Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Musings

Steve's folks are back in Maine, Steve has headed back to work, and I am attempting to get back into the swing of things here on the home front. It seems that whenever I stray even the least little bit from my little daily schedule, I become very disorganized. So, I must pull myself together today! We had a great visit with Steve's mother and father, and packed a lot of fun into their visit. I'm very happy that my Camden has school vacation for another week...I'm not ready for him to go back to school yet!

Christmas was fabulous - - the boys had a wonderful day and Steve and I had a great time watching them open their gifts.

Griffin and the much-coveted "red skateboard"

Buzz & Camden (Camden is sporting his new BSU Broncos outfit from Nana & Papa, as well as his Broncos scarf, knitted by Nana)

Devens (my father-in-law) and his new salt water fishing rod

Banzer and Camden, testing out Auntie Kasey's new saddle

Christmas goodies - - mini cheesecakes, and Oreo truffles...ask Steve how many truffles he consumed. I am digging out. The tree needs to be taken down, decorations need to be packed away, the vacuum needs to be fired up...time to get busy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Well, Hello There!

Lets catch up, shall we?

The past week has been a busy one, as I am sure it has been for all of you. Here is what we've been up to over the last few days...

Sewing. I'm determined to teach myself how to sew, and here is my first completed project! My mother helped me get started on this apron while she was visiting, and I love how it turned out. I can't believe I actually did pleats all by myself. Yay!

Christmas parties. Griffin and I were invited to Camden's class party last Friday. Griffin had so much fun sitting with his big brother. Camden's classmates had fun feeding an endless supply of Smarties to Griffin.

Angel Cakes. I made this Apple Crisp Pie for a gentleman at the Veteran's Home.

Fascination. The boys continue to be obsessed with talking Story time Bear.

Snow. For the second year in a row, we are actually getting snow that doesn't melt away by noon time. It is so wonderful, and so much fun for the boys.

Sledding. That would be Grampa and Gramma Arnett having a go!
Sipping hot cocoa. The boys have been enjoying their hot cocoa with marshmallows nearly every day.
A morning walk through the snowy streets.
Donuts. From time to time, little boys need to eat donuts. With frosting. And sprinkles.

Surprises. The UPS man knocked on my front door today, and delivered a box containing ALL of this chocolate. You see, my college roommate and dear friend Kirsten works for Lindt, and sent me this lovely box of Swiss goodness. Okay...the label on the box actually said "The Arnett Family", but I am pretending it is all for me. I suppose I shouldn't be so greedy, this close to Christmas, though...
Steve's parents are here for Christmas, so we are doing lots of playing, visiting, eating, relaxing, and enjoying the season, and I hope you are doing the same! Now, I must go and do some Christmas baking. More on that, later!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Cheer

Here's a little something to try for the holidays....cranberry and orange vodka. I saw this recipe in the Martha Stewart Holiday magazine, and it couldn't be easier. Here are the ingredients:

Vodka, an orange, 1/4 cup of sugar, fresh cranberries, 2 tbsp. of water, and a glass jar

In a small skillet, heat the two tablespoons of water, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of cranberries over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, the liquid begins to turn a light pink color, and the cranberries just begin to split open. Pour the mixture into a glass jar, and then add a 2 by 1 inch piece of orange peel, and the three cups of vodka. Stir. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 3 days or up to one month. Strain before serving.

I'll be using mine to make cosmopolitans on Christmas Day...cheers!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Babble

This week sped by so quickly. Steve's been in Washington, D.C. since Tuesday, and will be home tonight, although the weather back East sounds sketchy at best. Hopefully, his flights will go as planned.

I seem to have two little boys who are each dealing with some separation anxiety, and I must admit, I'm tuckered out! Griffin is knee-deep in a typical 2-year-old deal where he wants me in his line of sight at ALL TIMES, doesn't really want anyone else to try to hold him, etc. He doesn't want to nap, doesn't want to get in bed at night, and if he does, then he gets up a zillion times while I try to remain patient and get him back to bed. Last night I was thinking to myself, "What is up with this child?" when I suddenly remembered that Camden actually did this until he was 2 1/2. He woke 1-2 times per night, every night. Steve was gone for 1.5 of those years, I was working full time, and had nobody but myself, so I just powered on through and didn't really think about it. He didn't start sleeping through the night until Steve came back from deployment. At least this just seems to be a recent development for Griffin (the not napping/fighting bedtime part), so I suppose it could be worse! As for Camden - - he is also struggling a bit. Not wanting to go to school in the morning, not wanting to leave me...very unlike him. It kills me to see him feeling like this, so I hope that we will be able to work through whatever is bothering him very soon. After some consultation with my mother, and my dear friend Lisa, I am feeling better about the situation. It is so great to be able to pick up the phone and call my mother whenever I need some mothering advice, or any other time for that matter. We talk on the phone a lot, don't we, Mum? I am her own personal phone stalker, I think.

In baking news, I've been cranking out the biscotti all week. I love biscotti because, 1) It is delicious, 2) It is so easy to make 3) It freezes really well and is so easy to pop out of the freezer when you suddenly need snacks to hand out. I made cinnamon hazelnut biscotti, which turned out perfectly. I also made orange chocolate chip pistachio biscotti, but it came out really "fat", and isn't as crunchy as it should be. Oh well, what can you do. Later today, I will be making these cookies, and I hope they come out as good as they look in the picture. I also have two huge batches of granola mixed up and ready to bake...don't you just love Christmas baking?

I'm still trying to get use to writing down every single morsel of food that enters my body. Kind of makes eating a bit of a chore, and sucks any enjoyment out of it. However, I'm determined to do what I need to do to start feeling better.

I cannot believe it is almost Christmas! I'm nearly ready...just a few more things to make, packages to mail, and stamps to buy. Steve's folks arrive next Friday, which will be nice! We've only yet had a dusting of snow, but it sounds as though we could possibly get some more over the weekend...I would love that!

Oh! I almost forgot...Steve casually mentioned on the phone earlier today that he has some upcoming travel (albeit, not set in stone...yet) to Hawaii, Florida, and Las Vegas. Stinker. Granted, he'll be working while in those locations, but STILL!

Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grammy Dunphy's Cream Puffs

My Grammy was a great cook. While she was probably most famous for her yeast rolls, she had many other recipes that were wonderful, too. This is one of my favorites. I remember using this recipe in high school, when I had to prepare a meal for my family, for Home Ec class. They are easy to prepare (as long as you don't over-beat the mixture) and will get you rave reviews. Some people fill these with vanilla pudding, or whipped cream. I think they taste best with vanilla ice cream, with a drizzle of hot chocolate sauce over the top.

Grammy Dunphy's Cream Puffs

1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour
3 eggs

Let water and butter come to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in one cup of sifted flour. Remove from heat, place mixture in a mixing bowl, and let cool. Next, add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed with an electric mixer after each addition, only until combined. Be careful not to over mix, or you may end up with pancakes instead of puffs! Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I usually get 10-12 puffs) and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

To serve, cut puff open with knife and fill with ice cream, then top with hot chocolate sauce. Yum!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Thrifty Elf on the Shelf

Have you ever heard about The Elf on the Shelf? I've wanted to buy one for the boys for the past couple of years, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend the $33.99 for the little elf and the story book, no matter how cute the idea is. Luckily, one day this past summer, I happened upon a lovely yard sale nearby, and I found this little guy, still in his original package, a-la 1970. I immediately liked him because it reminded me of an elf ornament or decoration from my childhood, but I also knew that he could be our "elf on the shelf". He cost a mere 10 cents, and you cannot beat that! After about one minute of Internet research, I was able to familiarize myself with the Elf on the Shelf story - - basically, he shows up on December 1st and takes his perch somewhere in the house (in the first photo, he's hanging out on the towel rack in the bathroom). Each night, he jets off to the North Pole to report back to Santa regarding the behavior of the children in the house. Then, he returns and finds a new perch. The boys also had to name him, and they decided to call him Fluffy the Elf .

The first two or three days, Camden spent most of his time telling me, "Mum, I know you are the one who moves Fluffy every night...I just know it." My initial response was, "No, I'm not." but I soon realized that the more I said it, the more suspicious he seemed to be. So then I simply said, "Whatever you want to believe is fine, Cam." For some reason, he hasn't said a word about it since. The boys have fun every morning, trying to locate Fluffy. We learned the other day that if Fluffy foolishly perches himself within Griffin's reach, Griffin pulls his head off (poor Fluffy!). Now, he chooses spots that are a bit higher up. Smart thinking, Fluffy.

This morning, Fluffy is high atop a frame in the boys far, he hasn't been spotted.

And that, my friends, is the story of my 10-cent Elf on the Shelf!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Nana Rolls

On Thanksgiving Day, my mother made some delicious rolls, using a recipe from the October/November issue of Taste of Home magazine. The boys (especially Camden) loved these rolls, and promptly renamed them "Nana Rolls". They devoured two batches of them, so the day after my parents had headed back to Maine, I had two little boys begging for more Nana Rolls. I decided to try preparing them in my bread machine, using the dough cycle, and they came out great! To use a bread machine, you have to cut the recipe in half (you end up with 12 rolls). I'm going to share the recipe with you here as it appeared in the magazine, which makes 24 rolls, and does not utilize a bread machine. Give this recipe a try - - you will not be disappointed. I know that I will be making these rolls for years to come.

Perfect Dinner Rolls (a.k.a., Nana Rolls)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup non-dairy powdered creamer (you can also use dry milk powder)
2 1/4 tsp. salt
6-7 cups bread flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the sugar, shortening, creamer, salt, and 5 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky). Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 24 pieces. Shape each into a roll. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans to wire racks.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Muffin Tin Monday: Christmas Stories

You've probably noticed that we haven't been participating in Muffin Tin Monday for the past few weeks...things got a little hectic and I sort of forgot! Anyway, the themes for December are lots of fun, so we are back. This week's theme is Christmas Stories/Children's Literature. I love this because I love Christmas books. The boys have a bookcase in their bedroom, but I also keep a basket in the living room, and I try to keep it stocked with seasonal books. I love the idea of a book basket, because there are always books close at hand for an impromptu story time. When I pack away seasonal decorations, I also pack away the seasonal books. It works out well because each time a new season or holiday rolls around, there are "new" books to add to our rotation.

Anyway, I digress. On to our Muffin Tin. The book I chose is Snowmen at Night, by Caralyn Buehner. This is a new book that I bought for the boys this year, and I just love it. It is a great little story about the secret lives of snowmen, and what they do at night when we are sleeping.

Snowman-shaped slice of wheat bread, coal for snowman's eyes/mouth (black beans), snowman arms (pretzel sticks), snow (mini-marshmallows), noses (carrot sticks), the ever-present Ranch dip, and "ice cold hot chocolate" (chocolate milk), just like in the story. The boys seemed to really like this one, and I had fun making it for them.

* To see more great Muffin Tins, go here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas...

It is starting to feel very Christmas-y around here! I'm so happy that we put our tree up while my parents were visiting - - that was really great. Today, I finalized my Christmas baking list, and I'm hoping I'll be able to get all of my ingredients before I am car-less for the weekend. I've also written down all of the crafts I still need to finish, so I am feeling pretty organized, I'm happy to say. I still have a few decorations to unpack, but for the most part, we are in good shape. I just love this mantle box that I found a couple of years ago. I like to fill it with greenery and some lights.

I love to get a special ornament every year...I love Christmas ornaments. When my parents were here, we saw a kiosk at the mall that had personalized ornaments. I really liked them, but they were $14.00 and I didn't really want to spend that much. On that same day, we stopped at one of my favorite craft stores, and they had the same type of ornaments, except they were only $1.98. So, I bought one and just grabbed a Sharpie and personalized it myself. Voila!
Tonight, we are taking the boys to see Sesame Street Live. Griffin hasn't napped today, and it doesn't start until 7:00 (the boys usually go to bed around 7:30), so it should be interesting. I really think he wants to give up his nap, unfortunately. Camden was just a couple of months older than Griffin is now, when he stopped napping. I had hoped Griffin wouldn't give up his nap so soon, but the fact of the matter is, he behaves much better when he doesn't nap, and he sleeps better at night. So, we shall see.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Something's Missing

Or in our case, a couple of people. My parents headed back to Maine early Wednesday morning, and we sure do miss them. I kept Camden out of school yesterday, so that he could see his Nana and Papa off at the airport. I am really glad I did, because when the poor boy ever had to say goodbye to them, he spent most of the ride back home crying his little eyes out. I don't know how many times today Camden and I said, "I miss Nana and Papa" to one another. As for Griffie - - he kept saying, "Where's my Nana?"

After my parents have been here, it always takes me a few days to come out of the funk I find myself in after they go home. I'll give myself through the weekend, and then I'll need to pull myself together! Steve is out of town next week, and I will be very busy with the boys and with the library. I'm hoping to wrap up all of my loose Christmas ends over the weekend, so that I can start shipping boxes out to the east coast. Can you believe Christmas is only 3 weeks away? Crazy.

We miss you, Nana and Papa!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I am here to tell you that I had an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and a colonoscopy this morning, and I don't remember a darn thing! This was my first experience with conscious sedation, and it was a loopy trip, if I do say so myself. In fact, I just called Steve a little while ago to tell him that I was done with my appointment and back at home, and he told me I'd already called him. Crazy! I had all of this done today, because ever since I had Griffin, I've had a lot of digestive issues, nausea, acid reflux, etc., but in the past few months it has started to get a bit out of control, where it interferes with what I am trying to accomplish on a daily basis. My doctor was able to rule out all of the really bad stuff today (cancer, ulcers, and the like) so I'm going to be treated for IBS (like you really wanted to know that). The way I'm looking at all of this is, it is high time for a lifestyle change anyway. Treatment includes switching to a low-fat diet, giving up chocolate for the most part (waaaaaa!), staying away from fried foods & processed foods, getting daily exercise, and finding better ways of dealing with stress. All of this sounds good to me...kind of like, doctor's orders to take better care of myself. This is something that I have not been good about, since becoming a mother. Now, I know that if I want to feel better, I have to make these changes. So, here's to a new (and improved) me!
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