateful for our local library. The have done more remodeling in the children's section and the kids were thrilled to play in the new airplane. They wore the pilot hats and made too much noise. It was a quick trip today - return 20 or so books, check out another 30. I love the great variety and how easy it is to request books online. I have a bad habit of requesting too many and not having the time to read them all before having to bring them back.

#4. I am grateful for Trader Joe's. I love that place - have you tried the freeze dried pineapple? Addictive.

#5. I am grateful for my Mom and Dad who call and check up on me and on the kids. I love that my kids call my Dad "Grumpy Grandpa". We miss you and wish we could be there for Thanksgiving!

Thinking About Thanksgiving - Pie Recipes


First of all, you should know my $5 Sam's club flowers are still going strong. You should also know that I am really thinking about taking down the Halloween decorations today. There is an enormous black spider clinging to the house by the garage door and frankly, people in my neighborhood are already putting up Christmas lights! I usually decorate for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. Maybe this year we will start a little bit early.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have had several requests for pie recipes. So, here are some favorites and some I am thinking about making.

Chocolate Mousse Pie: This one is the kids hands down favorite.

Crust
  • 21 chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Oreos)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

Mousse
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Chocolate shavings (optional)

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Finely grind cookies in processor. Add butter and process until mixture is evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan to form thin crust. Bake crust 5 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool completely.

For Mousse:
Combine chocolate, vanilla and salt in processor. Bring 1 cup cream to boil in heavy small saucepan. With processor running, gradually pour hot cream through feed tube and process until chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Beat 2 cups cream and sugar in large bowl to stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour mousse into prepared crust. Chill until set, about 6 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.)

Beat remaining 3/4 cup cream in medium bowl to firm peaks. Transfer to pastry bag fitted with medium star tip. Pipe rosettes of cream around edge of cake. Garnish with chocolate shavings.


Peanut Butter Pie: I make this every year, and have made it with the vanilla wafer crust or with the chocolate crust printed above. I prefer the chocolate. I usually make a couple extra to give to friends. The recipe is simple and makes 2 pies.

  • 1 12-ounce box vanilla wafers, crushed in a food proccessor (3 cups crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 14-ounce condensed milk (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 2 cups heavy cream, more for garnish
  • Semisweet chocolate shavings, for garnish
Preparation

1. Heat oven to 350 °F. Place vanilla wafer crumbs in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir to combine. Divide equally into two 9-inch pie tins. Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the 2 cups heavy cream until stiff peaks. Dump out into a large bowl. Without washing the mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, and condensed milk. Mix until smooth. Add confectioner’s sugar. Using a large rubber spatula fold in the whipped cream. Pour mixture into cooled pie shells. Decorate pies as desired with more whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate shavings or chopped up Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours - I usually run out of room in the fridge so I just pop these pies onto the snow on the deck.

Coconut Cream Pie:

Crust
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract

Topping
  • 2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract

For crust:
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 4 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Process just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic. Chill 1 hour.

Roll out dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 14-inch round. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold overhang under. Crimp edges decoratively. Pierce bottom of crust all over with fork. Freeze crust 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep frozen.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line crust with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil. Bake until golden and set, about 10 minutes. Cool. (Crust can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature.)

For filling:
Whisk 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and flour in medium bowl. Bring milk and coconut to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to same saucepan; cook until pastry cream thickens and boils, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and coconut extracts. Transfer pastry cream to medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent formation of skin. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Transfer filling to crust. Cover; chill overnight.

For topping:
Toast coconut in heavy small skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Cool completely.

Using electric mixer, beat cream, sugar, and coconut extract in medium bowl until peaks form. Spread whipped cream all over top of filling. Sprinkle evenly with toasted coconut. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Serve cold.


I always make two pumpkin pies (I use the Libby's recipe on the can). I only make apple pie if we are having company for dinner as i do not care for apple pie. I've made bread puddings and cheesecakes in the past, but this year I think I will stick with pies. I would like to try this recipe, and this one and maybe this one too.

What kind of pies are you making this year?




Gratitude Day #14


#1. I am grateful for Sundays. I am grateful for my church, really good sacrament talks and a congregation of kind and loving people.

#2. I am grateful for little acts of service. The boy who normally mows our lawn cleared the snow from the bottom of our driveway Sunday morning. I am grateful for parents who raise good kids.

#3. I am grateful for new recipes. I made cookies Sunday night for some of the neighbors and tried a new recipe from Martha's Special Holiday Cookie magazine. The last few years I have been disappointed with that issue, but this year there are about 20 recipes I want to try.

#4. I am grateful for snuggly boys. It has become chilly around here - especially at night. Last night just as I was drifting off to sleep, curled up tight for warmth, I heard the padding of little feet coming down the short hall and into my room. Calvin soon climbed into bed with me and snuggled up close for the night. Much warmer. Much better.

#5. I am grateful for good books and I know I have already said this but I am reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall right now and it is excellent. Go request it from your local library - it is fascinating and funny and worth reading even if you have no intention of ever running an ultra-marathon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gratitude Day #13


#1. I am grateful for the first snow of the season. I am grateful for how it transforms the dreary end of fall brown landscape into a winter wonderland. I love looking outside to see the snow before anyone has walked in it or driven their car through the cul-de-sac. It is magical.

#2. I am grateful for little snow helpers. The kids pulled out their little snow shovels and helped me clear the driveway and the walks and my neighbor came over and pitched in help finish moving the heavy snow. All of the neighbors were out yesterday with shovels and snowblowers. I think we ended up with about 11 inches of wet, heavy snow. The kids spent several hours making their marks in the new snow - snow forts, snow angels, snow shoeing, sledding and a lot of snowballs.

#3. I am grateful for the storm which forced us to make Saturday a lazy day. The snowplows did not get to our neighborhood during the day which meant I had no desire to tackle the slick roads. Instead, we turned on the fireplace, read books, watched movies and ate soup for most of the day. I did end up braving the roads in the evening in order to get to the grocery store but as soon as I got home, I slipped back into flannel pajamas and slippers!

#4. I am grateful for wish lists. At this time of year it is so easy to reply "put it on your wish list" when the kids ask for some new thing. They pour over their wish lists, they change items, they debate, they get excited and yet they understand that wish lists are just wishes. I believe wish lists should be both practical and impractical. My sister has had a $12,000.00 grand piano on her amazon.com wish list for many years. Somehow Santa has not managed to fit it into her stocking yet.

#5. I am grateful for the guy on facebook who uploads full episodes of Glee and SYTYCD. Thanks Clarence. Sophie and I love to watch our favorite dance numbers over and over - like this one and this one too.