Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Day

A few highlights.

The best stocking stuffers yet:

Unwrapping presents that have been painstakingly wrapped:

Not beer.

Check out that alignment!

No time for other gifts, must read about pokemon now:

Building your personal present pile behind you:

A brother taking true pleasure in giving a gift:

Getting the genuine Dora Backpack....complete with Map!:

Besides not allowing me to take a picture without pulling a face, seriously, he has clear eyes.

King size Kit Kats hoarded under the legs:

The first time I have truly surprised my husband:

Don't get distracted by the knife in the shoe. The point is to show that Mark can really pick a set of jammies. I LOVE them.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas Eve Day

The weird thing about Christmas Eve is that you think it's going to be so fun, but then you wake up and realize you have 12 hours to fill until it is actually "eve". We were supposed to spend the day delivering chocolate pretzels to friends, but there are still 8 bags of chocolate pretzels in the van, so that's how that worked out.

I just didn't want to go anywhere.

So, we made braided bread. My mom made braided bread every year when I was growing up. She wrapped it up in Saran wrap and then fold a square of wrapping paper around it and popped on a bow. Then we (the kids) delivered it to the neighbors. I love that memory.

So now I do it too. Some years I make bread for everyone (30 loaves last year). Other years I make just enough for family. This year I made one batch, which makes 6 loaves. Just enough for the 5 families that live here and one for our Christmas Eve dinner.

So here's the recipe:

Mom's Braided Bread

Scald 3 cups milk with 1/2 c butter (cut up). Do this over medium heat. In this instance, "scald" means to heat until the butter is melted in the milk.

Pour this into a BIG bowl and add 2 cups cold water. Let it cool until it feels lukewarm.

Add 1/2 c sugar and 2 Tbsp salt. Stir that until it dissolves.

Then add 4 Tbsp yeast and stir it with wisk.

Add 5 eggs, but just drop them into the mixture without whisking them first. Don't stir them in, just let them be while you let the yeast bubble...about 5 minutes.

Now start stirring in 13 cups flour. Just start stirring it. It will look gloppy. Don't worry.

Once you've got that in, put 1 cup of flour out on the table and empty your dough onto it. Start kneading and keep going until the flour on the table is a part of your dough. Get 1 more cup of flour and do this again. Just keep kneading until it incorporates in.

Now sprinkle a little flour in your bowl and plop your dough in and cover it with a dishtowel. You may want to scrape the sides of the bowl out a bit first. Whatever.

Let it rise until it doubles in size (1 hour). Then take off the cloth and punch it down. Cover it up again and let it rise for another 1/2 hour.

Sprinkle your table with some flour so it won't stick and smoosh your dough down a bit. Now take a big knife and divide it into loaves. You'll need 12 sections. I dip the sticky ends of each section in flour to keep them from sticking to stuff. Then put the dish cloth over the sections and wait 10 minutes.

Now you can start rolling each section into a long rope. The dough should hang together well.

Now do this:

Then you take the far right "arm and weave it under, over, under and then the far left one does the same thing in the other direction. It's not as hard as it sounds. Just try it. It is bread, after all, and even if you end up with a weird looking knot, it's going to rise and taste wonderful just the same.

So you should end up with this:

Put two loaves on each cookie sheet, preferably with a silpat underneath, or coat with a little cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. I think it's best to put a sheet of tinfoil lightly over the loaves for half of that time so they won't get too brown.

When you pull them out of the oven, brush them with a little egg wash or butter. Let them cool, wrap with saran, a square of wrapping paper, and slap on a bow.


Shepherd's Night

I steal ideas.

I'm an idea stealer.

My sister, Lara, does a "shepherd's night" in which you eat shepherd food (Shepherd's Pie, duh!), and then sleep out under the stars (Christmas tree). So naturally we do it too.

Only, this year we opted for Shepherd's Pizza Pie....bought from the store (It was a crazy day!)

I wasn't always this practical. The first year we celebrated Shepherd's night, I made homemade stew and bought expensive bread bowls from Atlanta Bread Company. I'm fairly positive the shepherds were big on bread dishes to wash! My little babies stared at them and said, "I don't like this". Dinner was a bust and I'm pretty sure they had cereal. I did my best to eat all the bread bowls in order to get my money's worth, but just couldn't put away 5 full bowls filled with stew in one sitting. Disappointing.

So now we have pizza and we watch a movie until they pass out somewhere in the vicinity of the Christmas tree. It's fun...and 100% shepherd approved (don't tell me shepherdesses never gave their kids froot loops...okay, wheat loops.)

Magnifying your calling

I promise you that, as a sunbeam teacher, it never once occurred to me to enlist Mark and get dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus to go visit each of my sunbeams. Not once.

These two show up at our doorstep on the Monday night before Christmas and my kids were absolutely jumping up and down excited.

And if love is in the details, they brought strawberry candy canes. Strawberry! Does any 4 year old like peppermint? Megan was finally convinced to try one, fully expecting it to be "spicy". Her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, "I do love candy canes, I do!"

Also, while the others were incapable of looking at the camera, please notice Mathew. He's doing his "soccer pose". (It's like 'Blue Steel' on bended knee.) Fantastic!

Lastly, Brother and Sister Edwards are rockin their calling.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have you seen this?

My father-in-law sent this link to me. I love it!

Live Nativity

For Family Home Evening we did our version of the story of Christ's birth. I say "our version" because it included 2 Marys, a very happy donkey,

And a highly dramatic shepherd/angel scene

By the time we got to the wise men, Laney was trying to beat up Megan and I had lost the reverent spirit of the narrator. It went something like this: "So then the wisemen came and gave the baby their gifts. Anybody want refreshments?"

There's always next year.

Happy Birthday!

Megan goes to a really great preschool. We love it there and they are fantastic about doing little performances throughout the year (oh, and also teaching lots of stuff).

This year Megan was chosen to be Mary for her class nativity. She relished it. When we attended two other live nativities this month she would be offended and exclaim, "I'm Mary!".

Finally her moment came and she did great!

She didn't even seem too disgusted when she had to hold Joseph's hand for a few seconds. We were proud.

But this school doesn't stop there. They now how to party.

They sang "Happy Birthday" to baby Jesus and had some cake.

And what birthday is complete without a pinata?

The highlight of the afternoon was when Laney decided she had had enough of me and adopted 3 different ladies as her new moms. She simply walked away and went to sit with someone else. I felt super special. Ah...

Twinkle Toes

I signed up Megan for a dance class with Lana Crowell and soon found out that Laney wasn't keen to sit on the sidelines. So I signed her up for round 2. Here's and little clip of them practicing for a Christmas recital. My favorite part is the very last "hmph". Perfect timing!

Oh, the shopping.

Perhaps we should call it a day?

Is it worse that I kept shopping after she fell asleep or that someone in the ward caught me taking this picture?



This is one of our more low-key advent activities. I really enjoyed it and clean-up only required a broom.

I forgot to buy the fake snow for the windows so we just taped them up and they really are great. That solid rectangle on the bottom left of the window is a sign Mathew made that says, "Snow Fakes".


Sugar Cookies

Oh, sugar cookies. What is there to say about them?

First of all. I love a good sugar cookie. They are delicious, especially when paired with cream cheese frosting.

But then there's the work. Oh! The work!

Mixing, chilling, rolling, cutting, placing, baking, cooling.

All of that just to decorate the little suckers.

But you know as well as I do that it must be done.

We live by the rule: The more sprinkles the better.

You only need one strap to open the sprinkles.

Around our house, inevitably someone ends up shirtless. And from the looks of things on the counter, pantless and shoeless.

But the good part is that when it's all said and done... you have sugar in the blood stream and
Have mercy, advent calendar!


My mom started this tradition when she sent us a gingerbread house in the mail a few years ago. You'd have to agree that we peaked that year:

I mean, really! The sheer quality and variety of the candy is superb! Never let it be said my mom doesn't send quality products.

We enjoyed it so much we thought we do it again in 2008. I naively select one at our local superstore and open it up only to find out it's already assembled! Lamo! Although I may be able to admit now that it was easy and probably as much as I could do with a baby on the hip.

This year I was sure to buy one that need some construction. And construct we did. and did. and did. The blasted thing wouldn't stay together. There was a 15 minute stretch when it magically held. So we frantically applied the provided candies (a pathetic assortment). Luckily I had some M&Ms stashed in my nightstand drawer (pure coincidence).

About 10 minutes after this photo, we found a sad pile of gingerbread and frosting in place of our little house. We all faked disappointment. Then the kids ventured, "Can we eat it?!" I sighed, "I guess so."

It was a win win. The kids quickly realized that they didn't actually like stale gingerbread and I didn't have a picked over gingerbread house cluttering up my countertop for 2 weeks.

I like it.


Each year I let the kids pick out an ornament that they like and we add it to our eclectic collection. Getting out the ornaments after Thanksgiving is so fun because each one has a memory or came from someone we love.

In an effort to bring more meaning to some of the traditions we have as a family, I thought this year we would make our ornaments.

So I cut some birds out of scrap wood I had in the garage and we busted out the scrapbook paper, bird magazines and mod podge.

In my mind this seemed like an extremely simple project. It turned out to be time consuming and messy. The kids muscled through and finished theirs up. Laney bailed and opted for eating grapes on the floor.

Can you blame her?

Progressive Dinner

Heather and Jennifer (my neighbors on either side) decided we should do a progressive dinner this year. So we started at Heather's with appetizers (my fave: summer sausage, cheese and crackers...I had to pace myself) and an ornament craft for the kids.

If you're happy and you know it, raise your cheese!

The craft was super easy which is why it was so perfect. No hot glue guns, no sewing, no painting. Even Laney made two.

Then we were on to Jennifer's house for dinner and pin the nose on Rudolph:

And may I say that Jennifer went through all the trouble of not only putting out food for 10 hyper kids, but she also made the BEST enchiladas I have ever had. I asked her for the recipe, but after she described buying and roasting your own green chilies, I think it would be easier to invite myself for dinner from time to time.

We finished up at our house with a cupcake bar and reading the Nativity.

And one more time.....


A night in bethlehem

Our ward party was AWESOME this year.

The committee requested beforehand that we come dressed in our Bethlehem finest. So naturally I dug out the Halloween box in order to retrieve our costumes from our unfortunate Elizabeth and Zechariah incident. (Lesson learned: do not dress as biblical figures for Halloween. It's irreverent.)

A few cuts and ties later and we had 5 fairly respectable outfits. I didn't have to sew anything and had a chance to use a little packing tape, so I was happy.

When we walked into the church building we were directed to the chapel where we heard a few brief words from our Bishop and some instructions. We made our way back through the overflow where we signed our names to the census and were taxed (canned goods) before we entered the city gates. Each family brought a blanket to sit on and we were given a small bag of "money" in order to purchase a meal for ourselves. The cultural hall was set up with tents (not pup, they were beautiful!) in which you could purchase a part of your meal: bread, meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese, dates, etc. There were also wells (so awesome) here and there that you could go to and ladle some water. That is where we ran into a few problems. I was flying solo that night (Mark was working toward a crazy deadline) and lets try to picture me with 4 kids on a blanket with 5 cups of water and feet going everywhere.


So it was a bit soggy, but I loved the idea of it and I know the kids had a great time. I appreciated that they put so much work and planning into a Christ centered Christmas activity.

Can we do it again next year?

I'll bring Mark and 4 sippy cups.