Monday, December 31, 2007

Here's to a Fresh Start

Out with the old...
in with the new!
Wishing you a diet-sticking, daily exercising, Scripture-reading, closet-organizing, money-saving, family-loving, menu-planning, memory-making, good-deed-doing, new-skill-learning, gossip-avoiding, wise-time-using

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Swedish Tea Ring--a Christmas Classic

Last time, I wrote that I am officially done with Christmas. I am. So done. (Except for the cleanup which is still looming large...)

But I just had to post the following for posterity.

It is our family Christmas morning tradition and I wanted to document step-by-step as I learned from The mother-in-law.

If my husband were to choose his favorite home-cooked, nostalgic Christmas would be Swedish Tea Ring.

Don't worry...there is no tea in it. Also, I asked my friend from Sweden if she ever made it and she said the recipe was much too sweet to be officially Swedish. But we Americans can pretend. It is delicious.

Here's how to do it:

Make your favorite sweet roll dough recipe or find one online like this one.

Let rise.

Oil countertop and roll dough with an oiled rolling pin into a large rectangle.

Spread with softened butter.

Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts, raisins or chocolate chips.

Our family likes a lot of chocolate chips!

Roll the whole thing into one long delicious snake.

Position carefully into a ring shape on a greased baking tray.

Using clean scissors, make slices approximately 1 1/2 inches apart, but only about three-quarters of the way toward the center of the ring.

Take each slice and twist gently, forming a cinnamon roll wreath.


Frost with white icing and use green sugar and maraschino cherries to decorate.

Serve Christmas morning with scrambled eggs or breakfast casserole.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Lists

I feel like I have been hit by a train. The Polar Express, to be exact.
I will not even attempt to document everything that has happened during the past few days. I choose instead to make a few lists, then hop off the Christmas train and buy my ticket for 2008. Here goes...
Things that made me feel all warm & Christmas-y two days ago...
but now make me feel slightly nauseous:
  • eggnog
  • fudge
  • Celine Dion Christmas album
  • giftwrap, tags, boxes, bows
  • ham
  • children laughing, people passing
  • laundry
  • Christmas trees & decor
(Ok...the laundry and Celine always make me a little nauseous...but I liked my tree until yesterday!)

List #2
Gifts that made me smile:

  • my blogswap package from Heidiram...I LOVE cinnamon bears!
  • books
  • perfume
  • giftcards
  • household gadgets
  • The Ultimate Gift--my own laptop!!! (aka: the gabtop)

List #3
Gifts soon to be "lost"
  • remote control noisy train
  • electronic whoopie cushion (aka: the "stinky 'chine")
  • Mexican train game noisemaker
  • toy harmonicas

List #4
Wii are Family--Our Onscreen Alter-egos
  • Jakii
  • Emii
  • Sammii
  • Lukii
  • Mommii
  • Daddii

List #5
People Who Needed Christmas Naps

All women and children under age four

List #6
People Who Actually Took Christmas Naps

Santa Junior
and Santa Senior
Ho Ho Ho

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Holiday Read

I just finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan and don't even have the right words to gush. Just know that I loved it from cover to cover. It was the perfect mix of all my favorite literary ingredients: wartorn Europe, star-crossed lovers, countryside English manors, precocious children, and all the requisite twist, turns and tears. I would love to hear from others who've read this. Did it break your heart, too?

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's All Downhill Now...

....enjoy the ride!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like...

Nutcracker with Nana
Games and goodies
Football with family
Santa and snow flowers
Oh! And a big empty box...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mrs. Claus

Mrs. Claus is tired tonight. She's had a long day shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, laundering and adding those all-important final touches. Her in-laws' sleigh lands tonight, so she wants the North Pole to look just right. And the elves have not been so helpful.

While Santa gets the glory for all the big-ticket items, Mrs. C. sometimes feels picked on. Does anyone notice she has a big ole stingin' paper cut right between her thumb and index finger? Christmas card casualty. Does anyone care that all the teachers/coaches/bus drivers/neighbors have been remembered? With big jaunty bows and matching gift tags! Does anyone realize that all this Christmas magic has been generated by the Claus without the whiskers?! Ho Ho No.

This post is dedicated to all you Mrs. Claus-types out there. You, the unpaid masses, laboring in kitchens and classroom parties and dollar stores everywhere. You, who do your regular-every-day stuff and then tuck your children into bed so you can start in on the "holiday shift". You, who realize that Christmas is actually another full time job from Thanksgiving til New Year's Day. (Which, unfortunately happen to also be the shortest days of the year!) I salute you all.

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus. But there is also a Mrs. Claus. And tonight she's very tired...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Sweet Revenge

When I'm not blogging, talking on my cell phone or listening to my iPod, I like to pretend I am a pioneer mother. I used to want to be Mary or Laura Ingalls...but now, I just wanna be "Ma." Wasn't she the BEST?

That's why I love cooking things from scratch. It feels so wholesome and old-fashioned and my kids are all around and we're making a big mess and listening to Christmas carols and planning who we're going to share our goodies with.

If you are not yet going completely Christmas crazy, I recommend making something homemade and old-fashioned.

This is not the easiest caramel recipe in the world...but the results are so delicious. It is definitely a once-a-year treat! Enjoy...

Perfect Caramels
2 cups light Karo syrup
2 cups sugar
3 cups whipping cream--scalded in microwave
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 can Eagle Brand milk--scalded in microwave
1 cup chopped walnuts (I never add these)

Boil syrup and sugar until the mixture begins to change color. Stir constantly. (I usually cheat on this part...not stirring constantly, but keeping on medium low heat and checking a lot!) Add whipping cream gradually. Keep boiling rapidly. Add Eagle milk a little at a time. Boil to a medium hard ball stage or 230 degrees. (This will take about 17-25 minutes.) Add salt, nuts and vanilla before removing from heat. Pour into a shallow buttered pan. Cool and cut into 1 inch
squares, wrap in wax paper or cellophane.

In a related story, Em finally lost her bottom tooth! As you can see from the photo, her permanent tooth has been there for awhile and is probably already decayed. The tooth fairy will not be leaving her usual contribution, choosing instead to donate to the "EM-DENT Fund" which has been set up to defray the costs of future fillings, crowns and orthodontia. Please let us know if you'd like to contribute. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You Can Take the Teacher Out of the Classroom...

I used to teach elementary school. I was good at it. The kids liked me. The parents liked me. The principal liked me.

For some reason, I thought being a good teacher meant I would be a good mom. But I found out very quickly that it is much easier to control a classroom full of sixth graders than one colicky infant.

I think teaching is easier because you are only with the children 8 hours during the day, with breaks at lunch and recess. The students come with their clothes on, shoes tied, teeth brushed (sometimes) and all other basic needs met. Plus, you don't have to live with them.

I wouldn't trade being a mom for a classroom full of the best-behaved students in the world. But sometimes, I like to pretend I am still the professional educator and that my children are my willing and eager pupils.

Here is our holiday/geography project:

Thanks to all of you who have sent cards and are helping my kids find the states on the US map as well as learning the correct postal abbreviations! We have received 30 cards so far, from ten different states as well as Vietnam and Canada. Arizona is winning in the "most cards" contest...probably thanks to Nana and Papa who sent an individual card to each family member. Utah and Pennsylvania are tied for second place.

Results will be posted before the New Year. Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Life is Like a Cookie Swap

You show up with your little plate of goodies, feeling like you've brought something special...

until you see what everyone else has made. And, suddenly, your offering doesn't seem so wonderful. You wish you had something prettier or more delicious to share...

but then you wander around and everyone shares what they've brought. You offer your treats freely and sample a little of everyone else's specialties. You're glad that everybody has brought something unique to the table...

...and you leave with a lot more than you brought!

Thanks, Helena...this is one of my favorite traditions!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reindeer Bling

Oatmeal and glitter make a quick and easy Christmas Eve tradition. Mix together and sprinkle on the lawn. The sparkles help Santa find your house and the oats are a power-snack for his hardworking reindeer!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Missing Peace

So here is what I've been wondering lately...

Why am I spending so much time and money here?

Knowing that everything I buy will soon end up in here.

Why am I making and eating so many of these?

Knowing that soon they will haunt me here.

Why am I getting my kids so many of these?

When my basement already looks like this?

Why does December feel so much like this?

When it's supposed to just be about this.

Why does Christmas turn me into this?

When I just want to be like this all the time.

Today I tried to get off the holiday merry-go-round and find some of the peace I've been missing. Here is a list of the things I did that helped me feel a little better.

(Note to self: reread and repeat...often!)

To find the missing peace:

  • Clean off desk, combine all to-do lists into one master list.
  • Re-evaluate and eliminate some of the to-do's.
  • Combine and simplify the have-to-do's.
  • Exercise outside in the "sunshine" and fresh air.
  • Feed spirit and body with real nourishment.
  • Wear a red hoodie and comfortable shoes.
  • Throw at least 15 things away.
  • Eat a chocolate mint truffle.
  • Read aloud to children.
  • Talk to a loved one on the phone.
  • Write a thank you note.
  • Do a secret Santa service.
  • Complete a dreaded task while watching a Christmas movie.
  • Blog.
  • Ahhhhhhhhhhh....peace at last!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Joy to the World

Fourth grade was very good to me. In fact, I think it was the best year of my life.

Old Lady Puberty had not yet arrived with her bagful of dirty tricks. My skin was still clear, my body uncomplicated. I had a growing collection of Bonne Bell Lipsmackers, a Shaun Cassidy album, and a few fourth-grade boyfriends. (Not that we ever touched or spoke or even made eye contact, but whenever I passed them notes that said, DO YOU LIKE ME?...they always checked the "yes" box.)

Life was sweet and simple. Until one December morning when it got even better...

Remember that song we all used to sing "Joy to the world, the school burned down and all the teachers died" ? Well, back in 1979, for a few lucky Salt Lake City elementary students, fantasy became reality. Sort of.

I mean, no one died. And nothing burned. But the pipes did burst and the building did flood. AND SCHOOL WAS CANCELLED FOR THE WHOLE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS VACATION! Joy to the World!

Those of us who had been doubting the existence of Santa Claus were true believers now.

(I must confess that as I write this gleeful memory, my mother-heart now aches empathetically for the unfortunate moms of these lucky elementary students. Especially my own angel Momma. She had six kids under ten years of age, including my newborn baby brother. Only two of us were in school all day, with one half-day kindergartener. I am sure an extra school-free week was not her idea of a fun Christmas surprise.

All I can say is... Sorry Mom. I think you are a much stronger person for having endured this trial. And I just know up in heaven there is a great big Swiss chalet with your name tole-painted upon it!)

Luckily, at the time, I was a typically self-centered child and could not see anything but holly-jolly happiness in my immediate future. There were snowhills (sledding!), errands (shopping!) and Christmas goodies (eating!) as far as the eye could see.

It was a glorious Christmas miracle.

In fact, the only grey cloud in that wonderful week was missing our school choir performance on the Singing Christmas Tree at the Cottonwood Mall. As a serious musician (and shopper-in-training!), I had looked forward to this all season long. Since we were not able to practice at school, the show could not go on... least that is what my parents told me. Later Mom confessed that the show HAD indeed gone on. Without me. She just had somehow not been able to drag all her half-dozen children to the crowded mall to watch me sing "Silver Bells" in two-part harmony.

I was crushed at the time. But my wise mother offered me comfort in a way that changed the course of my life forever. She let me make my own batch of chocolate chip cookies! By myself! (To this day, whenever something bad happens, I can be found drowning my sorrows in cookie dough. Thanks, Mom!)

Even with such a great disappointment to overcome, I managed to enjoy myself snowin' and blowin' up bushels of fun. Santa came on the 25th and left a pair of real wood-soled clogs, which were the height of Salt Lake fourth-grade fashion at the time, and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

But that week off school was the best Christmas gift a nine-year-old could hope for!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Weekend Update

Kids are always adorable and very ready for Christmas!
The boys have played non-stop with the toy train St. Nicholas left at the bottom of our tree. It is so cute to see them playing that we try to ignore the very annoying robotic Christmas music, bells and whistle sound effects.

Jake and Emily started basketball this week. In a strange twist of events, Jake's coach was "escorted" off the court by police officers...exciting! Em is only one of a few girls on her team and scored several buckets. Go Squeege!

Brad and I attended three Christmas parties on Friday night. One at the home of the Stake President (church leader), one at a country club for Brad's work and one across the cul-de-sac for the annual neighborhood bash.

Needless to say, it was an evening of contrasts. One party consisted of people wearing cheery Christmas sweaters, drinking ice water and discussing Mitt Romney's speech. Another was like the Market Research Academy Awards with people wearing as little as possible and drinking heavily. And the third was somewhere in between the two extremes.

My camera battery seems to be completely I didn't get any shots of the two of us in our holiday finery. But this shot from a few years back is pretty close...

We looked a little better on Friday...but you get the general idea.

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