Saturday, December 29, 2012

Capping off 2012

The last 10 days have been eventful, with Christmas taking the spotlight of course!
Brandon had his birthday on the 20th, and we took him out for supper at his favorite restaurant where his god parents and their kids met us as well.  He had some presents to open and we all had cake.  Later next week he will have some friends over for a bit of a birthday party for him.  He had a great night.
Brandon's favorite TV show is "The Big Bang Theory"

A Big Bang Snuggie for his movie nights

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Besides the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book series, Brandon's fav reads are Goosebumps books.

Harry Potter mug and a Harry Potter cookbook

We then also said goodbye to George, as we went to Outlook on the weekend for an early Christmas and couldn't take him with us.  He went back to the north pole with Santa on Christmas Eve and won't return until next December.  He had a few more tricks up his sleeve before he left though:

The kids were pumped to see some gifts from George; however, they only contained things the kids owned.  Brandon got his iPod, Jacelyn got her doll, and Charlie got her dress shoes.  Imagine their surprise that morning!

The morning we left we awoke to a snowball mess between The Gunman and George.

Our Christmas in Outlook was alot of fun, with a scavenger hunt and other Christmas activities to keep the 5 grandkids busy indoors on such a bitterly cold weekend.  Lots of laughs, lots of good food, and the kids all got spoiled.
The kids all wanted to decorate grandpa up like a Christmas tree again like last year, so who were we to say no?

A yummy chocolate fondue treat

Then, we enjoyed Christmas morning at home before heading to Maidstone to mom's.  The kids love waking up in their own beds on Christmas morning, as do we.  And this year was a record time breaker for us: the kids never came into our room to wake us until 6:30 am!!!  We made Brandon wait in our bed with us until the girls woke up.  I think our day started at 7:30 with stockings being opened and presents followed at a more leisurely pace.  Last year the kids were up at 5:30!  Mind you we were in Outlook that year which didn't help with the sleeping in either.
The coveted X Box was the only thing Brandon asked Santa for.
An iPod for Charlie

And a Snowboard, helmet and boots for Jacelyn

Tiny bunkbeds for her Calico Critters collection.
All Chuck wanted was a double baby stroller out of the Sears catalog.  She must have circled that picture 20 times.

 Yesterday we stopped by the house and saw the basement was framed up and ready for wiring.  Brandon and Mike are standing in the bathroom area.  Our siding is in the garage as is our front door, but that goes on after the bathtub goes in.  We will have two showers, one over sized and the other one in the master is a double shower.  Feeling the crunch now and we are so ready to move in.

To the left is the huge basement bathroom that will have a double vanity, shower, and laundry room round the corner behind the stairwell.  To the right is the play area, with a storage room in the far right corner and more storage under the stairs as well.
And with that, the holidays are over.  After getting through New Year's life will be back to normal (as normal as it gets around here anyways).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Six Geese A Laying

Charlie's Christmas concert was last night, and it was so cute.  They had a lot of songs to remember, but that wasn't a problem for her as the last three weeks she has been singing while playing, in the bath, and just at random.  And I knew they were from school as I didn't teach her "Pa Rum-Pum-Pum-Pum".  She is pretty upset at being finished her activities for a while, and will miss dance and school over the break.

George has been keeping us laughing the last few days: he's been quite adventurous.

With the countdown to Christmas in full force, I'm working hard to feel a bit more cheerful and Christmassy- with over a month of being sick with colds, bronchitis, stomach bugs, ear infections and more, I'm ready to throw the towel in and hibernate until spring.  Which is soooo not me and that's why I'm so bummed out: I feel like my spirit and general good will towards men has been stolen from me.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Goings On

I'm not so sure why George has been so naughty lately: maybe due to some naughtiness happening around here the last few days.  Until Jacey got her email from Santa, who said she was on the good list but had to work hard at not sulking or whining when she is upset.  That really perked her up alot.  
We woke up to quite the mess, although Charlie thinks he was just helping us decorate.

The next night called for a soothing marshmallow soak:

This morning he was hiding in the Christmas tree, all tucked and snug in between shiny branches.  I didn't get a picture of him; I'm not sure why other than I was tired and didn't think of it! :)
We had some company last night, and I had two extra girls to keep company.  So Mike took Brandon and my mom out to shop leaving just us girls at home.  
We had mini pedicures, complete with a soothing massage, and popcorn and a movie.  The girls all wore their pj's and were tired by the end of the night.

 Then today we went to Fame Dance Studios where Jacelyn and Charlie dance and had a great time watching the Festival, Professional, and Performance groups dance for us.  It was awesome, and I'm always blown away by the talent there.  I love the air of family and belonging; it is contagious there, and you can feel the positive energy in the room.

Unfortunately her shoes were in her bag stuck in the corner where alot of parents were standing and so she didn't have the courage to get by them to get her shoes.  She danced her Jazz and Tap numbers anyway.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

This morning began the Twelve Days of Christmas.
I felt lighter in spirit due to a few things:
1. I am done my Christmas baking and have started boxing it up to give to friends as gifts.
2. We are so so busy but there is a light at the end of the tunnel: 2 weeks of Christmas holidays = sledding, snowboarding, and sleeping in.
3. Our Christmas shopping is finished, and I beat the mad rush at the tills.
4. Took hot coffee to the guys building our house to warm them up.
5. Brandon will soon be 11, and I'm looking forward to taking him to his favorite restaurant and seeing his face light up at his gifts.

Being as it has been crazy around here I haven't posted George's antics lately but remembered tonight to add some pictures.

Yesterday morning the kids were greeted with fresh pancakes a la George.  They were pretty tasty "little" things!

And this morning he was up to some naughty tricks and turned the milk green.  I guess he thought it was festive, and the kids drank it up, which surprised me!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cashew Blossoms

A few years ago Mike and I watched a cooking episode where the Chef made Dulce de leche by placing a can of condensed milk into a simmering pan of water for 4 hours.  We always wanted to try it but never did.
I bought some chocolate molds a while ago in a bargain bin, and thought I would try my hand at some real candy making this Christmas.
I usually make truffles in all flavors of chocolates, and that's about the extent of my candy making.  They taste good and everyone always asks for them, and so over the years it's just become a 'thing' that I do during the holidays.
So I had no idea really what I was getting into, but figured I could do it.
I hate tempering chocolate.  I figured out that straight away.  Obviously the tempering was worth it, as the chocolate was crisp and shiny in the way that only tempering can do.
First things first however; I had to make the dulce de leche (pronounced DOOL-se de LE-che).  I put the cans in without their labels, and had to add water once during the four hour simmering time.
The wait was worth it: after the cans came to room temperature this is what it looked like:

The creamy white condensed milk had become this amazing, caramelized toffee-in-a-can.  It tasted so yummy, and I can see how the Spanish just let it cool into a log and then cut it into bite sized candy; it was that good.  I had another plan for it however.

I prepared my chocolate mold with my tempered chocolate and a paintbrush, and set it in the fridge to harden.
Afterwards I placed some dulce de leche in the bottom of my molds and pushed a roasted salted cashew into the caramel with a toothpick then set it aside.

I simmered heavy cream with corn syrup and unsalted butter and poured it over semi-sweet chocolate.

Mmmm, ganache.  So velvety and creamy.  This I cooled for a while then whipped it for a bit before piping it on top of the dulce de leche.
Tempered chocolate completed the layers and I let them cool.  Then had to put them in the freezer to cool set some more as they would not pop out of the mold; totally aggravated me.  But they came out eventually and the casualties went to Mike and I.

This was the final product, and they were so good they deserved a high five in the kitchen and a huge compliment from Mike.
I also made up some Peanut Butter Cups with a whipped peanut center:

They were really good also, and I had to keep the kids away from those.

Bottom line:
I'm not sure if candy making is for me, but I wanted to give it a try.  It is time consuming and I just don't have the time or counter space to be hovering over tempering chocolate all day long.
I will finish what I started this year, and plan on using the rest of the dulce de leche on some kick ass Turtles tomorrow.