Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Desserts

I was pressed into service once again for two desserts and one side dish for Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinners. Usually around this time of year I have visions of very fancy desserts, often involving lots of cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and chocolate of some sort. But this year was different. I have been simplifying a lot during the Christmas season this year, meaning a few less presents for the kids, a lot less late night shopping trips, and not spending hours at looking for the most amazing and time consuming dessert recipe.

So here I present the two desserts we had this year, the Boston Cream Pie was for Christmas Eve and the Ice Cream Cake was for Christmas day.

You can find the recipe for this Boston Cream Pie here. It was a really great way to end Christmas Eve dinner.

This is my award winning (fourth place) recipe for Cookie Ice Cream Cake. Instead of vanilla and chocolate ice cream I used chocolate and peppermint. It tasted great and got lots of compliments.

I hope your Christmas desserts were delicious, too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

May Qualify Him For Uncle Of The Year

I have a brother-in-law who has many talents. He is a twice nominated Jeff actor (fifth down on the list) can do magic tricks, ride a unicycle and juggle, and he can knit, to name just a few of his many skills.

In past years we have been on the receiving end of his knitting flair. One Christmas my son received a hat, my middle daughter got a matching hat and scarf (now being utilized by my youngest daughter, who wasn't around yet at this particular Christmas), my husband (brother of the brother-in-law being presently discussed) got a scarf (and maybe a hat, not sure) and I received a beautiful scarf as well. All of these items were hand knit with love by my brother-in-law, Kevin.

Now, fast forward about four or five years. My youngest daughter requested a baby Elmo for Christmas. I wasn't sure what she meant, as I hadn't seen any in stores. Neither did Kevin. However, creative to a fault Kevin decided he would not allow my baby to go without her heart's desire, a baby Elmo.

The man knitted a diaper and baby bonnet for an Elmo he bought and gave it to Zoe. It is unbelievably cute, and obviously very unique. Zoe loves it, and so do I.

Take a look for yourself. If this doesn't qualify Kevin for Uncle of the Year, I don't know what does.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Tradition

When my first child was born back in 1999, My husband and I decided it would be neat to get him a new ornament each year to hang on the Christmas tree. When he was little, we picked out the ornament for him. As he's gotten older and two sisters have come along, we've continued this tradition with each child. Now, however, the children pick out their own ornaments each year. We take a trip to some store and everyone chooses something they like. Then on the way home we look at Christmas lights in different neighborhoods.

The plan is that when each kid is old enough and moves out on their own, they'll have their own set of ornaments to hang on their Christmas tree. Seems like a good idea, doesn't it?

Yeah, it did to us, too. But I can't help thinking that when my daughters are 17 they are going to ask us why we ever let them pick out the ornaments they did. And when my son gets engaged or married, his fiancee or wife is going to ask us how we could stand so many Star Wars/ Superhero/ train ornaments on one tree. I'm always hopeful when one of my kids pick up a pretty little nativity ornament or a traditional glass bulb. Then reality sinks in when their eyes spy a bright, glittery, enormous blue star, or a white glass cat with feathery tail, a BIG pink glass girl carrying a basket of flowers, or an ornament with R2-D2 and a jawa. I can't say no when I see that big smile look up at me with their special ornament in hand, and we come home and add one more "fancy" ornament to our tree.

It's a fun tradition, but our tree will never be the same again.

Here is our newest addition (can you guess which darling picked this one out?):

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 12 Days Of Christmas As You've Never Heard It Before

I was going to blog about some of my favorite Christmas songs, some of the all time greats that make my list of best Christmas tunes of all time. But, instead I found this, one of only two versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas that I enjoy. (The other version being the John Denver/ Muppet ode.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Visit With Santa

Today during speech class Zoe got to see Santa in the library of the Early Child Learning Center where she attends. I didn't know they were going to see Santa, but apparently Zoe was very excited about it. When I picked her up she held up two mini candy-canes and loudly exclaimed, "I saw Santa in the library and I told him I wanted a new monkey and he gave me these!"

I was excited for her. She was genuinely thrilled with her little meeting. She continued to tell me, "I never saw Santa before, but now I did."

I think it's great. Except for one thing. "Santa" has already finished all of the toy shopping for this year and there is no monkey among the loot. In fact, this is the first I have heard of a "new monkey" this whole season. I don't know if "Santa" is going to have to go back into his "toyshop" or not. I guess we'll see Christmas morning.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Cookies

This weekend was a Christmas cookie weekend. The kids and I made our annual sugar cookie cut-outs, which are always a big hit. Emma, Zoe and I cut out all the cookies with our cookie cutters while their big brother played in the snow with the neighbor boy. Their were angels, snowmen, crosses, reindeer, stockings, Santa Clauses, holly, wreaths, and probably a few other shapes as well.

We used Pillsbury sugar cookie dough sheets (two packs) to make our many cookies. They worked really nicely (although I can't find a picture to post of the packaging.) What was really nice was that it came with two dough sheets ready to be cut right from the refrigerator. After we used the sheets as they came, I took all the scraps and re-rolled them so we got lots of cookies. The packages also come with red and green frosting packs, which made for a nice variety of colors when decorating since I bought vanilla (white frosting,) too. The only problem I have with the dough sheets is that they are hard to find. None of my local grocery stores carry them except Meijer. all the other stores carry the ones with the shape picture inside it. Those are not nearly as fun as making your own shapes and decorating them yourselves, in my opinion.

But I digress. Once Ian was back indoors and all the cookies had cooled we began he frosting and decorating tasks. I frosted each cookie and passed them onto my decorators who were stocked with colored sugars, mini M&M's, cinnamon imperials (or as Zoe likes to call them, "hot reds"), and a large variety of sprinkles. The decorators took their job seriously and made sure that not one cookie came out without some form of sugar adornment.

The final results were not only creative and beautiful, but delicious as well. (We are currently rationing the sugar cookies in an effort to get them to last until Christmas.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Little Craft Princess

I have a five year old daughter. She has two passions in life, princesses and artsy craftsy stuff. If it can be cut, glued, glittered, or colored, Emma is all over it.

Here are some pictures of her hard at work doing what she does best, creating masterpieces out of the junk materials I pull out of my craft boxes.

She is working on a paper plate angel because I cut way too many for the kindergarten craft.

Adding more sparkle. A young girl can never have enough sequins and sparkles.

A little break to hug the cat.

And back to work!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

With Visions of Sugarplums . . .

Here is my youngest asleep on the family room floor this afternoon. I know it's a bit early for Christmas dreaming, but what else could make my baby have such an angelic face while sleeping?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

They Really Know How to Celebrate Christmas in Europe

Received this link from a friend and enjoyed it. Turn up the volume to make sure you don't miss anything. Germany is definitely my favorite, though Switzerland was a close second.

Christmas Craft with Kindergartners

I went into Emma's kindergarten class this afternoon to teach art. The parochial school where Ian and Emma attend does not have an art teacher on staff, so the teacher is responsible for weekly art. I volunteered to teach art once a month to the kindergartners to give Emma's teacher a break and to let myself play "teacher" for a little bit each month.

Today's project was paper plate angels. I asked them if they knew of any angels that were involved in Jesus' birth. They told me about the angel Gabriel as well as the angel who told the shepherds about Jesus' birth. (They're a smart bunch!) I told them that we would make our own angels today out of paper plates. I showed them one I had made and they were all very eager to get started.

I pre-cut all the plates because kindergartners and scissors do not usually result in precise cutting, which this project required. I passed out the plates and after writing their names on them, they got started coloring and drawing. More than one boy asked if he could make a mean face on the angel. I told them, "No, this is a Christmas angel, he or she needs to look happy." However, when the same boys asked if they could make their angel bald or with spiky hair, I told them, "Sure, it's your angel."

It's amazing the difference between kids in a class. Some kids were done drawing after about two minutes, ready to move on to the next step, while others were still coloring when it was time to do the last step.

Now, if you've never been in a class of 22 kindergartners doing an art project, you might be amazed at the noise level. Kids all over the room asking me if I liked their angel, comparing what they are doing with the kid next to them, or even across the room from them. It is controlled chaos. But, it's fun.

What really made it difficult for me today was that there were three distinct steps that I had to help with, as well as having Zoe, my three year old daughter with me. Usually she just colors or eats a snack, but today she wanted to make the angel and therefore wanted a little bit more of my attention than usual. Couple that with the taping and passing out of yarn to 22 five and six year olds makes for a slightly stressful situation. At one point, while I was taping each child's yarn onto the underside of their angel, Zoe came over with her angel and wanted me to do the same. I told her she would have to wait a little bit. She looked distressed, but didn't say anything and just held onto my leg. That's when the sweetest thing happened. Lucas, a little boy in Emma's class, told me he could wait until after Zoe had her angel taped. I'm often amazed at the sweetness of little kids. It always humbles me and makes me happy that I'm taking the time to do this every month.

After the angels were done, several of the kids helped me pick up the extra sequins that they had been gluing onto their angels to make it pretty. Another neat thing about this help is that two of the helpers were little boys who are known to be troublemakers. It made me really happy to see their generous spirit come out. It also reminded me that no matter how difficult and little self control some kids have, they still are sweet little kids who want to do the right thing and like being recognized for their good behavior. It's amazing how much a pat on the back can encourage more good behavior.

After I cleaned the tables so the students could have their snack, Zoe and I left amid a chorus of "Thank you, Mrs. McKillip" and "Goodbye, Mrs. McKillip." It was fun. I can't wait to make paper plate snowmen in January.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend Christmas Fun

The girls and I decided to make a gingerbread Christmas tree this weekend using a Wilton Cookie Cutter Kit and Betty Crocker gingerbread cookie mix.

The gingerbread cookie mix worked awesome, although I didn't have quite enough to make two of every size cookie, so I only made one of the two largest size stars. The girls helped me cut the cookies out and mix the frosting after the cookies were cooled. We made royal frosting and I applied it to all the cookies and stacked them one by one. After that Emma and Zoe added mini M&M's for ornaments and I added the yellow star and white snow frosting details.

The tree ended up a little lopsided, but we had so much fun making it that I think we might make this a yearly tradition. We are going to eat it for dessert tonight after dinner, and I know everyone is looking forward to that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Classics

One of the perks of being a parent is being around your children as they sing Christmas songs over and over again. My five year old daughter is always singing one song or another. Lately they are mostly songs from her upcoming Christmas concert that they are practicing for on a daily basis in school. But she also shares with me her versions of Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and my personal favorite, Deck the Halls.

The real perk, of course, is not in hearing their little voices all the time, but in the way they mangle the lines of songs. Emma's most recent rendition of Deck the Halls went something like this:
"Tis' the season to be jolly.
Fa La La La La La La La La.
Santa Claus is out of Holly.
Fa La La La La La La La La."

I told her it was really "Deck the halls with boughs of holly," but she wouldn't believe me! She told me she heard it, and it said, "Santa Claus is out of holly."

I may sing it that way for the rest of the season this year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snowy Day Fun

The first big snow of the season fell last night and by morning the yard was under about six inches of snow. After my kids oohed and aahed at the pretty snow, they hatched their plans for playing in the snow. My oldest was not happy that school was still in session. He stuck out his chin and defiantly told me he was going to play in the snow after school. Take that mom!

So, at around 3:00PM, Zoe and I ventured down to the basement to pull out our snow pants. I was a little worried as I pulled two pairs if snow pants and one snowsuit out of the bin they were being stored in. Ian's pair was a size 10/12. Perfect I thought. But Emma's pair (an old black set from Ian) was a 5. She currently wears a 6. Zoe's snowsuit was a size 4T. She is in 4's and 5's. I figured we could make do for today and buy new ones if need be. But, at 3:15 when Emma and Ian got home from school and tried on their snow pants, everything fit. After some snacks and a change out of their school clothes we all suited up for some fun in the snow.

It was pretty chilly outside, but of course the three of them didn't notice it at all. They just knew they were free to dig, roll around in, and throw snow any way they could. Ian brought one of his Bionicles out and played with the neighbor boys while the girls looked for ice blocks in the snow to make a big pile with.

Emma got cold first and came in for a nice hot mug of cocoa. I enticed Zoe in with the promise of hot chocolate as well, and Ian finally came in when his hands couldn't stand the cold anymore. All in all, a successful first play in the snow day.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yum! Doughnuts!

We received the Williams-Sonoma catalog (along with a dizzying array of other catalogs) in the mail yesterday. So, after the kiddos went to bed I discarded the several catalogs I was uninterested in into the recycling bin, but sat down to take a look at the Williams-Sonoma catalog. There is always a great selection of yummy foods, fun gadgets and amazing things to use in the kitchen. I came to the fun holiday baking and kids section where I happened upon what may be the most perfect gift for my family: The Mini Doughnut Maker.

The description says, "Making seven little [cake] doughnuts is as easy as pouring batter into the wells of the machine and closing the lid."

And they are then griddle baked and not fried in oil. Oh my goodness, could it really be true? I'd love to find out.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Oh Yeah!

Ohio State is officially ranked number one! It is amazing to see them go to the BCS Championship bowl on January 7. We will all be wearing our Buckeye Scarlet rooting for the Best Damn Team in the Land! (By the way, what's with the official BCS page having a picture of an LSU player there? They're number two!)

After the devastating loss to the Illini, I was just pleased that the Buck's crushed Michigan and were headed to the Rose Bowl. Now there's even more at stake and I guess I'll have to ask my sister how to make those peanut butter buckeyes she makes so well.

On a side note, I'm really genuinely pleased to see 13th ranked Illinois make the Rose Bowl. They deserve to go and I hope they beat the tar out of USC.