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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Gingerbread Compromise

Apparently when you wait until Christmas Eve-Eve to pick up gingerbread house kits, they are all sold out.  Just saying, in case you need to know that for future reference.  I naively thought I'd be able to grab a few while trying to pack in a bunch of Christmas activities all at once.  I was totally wrong.  In a stroke of luck though, I spotted gingerbread men kits in my peripheral vision while checking out at BJ's.  Score.  When the kids saw how big these gingerbread men were, they were pretty excited and forgot about gingerbread houses.  They had a boatload of fun creating these while I worked on Jesus' birthday cake.  The mess that was leftover was well worth their happiness.  I think :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Miracle on 34th Street

There is a particular block on a street in the city that goes all out every year with Christmas lights.  Every house decorates.  And as you'll see, they really DECORATE.  It's quite a local attraction, and people come from all over to walk through the block.  I had never been to visit, until today!  We ventured out with the kids to the city, and I'm so glad we did.  What a sight!  There were so many people, even after Christmas, but the crowd was a bit more manageable.  It was awesome to see so much creativity on one little block, and there were many local touches that made it even more special.  I could easily see this becoming a yearly destination!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas gatherings

I usually forget to pull my camera out during all of the Christmas festivities, especially because we host a lot of it.  I at least managed to snap group shots with the timer this year though.  There were a lot of laughs involved, but I think I managed to at least capture the people there :)  Christmas is my favorite holiday for many reasons, but I adore all the family time.  We spend two days together, and it's really just wonderful.  Lots of chatting, coffee, and eating.  Ohmygoodness, the food.  So. much. food.  We will have leftovers for awhile.  We are also still digging out, but I am beginning to see more of my floor.  It was a magical day for the kids, it's so fun to see Christmas through their eyes.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My favorite Christmas cookies

As I was baking today, I was thinking about how everyone likes to bake certain cookies.  There is such variety out there, I am always fascinated by the possibilities.  I tend to bake the same few types of cookies every year, and I realize that's because they're the cookies I grew up on as a child.  They feel like Christmas to me.  They remind me of all the baking my dad did when I was growing up, and they are totally my comfort food.  My dad kind of made up his own chocolate chip cookie recipe through experimentation, and I love how fluffy and soft they are, so I'm sharing below.  What are your favorite Christmas cookie recipes?

My Dad's Fluffy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixer until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels (do not beat!). Drop by scooper onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 7 1/2 - 9 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for two minutes, remove to wire racks and cool completely.

(The only change I make on this recipe is that I use Pampered Chef stones and they take longer to bake. I don't set a timer, I just watch until the top parts just barely start to get brown and then pull them out.)

Enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Visiting Washington DC

We had such a great day!  We took the kids to DC today to finish up our astronomy studies with a visit to the National Air & Space Museum.  We ALL had a blast.  I have such fond memories of the museum as a child, and today's experience was just as fantastic.  We hit the planetarium for a look into the planets and stars; and walked through all of the other exhibits as well.  I loved the Apollo exhibit, especially after just studying about the trips to the moon.  We ate a picnic lunch on the mall and then relaxed and hung out for awhile, soaking in the amazing 70 degree weather on the first day of winter.  We then took a long-ish walk to Chinatown which, unfortunately, was a bit lacking.  But at least we know for the future!  We ended the day with a funny self-family portrait in front of a very large mirror, and then headed home.  Everyone was exhausted, but I know this day will be talked about for years!  Such  terrific memories were made!