Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The gingerbread house throw down

We decided to have a little competition of the gingerbread variety.

This afternoon the competitors warily gathered, talked trash, and  gave each other the stink eye.

Team number one:  Drew and Genevieve

See the intensity in their eyes?

Team number two:  the D and Isabelle.

They actually went to the store and brought their own supply of candy.  AND had a plan worked out ahead of time.

Team number three:  Alec and Brooke.

In it to win it.

Something I should mention about this crew- they are competitive.  Understatement.

The pressure was UNBELIEVABLE, even causing some friction among team members.

Surgical gloves -  really?

The candy was flying.  I kept the icing coming and offered help when needed.  Nellie the dog ate any candy that was dropped to the floor.  She's good like that.

As the afternoon wore on, tensions and mess increased minute by minute.  Team one contested team two's trip to the grocery store to purchase additional candy.  Team three had a bit friction - one a perfectionist and one a bit of a gingerbread slacker.   Team one had a member take off his surgical gloves and throw in the towel when the going got tough.

As a certain level of frustration was reached it was time to bring out the big guns.

Construction adhesive.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Don't judge.

I give you the finished products.  Team number one and the Hannukah house.

With a menorah on the side.

And a star of David on the other side.

Team number two and cabin in the woods.

A most impressive architectural feat.  The roof and side did not even have a gingerbread base.  The sides were completely made of pretzels and royal icing and the roof was made with chocolate.

There were dormers on the side, ice cream cone trees, window boxes, and are you ready for this?

A stone pond filled with blue jello water and goldfish cracker koi.

Team number three crafted a traditional Christmas house straight from the North Pole complete with a spice drop wreath.

Can you see the tiny little strand of Christmas lights above the eves?  Unbelievable patience by Brooke adhering the light bulb sprinkles one by one.

Check out the perfect roof, grass covered snow, and icicles.  Santa would love it.

The teams made windows out of melted sugar and crushed candies.  Here is how they looked all lit up.

Team one and Hannukah house!

Team number two and cabin in the woods!

Team number three and Christmas house!

Mr. Enchanted was the official judge of this gingerbread extravaganza.  When he walked in the door from work, he was in the unfortunate  LUCKY position of declaring a winner.

And this is how he called it:  in third place

Second place

And that made our winner,

Congratulations to the gingerbread genius of the D and Isabelle.  All I can say is WOW!

The jello pond and dormer windows put them over the top.

They were very gracious and humble champions *cough*.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Playing with cream cheese and holiday wishes

I never could resist a man in a suit.

Thanks to the greatest way to waste time ever  pininterest, I had a little fun playing with my food.  First I made a small army of olive, carrot, and cream cheese penguins.

I think maybe Mr. Penguin third from the right might have gotten into my rum balls.

Since I had the cream cheese loaded into my bag and some strawberries in the fridge, I decided to do another simple cutie I found on pininterest.

I have been a bit of a slacker blogger this week (does that make me a blacker or a slogger?).  I have been baking and cooking like a crazy fool - rum balls (three of these and I would be impaired), chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, Russian teacakes, red velvet brownies, and a divine new recipe for chocolate sugar cookies that I sandwiched oreo style with white chocolate peppermint icing (drool is running down my chin just typing it).

Most importantly, though, I have been savoring the time with my family.  And with that in mind, I wanted to share a few pictures of my kidlets and my thoughts on how to have a great Christmas.  Photos are before the days of having a digital camera, so bear with the quality.

Listen to Christmas music (Teddy, the green beret, and Drew).

Smile at everyone you see (my mom and Isabelle).

Bake cookies (Drew).

Have fun every chance you get  (Alec).

Have hot chocolate before bed and sleep in the next morning (green beret, Teddy, and Drew).

Don't lie to Santa (green beret and Teddy).

Look at the world through a child's eyes (Isabelle).

Dream big for the new year (Drew and green beret).

Be grateful for the REAL gifts in your life (Alec).  I have to say, a Fisher Price magic castle IS pretty awesome, though.

                                        BELIEVE - Drew.

Realize there are angels all around you (Isabelle).

And quite possibly my favorite Christmas picture of all time - do not try to steal cookies and milk from Santa  (Teddy!).

And my Ted is far from home this year.  We are having a virtual Christmas via skype, and I would give anything to have him here with us.  Sending huge hugs and kisses all the way to Bahrain to my little cookie thief!

I am sending you all the warmest wishes for a holiday season of peace, joy, and beautiful memories for years to come!



Friday, December 16, 2011

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Dr. Seuss character we all love to hate.

Really, who could be mean to little Cindy Lou Who?

I have to say, my favorite character  was the Grinch's poor dog Max.

Someone call PETA!

I swear, I know exactly how his head feels...

Oh what a DIRTY SCOUNDREL that Grinch is - until....he finally sees the light.

"Maybe Christmas" he thought, "doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more".

                                    AND IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS,

 I would like to invite you to learn more about Be the Match.  Right now 10,000 people are in need of a bone marrow transplant, and only half recieve them.  A few years ago my nephew Nathan was diagnosed with leukemia. Despite having a large family of potential donors, none were a match.

 It was then that I became accutely aware of the need for anonymous donors.  Three years ago this month, my sweet, intelligent, and hilariously funny nephew lost his battle.  I registered as a donor in honor of Nate and all of the incredibly brave individuals who are in the fight of their lives.  To learn more about registering, visit Be the Match and see how you can help.

Here is to letting our hearts grow three sizes this Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The good, the bad, and the ugly Christmas cookies

So, I made some really ugly Christmas cookies the other day.  So ugly in fact, that I made a bunch MORE to camouflage them.  You know, pile them all up on a plate with the uggies on the bottom.

See the peach-ish cookie on the bottom? Terrible color combinations and badly executed designs - UGG, what was I thinking?  The bright red, green, white, and blue are much better.  Trust me, you don't want to see what is lurking on the bottom of the plate.

I need to learn that cookie decorating and a migraine medicated fog do not mix well.  I think I might have to spike the eggnog so that by the time the bottom of the plate is revealed, everyone will be a little pie eyed.

Sounds like a plan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Angel food cake

I have to confess that I have never been a big fan of angel food cake.  To me it tasted like slightly sweet cotton balls - not at all a good thing.  And then I had a two year stretch where all five of my kids wanted it for their birthdays - late March to mid July.  This did not help the cause.

THEN I DISCOVERED MAKING IT FROM SCRATCH.  It opened up a whole new angel food world for me.  Light.  Delicate.  HEAVENLY.  Sigh.

And by request, the angel was topped with a rich chocolate glaze.  SINFUL.  I used the Barefoot Contessa's recipe which you can find here.

I am going to be posting my baking over the holiday, but probably not doing many or any link parties.  I am having too much fun enjoying the green beret's visit as well as planning for the Philadelphian's visit.  There are Christmas concerts to go to, packages to wrap, and our favorite cookies to bake - chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, and Russian teacakes.

Happy Christmas baking everyone!

Adventures of a teenage baker

I have something really wonderful to share today.  Miss Brooke (AKA Cookie Brookie) has started her own blog.

Introducing The Adventures of a Teenage Baker.

Brooke is planning on becoming a pastry chef and is going to be fabulous!  She has been my partner in crime on numerous projects as well as a good sounding board for my ideas.

The girl wants Santa to bring her an ice blue kitchen aid mixer - need I say more?

You have to read about the cake she made for her dad's birthday.  Her large dog took a huge bite out of one of the layers, and Brooke turned the disaster in to one of her best ever cakes!

Turning lemons into lemonade - I love it!  Please stop by Brooke's new blog to say hi and take a look and read about her kitchen adventures.