I want to be an animal doctor… …and a clown!

If you ask Averie what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll tell you that she wants to be “an animal doctor”.  Then she’ll pause for a second, and add on “and a clown”

"Animal Doctor" Averie

“Animal Doctor” Averie in her jacket from Grandma

The best part is, it completely fits her personality.  She loves animals – completely adores them.  I know it’s fairly normal for kids to like bunnies and puppies etc, but she’s moved beyond just liking them to being completely enamored.  Forget the dolls – she’d rather play with stuffed / toy animals!

She’s also a helper and loves to make people happy.  She will be playing with a group of kids, and if one kid starts to cry for any reason she will walk away from the group to go find the source of the cries and try to talk to them to cheer them up.  Definitely full of compassion!

We were at Buffalo Wild Wings earlier in December and she spotted a stuffed puppy in the crane machine – it was one of those ‘sad’ puppies with the big droopy eyes.  She BURST into tears when I wouldn’t give her money for the game machine, at first I chalked it up to her just being upset she couldn’t play the game, which is pretty standard for 4 year olds to do.  But she kept wailing about the sad puppy and how it needed to get out of the machine so it could go home and be a happy puppy.  Talk about breaking my heart!

There was no way to get it out, it was buried, so I did the next best thing I could think of…  I told her she should pray that the sad puppy finds a nice home, and that she could ask Santa to help her if she wanted.  Of course, she didn’t forget this, and that was the FIRST thing she told santa she wanted.  Santa seemed to be a bit confused that this little girl wanted a “Sad Puppy”, but he made it through.

And with a little help from Amazon, Santa was able to get Averie her very own “Sad Puppy” for Christmas.

Averie and her "Sad Puppy"

Averie and her “Sad Puppy”

You can get your own Sad Puppy here:

Building Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas.  I mean, what’s not to love?!  There’s so much magic in the air and so much love in general.  Christmas songs are all so happy and a nice welcome break from the ‘pop’ music that’s out these days (saying that makes me feel old!)

People everywhere are celebrating, and not just celebrating Jesus (though that’s important too!).  They’re celebrating that they get to see family that they haven’t seen in ages, they’re celebrating the promise of a new year approaching, celebrating the days off of work that allow us to cozy up by the fireplace and watch festive movies armed with a cup of hot cocoa (and maybe even some peppermint schnapps).

Perhaps my most favorite thing to celebrate is traditions.  Growing up as a kids we didn’t have much in the way of traditions for holidays – at least not that I can recall.  In our early years I remember being home for Christmas morning.  Sometimes we were at Grandma’s in Sioux City too.  We did get Christmas stockings to open as well.  Sometimes we would go to church.  But we didn’t have any major traditions of our own.

The first year we celebrated Christmas with Averie I made it a mission to ensure we had our own traditions.  They’ve evolved a little over the past few years, but the basics still remain:

  • Advent Calendar Craft
  • Milk, Cookies and a Letter for Santa on Christmas Eve
  • PJ’s as a gift on Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Morning Open Stockings
  • Break for Pancakes before the rest of the gifts
  • Open Gifts
  • Dinner – Often with Friends.

Want to see how many of those traditions you can spot in our pictures from this year?  I didn’t get pictures of everything, but I can assure you that all of the above things happened.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!  What are some of your favorite traditions?

Amazing Friends – Christmas Cookies 2013

I have something I need to say before I go any further: I have some of THE MOST AMAZING FRIENDS IN THE WORLD!

Yes, that required all caps.  Yes, you might even consider that to be yelling.  But it’s true, and I don’t mind yelling the truth from the rooftops!

I had a TON of cookie orders for Christmas this year.  And on top of that, I decided that I wanted to do a market just before Christmas as well.  Needless to say, I was BUSY!  My friends came to the rescue!  It’s amazing what a little bribery of fried chicken and moscato will get you around here!  😉

Most of the time I flooded while they piped.  A couple of people worked up the bravery to pipe as well.  Others helped roll and cut cookies with Aaron, and still others just sat around and kept me company while I worked.  And they are ALL amazing.  Most of them even drove from 45 minutes or more away to help out.

Did I mention I have amazing friends??

It's amazing what you can get accomplished with a little help!

It’s amazing what you can get accomplished with a little help – this is only a handful of the cookies we worked on!

Anyway, here’s a selection of the cookies that were sold this year at the market and in gift boxes, etc. It was a crazy holiday season. There were over 1000 Christmas cookies decorated and sold!  And somehow, this was all I managed to take for pictures!

Oh.  Also, I celebrated the fact that I made these in advance quite a few times.

Royal Icing Transfers

Royal Icing Transfers

 

Never underestimate the power of friends, or royal icing transfers! 

Princess Curls for Santa

My kid hates mornings.

But she loves having her hair curled.  Enough that she’ll even wake up early in the morning to have it done.

Pretty Princess Curls

Pretty Princess Curls

The amazing thing is that her hair actually holds those curls most of the day.  I’m jealous.  She has that perfect hair that will be wavy and frizz free if you brush it and put in a light spritz of detangler.  Or it will curl and stay that way with just a little bit of spray gel and a curling iron.  OR if you let it dry naturally (and can keep her from rubbing her head on the back of the couch), she has pretty natural curls that peek their way through.   Yep.  Jealous!

These curls were for her Christmas concert.  They even stayed in well enough to go see Santa the next day at my work in the morning.  They weren’t perfect, but still pretty!

Next Day Curls

Next Day Curls

Later that same afternoon we also made the trek over to the mall to visit Santa there.  Yes, you read that correctly – two santas in one day.  Although I *love* that they have someone dress in a santa suit and give gifts to the kids, I still prefer to get a picture of her with a more ‘real’ looking Santa.

Asking for an electric toothbrush and a tablet

Looking a bit grown up here!

We managed to go early enough in the day that there was barely a line.  She waited very patiently to tell Santa that she wanted an electric toothbrush and a tablet of her own for Christmas.  That makes two years in a row of asking Santa for an electric toothbrush.  I’m sensing a trend/tradition brewing here!!

Proof That Averie Loves Mornings

This is a picture of Averie lying in bed, the rug is on the floor and Aaron and I are leaning in her doorway trying to wake her up and she is screaming “Noooooooooo” while our cats, Moxie and Shanny watch.

Averie's Drawing

Averie’s Drawing

She MIGHT not like mornings. Not sure who she gets that from……..

Sleepy Girl

Sleepy Girl

Thankful for Cookies

It’s that time of year again!  Thanksgiving always serves as my ‘slow’ transition into the heavy workload of the holiday season.  This year we’re doing a market for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it’s not exactly a ‘slow’ transition.  Just check out our freezer!

Just a little bit of dough...

Just a little bit of dough…

The more impressive part of all that dough?  I made it myself!  Usually Aaron makes all the cookie dough, but I was feeling ambitious and helpful!  That picture was taken before I was done too – there were a couple batches of mint-chip dough that were made as well!

This year I struggled a little with what to offer for thanksgiving cookies.  We still did the standard turkey and leaves sets that we’ve done prior, but I wanted to do something different.  In my random brainstorming process I started to write down the sort of things that I was thankful for.  

I wish I had taken a picture of everything I scribbled on the paper – it included the basics like family, health, friends, career, etc.

And then I wrote down ‘cookies’ in the only space that was left, near the top of the paper.  When I looked back down, I could have sworn that the phrase I had actually written on the page was “What are you thankful for cookies”

That kicked off a lightbulb in my head that result in these simple and pretty cookies:

What Are You Thankful For Cookie Set

What Are You Thankful For Cookie Set

 

Blank white leaf cookies, with a pretty plaque in the center that read “I am Thankful for”.  I included a pen for writing, packaged them up neatly in my BRP box shop boxes and tah dah!

I seriously think these are my favorite cookies to date.   I just wish I could see what EVERYONE writes on theirs!

In other news – here’s a sampling of what was packed up to go to the market.  I definitely am thankful for cookies this year, among many, many other things!

Cookies for Thanksgiving NewBo Market

Cookies for Thanksgiving NewBo Market

Gingerbread Cookie Season Has Arrived!

I think a sign of being a cookier is that you mark the beginning and end of different times of the year by what kind of cookie dough you’re spending most of your time making.

As much as I love pumpkin spice cookie dough, I’m happy to see gingerbread season arrive!

This might be a self preservation thing though – mostly because I can’t eat as much gingerbread.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s amazingly delicious, but for some reason I’m more ‘satisfied’ after just one cookie, versus the pumpkin spice cookies that I end up eating one after another….

Nom Nom Nom!

Nom Nom Nom!

If you’re looking for a great gingerbread recipe, Karen’s Cookies has an excellent gingerbread spice recipe that I would suggest trying out.  It’s not the one we use, but it’s still darn tasty!

My favorite part of gingerbread cookies?  The simplicity of the designs means I can make the dough and the cookies on the same day and even get them packaged up without sacrificing any of the ‘cuteness’!

Gingerbread Men Cookies

Gingerbread Men Cookies

Which means I’m left with extra time to clean up things like this:

Pizza Making Fail

Pizza Making Fail

Oops.  Good thing the girls are downstairs playing and haven’t realized that it’s past dinnertime….

A Unique Style, All Her Own…

This year for Halloween Averie was going to be Dorothy.

But I’m a BAD, TERRIBLE mom, and I forgot about ordering her costume.  And by the time I remembered, it was too late.  We scoured the stores and came up empty handed.

So I sent Daddy and Averie out one night to get a costume.

Averie came home with a light up witch’s dress in purple and green, hot pink fairy wings and a light pink mask.  Most of which was gigantic on her.

The ‘everything must match’ ‘control freak’ in my had an absolute MELTDOWN when they got home.  I didn’t say anything to her, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t take much for Aaron to figure out I wasn’t happy.  Her preschool Halloween party was the next day, and Averie LOVED what she had picked out.  So there was just no turning back.

Her school does have a ‘no witches’ policy, so the obvious light up witch dress (it had potions and skulls etc on it), was replaced by one of her party dresses and she was suddenly now dressed up as…

Well…

I still have no idea what she was.

What are you supposed to be?!

What are you supposed to be?!

I wanted to hide when it was trick or treat time.  Actually, I did – I had a networking meeting that I went to, so I arrived late and Aaron had already taken her around, so I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t have to walk my oddly dressed child around town and I could just raid her candy hang out with her.

But when I got there she was SO incredibly happy.  She was loving every minute of being whatever it was that she was being.  And her happiness rubbed off on me.  I hauled her off trick-or-treating to a few houses before she decided she was tired of it all and was cold.

It didn’t matter that her costume didn’t fit the standards of what I thought she should have on for Halloween.  It didn’t matter that she was different than everyone else.  It didn’t matter that she didn’t really match.  It didn’t matter that she wasn’t even dressed up as anything in particular.  What did matter was that she enjoyed herself, and got to dress up as what she wanted to be for Halloween.

Definitely was one of those lessons in letting things go, and relinquishing control.  Those darn kids sure do teach parents a lot of things!  I’m still secretly hoping next year we go for something a little more ‘normal’ though…. 🙂

Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken

I did it!  I finally found an amazing sweet and sour chicken recipe!

There are few things in this world that I love more than sweet and sour chicken.  I’ve tried a few different recipes, but they just don’t taste good.  I came to the realization last time I tried that the bottled sauces were disgusting, and maybe I just needed to suck it up and do everything completely from scratch.

So I dug around and found this recipe and jumped in head first.

Everything was incredibly simple, right up until the point where I had to fry the chicken.  I tried, mind you!  I’m not sure what it is about frying food, but I’m miserable at it.  Which is probably a good thing as it means we don’t eat much fried food around here…

Anyway, Aaron came to my rescue and fried the chicken for me, and then I put everything together.

Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

It was A-MA-ZING!  And that’s probably an understatement!

This is definitely a keeper recipe, I wish I had known before how simply it was to make sweet and sour sauce.  I could have saved myself from dozens of terrible attempts with bottled sauces!

Unfortunately, I had printed out a stack of recipes, and I didn’t mark down where they came from, so I can’t credit the original source.  If it’s you, please tell me!!

Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken
 
Author: 
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 (8 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained (juice reserved)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1¾ cups water, divided
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 drops orange food color
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2¼ cups self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, combine 1½ cups water, sugar, vinegar, reserved pineapple juice, and orange food coloring. Heat to boiling. Turn off heat. Combine ¼ cup cornstarch and ¼ cup water; slowly stir into saucepan. Continue stirring until mixture thickens.
  2. Combine flour, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, salt, white pepper, and egg. Add 1½ cups water gradually to make a thick batter. Stir to blend thoroughly. Add chicken pieces, and stir until chicken is well coated.
  3. Heat oil in skillet or wok to 360 degrees F (180 degrees C). Fry chicken pieces in hot oil 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove chicken, and drain on paper towels.
  4. When ready to serve, layer green peppers, pineapple chunks, and cooked chicken pieces on a platter. Pour hot sweet and sour sauce over top.

 

Donut Muffins

We were out of milk this morning, so I had agreed to bake something different for breakfast.  Then I got hooked on the idea of making these donut muffins and ended up sending Aaron and Averie to the store for milk anyway!

My two helpers were able to do all of the dipping/rolling.

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They were delicious – I actually think the ones that were ‘overcooked’ were better in terms of flavor and consistency.  I don’t think the whole ‘baked’ donuts worked out to be any healthier since they were doused in butter, but that wasn’t why I was baking them anyway – so that didn’t bother me!


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We doubled the batch – and clearly shouldn’t have.  We had so many leftovers that I ended up sending Aaron and Averie out the door with some for the neighbors.  We haven’t even met them all yet, so I reckon they might have thought we were slightly crazy bringing over random donut holes, but I suppose that fits, so who am I to correct them!

Donut Muffins
 
Author: 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup margarine, melted
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup margarine, melted
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 24 mini-muffin cups.
  2. Mix ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup margarine, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the baking powder and flour until just combined. Fill the prepared mini muffin cups about half full.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. While muffins are baking, place ¼ cup of melted margarine in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together ½ cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Remove muffins from their cups, dip each muffin in the melted margarine, and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Let cool and serve.