Friday, November 30, 2007

The Art of a Cookie Exchange

I love the idea of a cookie exchange. I love to bake and I take a lot of pride in what I bake. So when I hear about a cookie exchange, I get excited and sign up. Well, I haven't participated in a ton of these, but I always seem to have the same experience. I spend a lot of time baking cookies from an old family recipe, put them into pretty packages and then show up only to come home with many ziploc bags full of broken snickerdoodles (I'm not knocking the snickerdoodle, I just find it funny that it seems to be a very popular Christmas cookie, who knew?)
Anyway, one night my mom stumbled across a website dedicated to the art of hosting a cookie exchange. Of course, having a little German in us, we instantly went to "the rules" page. She minces no words on what kind of cookies are acceptable and what kinds are not. She also encourages you to find an upscale bakery if you your cookies are not up to snuff. Apparently, her methods work and she hosts a huge exchange every year. On the website are pictures for many of the years and I must admit is looks fun.
I have always wanted to host a cookie exchange of my own, but it always seems December slips away too quickly. So I thought I would try and host a virtual cookie exchange. I planned on posting pics and recipes of the cookies I was planning to make and I figured why not invite others to share. So if you are interested (and I really hope folks are) let me know if you would like to join me and I will "try to" create a link list.
And now for the RULES:
Post a recipe and pic of your favorite Christmas Cookie on December 12th
If there is a story or history behind the recipe, feel free to share that as well.
Don't stress and have fun (seems to be a common theme for folks this year)

Tonight we are setting up the Christmas tree. Sammie and Ben are so excited. It is also supposed to snow tonight. How great would that be?? :0)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


That is how I feel the time is going. I've sat down a couple of times to blog and there is always some emergency. I was reading the draft I started after Thanksgiving, but now that seems like ancient history. We did have a fantastic time. All 14 of us (not to mention my brother's dog Brookie) enjoyed a ton of great food and lots of good visiting. It was nice to have our friends the Zimmermans come down. Everyone had a 'buddy' so it was very fun.
I think my favorite part of the dinner, was the gravy. I feel the gravy can make or break the dinner. (One year we went to a friend's house for Thanksgiving and the gravy was sooo bad. We still shudder... Maybe I'm old fashioned or a bit of a gravy snob, but gravy is made from turkey drippings, not liquefied leeks.) Anyhoo, I roasted some veggies in the pan with the turkey and I think they really added a nice flavor. Usually a poultry gravy is kind of on the lighter side of brown. This gravy was so rich and dark you might think it was a beef gravy if you didn't know better. It was soo good. I'm definitely roasting veggies again next year. I also brined the bird. If you have never brined a bird, totally worth it. Spend the 60 seconds to fill a bucket with water and throw in a couple of cups of salt and sugar. The turkey comes out so moist. Even the leftovers were moist.
We spent most of Friday in comas on the couch. NO 4am shopping for us. We are pretty small scale Christmas folks when it comes to gifts. Ben's birthday is the 21st so we do a big birthday and then Christmas can be scaled back. I was kind of worried about a birthday so close to Christmas, but it has worked out nicely for our family.
Once the turkey was out of our systems, Joji and I took the plunge and painted our room. We have lived in the house 4 1/2 years and our room is so neglected. When I find the camera I will post the befores and afters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The quiet before the storm...

It's Tuesday night and I'm not really feeling very stressed about my hosting duties on Thursday. We will have 14 all together, although not all at the same time. Joji's mom and sister will probably get there about the time the turkey sandwiches start to make an appearance. The only thing that concerns me right now is the size of the turkey. My brother got one from work and it is 14 lbs. I consulted the butterball website and they recommended a 12 lb bird if we didn't want leftovers. I'm hoping it will be enough with a little left over. I just hate the idea of running out of food. I will most likely pick up a turkey breast tomorrow to cook along with the bird, just to make sure.
I did my big shopping today. My cart was completely full. I don't usually shop that big, but I hadn't been shopping in a while and we were out of everything! It was a good chance to clean out my fridge though. Not just toss the past date stuff, but actually wash out the drawers and shelves. (It is amazing how funky stuff can get) But now it is all clean and I won't have to worry if someone is rummaging through my fridge.
Speaking of fridges... we have a side by side. At first, I was excited to have this style, but now, not so much. I like having stuff up high, but you can't fit very much in there. I certainly couldn't defrost a turkey in there. I am so wanting the french door/freezer on the bottom kind of fridge. The only rub is that you have to decide if you want just water in the door or water and ice. If you get ice, you can have "crushed" ice (big selling point), but you loose the storage space on the inside of the door. We keep going back and forth on this. Storage or crushed ice... tough one. Hopefully, but the time we decide they will have come down in price.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And so it begins...

Well, I survived all my "have to's" of late and now the fun stuff starts. I just sent out the invites for our annual Christmas Party. It seems so early, but it is really only three weeks away. I used evite, which I don't love (I used to send actual invitations) but I do like the fact I can see who has read the invite and who has RSVP'd. I'm sure I will be compulsively checking the evite for the next 3 weeks. Oh well, it is so exciting when the "will attend" list grows.
My sister-in-law Akiko and I already have the menu. We like to cook and our guests like to eat, so it is win/win all around. Akiko makes the most amazing sushi and that of course is a major draw. I like to think my friends come to see me, but I know it is really the sushi. This year, I will be making Beef Satay. It is so good my mouth is watering just thinking about it. However, it requires Joji standing at the BBQ in the middle of December. Typically, outdoors in W. Washington is not the best place to be in December, but this year has been unseasonably mild so far. I guess this is the upside to global warming (Sorry, Al)
Last year for his birthday (late December), Ben wanted a chocolate fountain. We felt the need to do a little test run at the party. It was a big hit. I highly recommend one if you are entertaining.
So now as I wait for my rsvp's to pour in, I will begin the list of chores that I want to get done prior to the party. I usually average about 50% completion rate. That's okay. Beer goggles work on houses too, right?

Monday, November 12, 2007


Yesterday, Sammie and I had a date with Diego. If you have never been to one of the "Fill in the blank Live" shows, they are pretty good. I went to my first show with Ben (I think it was Blues Clues) with absolutely no expectations. I was truly amazed at how much "production" there was. It was very cool and Ben and all the other kids sat there mesmerized by it all. We have seen Blues Clues, Dragon Tales, Dora and now Diego. We had a great time. The show was great and the 3 little girls we were with sang, danced and growled along the whole time.

However, the best part of the day was getting to catch up with my friend Chris. We met last year in the co-op and I adore her and her two little girls. I don't usually seek out people to be my friends, but Chris is just so nice and friendly and very fun. Now that her girls are in Kindergarten our paths don't cross as often as I would like. I know I have shared many of the headaches that life in co-operative preschool has brought me, but I wouldn't stick with it if it weren't for the reward of great friends like Chris.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Easy as Pie

Today, I played "working mom". I left the house early with Joji in charge in his role of "stay at home dad". I am doing some freelance work for the local school district. It is fun to be back in the schools (especially elementary) but I was so glad that I was just visiting. I saw a lot of great teaching ideas, but they made me instantly tired because I remember all the hours I used to spend creating, prepping and implementing my own ideas. Someday I will go back, just not right now.
Not only did I work today, Joji is hosting the DND guys tonight. Dinner was super simple (meatloaf, gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls and green beans), but Joji requested pies for dessert.
I think the trick with pie is that you can't eat them right away. They need to sit and set. In fact some pies, like pumpkin are better the next day. One Thanksgiving, we had our good friends, Matt and Megan, over for a pre-kid "friends" Thanksgiving. Megan is a pie maker and she, of course, brought the pumpkin pie. We all had a slice after dinner and Megan made the comment it needed to sit a day. Joji then asked her if "sitaday" was a spice. Silly Joji. But Megan was right most pies, should sit a bit.
My plan for the DND pies was to make them last night, but I was too tired. I hit the hay early and got up very early this morning to crank out some pies so they could set up all day. Now baking at 5:30, may not be everyone's idea of fun, it really isn't mine either, but it is nice to start the day a with perfectly crimped pie crust. I got my crust recie from Megan and it is called "never fail" and it never has. It is so easy to make and use. It is very forgiving and holds up well.
If you have ever wanted to bake a pie and were intimidated by the crust, trust me and try this one. With turkey day less than 2 weeks away, it is a good time to practice.

Never Fail Pie Crust
1 1/2 C shortening (I use butter flavor crisco)
3 C flour
1 t salt
Pulse in cuisanart until size of small peas
In a small bowl mix
1 large egg well beaten
1 T vinegar
5 T ice water
Add to flour mixture and pulse until a ball forms. This is enough for one 9" 2 crust pie or 2 single crust pies.
I usually roll it between to sheets of waxpaper. Much easier to handle and much less mess :0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Busy, busy, busy. Aren't we all this time of year???
Some is fun

(Sammie and Nathan on a windy playdate at the beach)

Some is kinda fun

Another day of baking (My poor kitchen needs a deep clean)

And some, not so much

(Joji and Matt installing a new waterline at our rental house)

Never a dull moment seems to be the theme of our Novembers so far.
It is only Tuesday and the week still has to offer an 8am training meeting on Wednesday, preparing the spread (thankfully, I'm not the only one baking)for the PTA's parent day on Thursday and the DND guys coming for dinner on Friday.
I think Monday the 12th I will schedule myself a nice pedicure apt. I got a gift certificate for Mother's Day and it is time to cash that puppy in!! :0)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Simple pleasures

With today being the first day of November and the season of giving thanks, I thought I would post something I'm grateful for. I was going to post the view from my bedroom window. I feel like I'm in a tree house when I look outside, but I could not find my camera until after the sun went down (of course) So, uninspired, I started strolling around blogland. Sure enough, I found a sweet little post about the simple things we forget to appreciate. Southern Sugar had posted some everyday photos that she loved.
I decided that since I couldn't share my tree house photo, I would share one of my favorite pics of Ben and Sam. I love how Ben is all happy and Sam is still trying to decide if she is happy or sad. I have this picture all over my house. It captures their personalities perfectly and I that's what I love about them.