Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Maverick's History


Last night the familly headed to a Maverick's game, it was my first regular game of the season, and it was a good one! OK, so fine, they were playing the second worst team in the league, but these Dallas teams sure know how to crush a girl's heart with some of their game outcomes. By the half the Mav's coach had been ejected, and they were down by 29....then the second half began, and they attacked the basket. It was the biggest come back in Mav's history, and a little something to remember as we head towards play offs (that my hope at least). It was the wildest crowd I've seen at a game in a long time, we had a ton of fun watching them win!

Monday, December 29, 2008

#1 Winter Lake Lavon


And so it begins...Today I took my camera out to the lake for a spin. I wanted to play around with the macro (very fun), angles, and colors. This is my unofficial resolution, improve my camera skills. I'm not really into (unnecessary) commitment (a personal issue, I know), so let's just say over the next....hmm 365 days or so I plan to go on some purposeful, picture taking outings. Even unofficial goals need a way to measure their success, so let me throw a number out there like...50 purposeful photo outings, and then I'll feel I've put my heart into improving. Back to outing number #1. There aren't too many 'fun' colors in the winter months, but still, I had a good time. Jason took the opportunity to go fishing, and practiced his fly casting for next week's family trip up to a river in Oklahoma for Trout Fishing....for Jason, and reading, shopping and sight seeing for Mom and I. This isn't 'the best picture', but if I had to put the day in a photo, this would be it. Jason did 'knot' have a lot of success catching fish today. This isn't his string, but it did fascinate me, and I spent a lot of time trying to get all it's messyness in a picture. I later saw Jason having an encounter with this same bush as he tried to talk it out of eating his string. He lost that battle. Other losing battles for me today involved birds. I forget they can fly when I'm going after them with my lense, and landscape scenery, just nothing exciting came of those shots. I finally went back to Jason's tackle box and started pulling out his army of fishing supplies and snapping some of those critters. The one thing I do love is all the details the camera picks up, it even got some 'sap' on these 'things' I caught in a picture. I have a few others at the following link.
http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=e81bff35119fc9fb&sid=0AZMmrNw0YsmLIFg

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tamales


I did something a little different today...I cooked. To my knowledge I don't even think I used the microwave during any step of this process. More surprising, it tasted pretty good too! One of my not-so-hidden talents is the ability to mess up just about any meal. I can even mess up a salad (by storing it in a frosty area of the fridge. It gives a new meaning to iceberg lettuce). My culinary mistakes typically come due to lack of attention. My mind wanders, I talk on the phone, and all the sudden I realize the cookies are missing the baking soda, or I forgot the noodles in the 9 layer lasagne (that was an interesting experience-trying to separate the layers out enough to cram noodles between them). I found if I follow recipes from 'real people,' I get a little closer, but I have to triple check myself, I can't even begin to tell you how many times the teaspoons the recipe calls for accidently find their way into the dish as a tablespoon. Having said all that, I gave it another try because it is a skill a refuse to give up on. I found this recipe for crockpot tamales at http://www.crockpot365.blogspot.com/ I have alway wondered about the process of making tamales. I know it's considered a labor of love, and a special dish, as opposed to an everyday dish. So with a little extra time this break....I gave it a try-minus the love and the special occasion. They were pretty good. They were a little blander than I anticipated (I think it was the chicken), but they grew on me. I'd recommend it if you ever have the urge to make your own tamales. Let's pretend like they are healthy too, since they were made with chicken.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Felt Food: Gingerbread Men



I've gone a little bit nuts this holiday with craft projects. I've been working like mad on little gifts for people to give out over the next few months. I can't post about those 'gifts' because then I'd ruin them....BUT I can share this new project. I saw these little felt foods on ETSY the other day. ETSY's is an online store where individuals sell their goods, and a lot of it's really cute homemade sewn/knitted etc 'stuff.' I am IN LOVE with the felt food. Seriously, in love. Even though the Christmas season is over, I had to pop these little guys out before I 'moved on.' I'm putting them away until next fall, and then I will find a few friends to give them away to....it might be :your kiddo:, but I figure it won't ruin the surprise for the kiddos, even if it ruins the surprise for you. I bought enough to make three sets of these, but I only made one tonight b/c I had to figure it out...which takes awhile...and what I figured was that it's probably best to hand sew everything but the outline of the dough....which then took even longer. I'll work on the next two little guys later. I'm hoping to find a little 'tray' for cookie baking, and something cute to jazz it up when giving it as a gift, you will probably see it again as an improved set, but in the meantime, here they are, another 'borrowed' blog idea. I found the little rolling pin at Hobby Lobby. I think as a little girl I would have really loved rolling my 'own' dough, cutting out my own cookies, baking and decorating in my little play kitchen. I have three other 'felt' food projects I have the goodies for I plan to work on soon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

New Toy


It's true, nobody is safe now....I got a NEW camera this Christmas. This is also part of my birthday gift (6+ months early), but it's something I've wanted for a long time....in fact, it's one of my items on my 101 List. I LOVE it already. I spent most of my day chasing animals down b/c they may not sit too still, but they don't complain about having their pictures taken. This is the year I want to get serious about photography. I never feel like I can really capture the experience on film...thus, a nice camera puts me one step closer. Here is my first (of MANY) shots of the day (Muffin)....I'm sure I'll want your picture soon, so let this be your warning!

On the 1st Day of Christmas...


A Visit from Santa Sample the Candy Breakfast Opening Gifts A Drive to See Family Lunch Sample a Cookie Play with New Toys Will I Ever Want to Eat Again? Merry Christmas!! Is it too soon to begin shopping for next Christmas?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lessons in Pottery


Hmm....I did not know: pottery cracks in cold, dry temperature. This is my second attempt at this dish. The other 'tricky' thing about clay is you don't know what it will 'look' like until it's fired (at least I don't). It's all gray to me. You fire it once, then you paint....again, it's hard to know what it will look like until you have fired it again. Oh well. Jason mentioned he was looking for something to throw change into. I have him a few other gifts (thank goodness), but I decided to make a dish for his change. The art teacher let me use her supplies and kiln at work, and due to multiple problems, I had to run up this week and get a janitor to let me in and pick it up. I was pleased with the dish's texture, and I liked my cow skull, but I'm not a fan of the colors or multiple clay choices. I was going for a southwestern feel. Regardless, it's a homemade gift, and I think Jason will appreciate the effort. I have a few other homemade gifts I like better, but I made a few of some of the gifts, and some receipients have not 'received' their gift yet, so I will refrain from posting those. I don't know that I'll be pursuing clay avidly, but it's fun to experiment with different types of crafts.

A Quick Christmas Gift Topper Craft


I had a little extra chocolate left over from my mice, so when I saw this posted on the site I bought my alphabet trays from (Let's Explore), I had to try it out. I didn't have the cute sprinkles she had, and I was too lazy to find several cute ribbons to decorate them with, but I like the idea regardless. I melted chocolate and filled my 'letter trays'. Each letter represents a family member's name. I then threw a few sprinkles on top, and set them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so. They popped out pretty easily. They would make cute gift toppers.

On the 2nd Day of Christmas


I love Christmas Eve. There is still the anticipation of Christmas morning, but 'the' events have begun. We always attend a candle lighting service as a family, and this service brings me such peace. There are the great Christmas songs we sing, and the one candle light being passed throughout the attendees, symbolic of that first light and the worldwide impact He has made beginning in a manger, and then the good news that started with just a few loyal disciples. Christmas Eve is so peaceful. As a family, other small traditions include opening one gift.
(Max got his holiday ball, this is his very favorite toy, and it took months of looking at various Petsmarts to find one that currently had them in stock, it took another hour to get him to sit still long enough to take a picture.)
Everyone then comes over for sandwiches, chips and dip, very low key. We also have a great family recipe for iced sugar cookies (not shown, but definitely enjoyed this year thanks to Lois and Holly baking, icing, and sharing with us), and I served this year's project-tree cheesecakes. They were pretty good if I do say so myself.

We then pile into a car and go out and look at lights. I remember as a little girl as I listened to the Santa reports I was always worried we would not get home before Santa arrived at the house. Christmas Eve must be one of two times I willingly got into my bed before the wee hours of morning. When I was younger, I left milk and cookies, but when I got older my Mom made the suggestion that Santa might like Dr Pepper since he had so much milk at other houses. I began buying a 'special' glass bottled over the last ten years or so.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the 3rd Day of Christmas....


Today I inserted a little chocolate and cheesecake into my day! I saw this a year ago in a magazine (I can't remember which one). I bought a box of Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake from Sam's (My philosophy-if someone can make it better than you-let them, and Cheesecake Factory does a much better job at making cheesecake than I do.). I lined up the cheesecake slices on a piece of wax paper. I broke Bob's Peppermint sticks in half, used the tip of a knife to make a little hole in the side of each cheesecake slice and inserted them as trunks (I thought about pretzel rods, but thought they might get soggy in a day). I then took Smucker's Hard Shell Ice Cream Topping and poured some over each slice. It didn't completely cover the sides, so I went back with my knife and smoothed it up the sides of each cake. I then took some candy cane sprinkles (from Target) and a little loop of decorators icing for garland. I contemplated balls and a star....but then decided....sometimes less is more. Ta da, it's dessert for Christmas Eve. I have my doubts about how the hard shell will taste, but....they look cute, and that's half the purpose of making them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the 4th Day of Christmas...


I visited Christmas Past today. Today Mom and I both began our Christmas Break from work, so we spent the day together revisiting old traditions. We headed to Northpark Mall to walk around and look at the decorations. Then we drove over to Kuby's in Snyder Plaza for lunch, and we picked up our family's 'traditional' sandwich meats, which we will have on Christmas Eve. It was packed everywhere we headed today with lots of Christmas shoppers going through the stages of their 'getting ready' process as well. There is comfort in the traditions, it reminds me I'm not as far away from those past Christmas memories as I sometimes feel like I am as each year passes quicker than the last! The 'memories' of Christmas Magic bring a little more excitement to this year through these familiar outings.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On the 5th Day of Christmas...


I spent a little time in Santa's Workshop today. I began this project yesterday at my friend Terry's house. She has an impressive arsenol of wood working tools for her crafts....or as her husband says, her craps. Yesterday I was on the ground working with the scroll saw while she used her band saw (I had to use my new 'terms' here), and we carved out the pieces to this project (and more), and then I sanded down all my pieces. Today I came back for the painting and constructing. Terry found this cute 'template' for Jesus at a craft fair. I got an angel at the same time, so she is working on making herself one of my angels, and I spent the day working on constructing baby Jesus in His manger. He's finally assembled (though a little wobbley) and my goal now is to put Him next to the Christmas tree as a little reminder to self this season. I like it! When I was finished constructing I next moved on to using some scrap wood. The penmenship needs some work (it's a learning process, and thank you to Terry for the patience as I plow forward), but for 'free' pieces, I'm OK with the end product of this little piece as well. My goal this next year is more wooden projects....and more homemade gifts for everyone next year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the 6th Day of Christmas...


I hung out in a park while a cold front swept in today (60 in the morning, and it's quickly heading to 20 this evening)! Chilly weather blew in today while Mom, Aunt Lois, Holly, and I headed to Holiday in the Park at Six Flags. Lois and Holly each had a free ticket for us (such a nice treat). I've been to Holiday in the Park many times as a kid, and I have such great memories. It's my favorite time at the park. They cover the park with lights, bring in a snow hill, hot chocolate stands, fire pits, etc. This year we 'went caroling' on a train ride throughout the park, and walked around looking at decorations (each area of the park represent various culture's influence on Texas, and the holiday decorations follow suit). I got 'snowed' on twice, once by a snow machine, another time by 'paper' snow at one of their holiday musical shows. We did more looking than riding today. In the summers growing up I went on 'all' the rides compliments of an older brother's influence. As an adult (and I use that word lightly), I am more selective about my rides....and after a week of a stomach virus, the tea cups were the worst of the rides I rode today (Holly rode a few others like the Super Man Ride).

I know I sound like a travel brochure sometimes, but I LOVE where I live....and I can't imagine there is any other area that offers so many activities, light displays, and experiences during the holidays.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the 7th Day of Christmas....


I visited with Santa. I didn't sit on his lap, but I did spot him in the shops set up in Frisco's Square. We headed here last year as well to see their square lit up, and sycronized to music. It is a neat display, and on the weekends in December they have shops, trains, carriage rides, train rides, snow machines, and all sorts of games for the family.....and Santa, of course.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the 8th Day of Christmas...


I crashed a Christmas party. OK, fine...I had an invitation to swing by, but it wasn't my 'group.' Tonight I went out to light look and eat dinner with a group of gal pals. We swung by another friend's house in the area so they could see her out of this world d├ęcor, they won second place this year in her area. I was at her house for her 'big' party on Saturday... and tonight she was having a mini get together with another group, but wanted to meet my group while we were out. It was a fun girl's night out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the 9th Day of Christmas....


I drove around and looked at Christmas Lights, Christmas Lights, and more Christmas Lights! I Love Lights! I have so many great memories hunting down the best light displays in town with my family. I think this is the only time the more glitter and lights out on your house the better. Glitter should always be a good thing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the 10th Day of Christmas....


...I ate snow! I had a slippery, but ultimately safe drive to work this morning over some ice...and then when I left work there were icicles on my car, and snow was falling. I turned my head up, and opened my mouth and let some flakes fall on my tongue. I'm still living to tell about it! I thought icicles and snow was a very Christmasy activity! Now I'm off to look at some lights near the neighborhood. :O)

I rolled my window down to catch this shot of some of the flakes falling, and the remains of ice on the windows after a blast from the heater.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the 11th Day of Christmas...


Today I made a little homemade gift for some of my coworker's kids. I decided something edible might be good this holiday. This is an oldie, but a fun one. Thanks, Carrilee for telling me about these cute little guys years ago...it's been awhile since I made mice. Carrilee made these on a cheese shaped cake, and I always thought these would also be cute at a Cinderella party. This year's gift, and day 11's activity were edible mice. I thought these would be cute in a little box, and inside small stockings, but the bigger box will have to do this year:
"Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..."
*Directions: Melt semi-sweet morsels and dip cherries (with stems), press a kiss to the side, and insert two almond slivers for ears. Take a mini-m&m, or red hot and attach it with a bit of chocolate for the nose. Put a dab of icing on the kiss for eyes, and use a toothpick and more melted chocolate for the pupils.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On the 12th Day of Christmas....


I wanted to do this last year, but was busy the weekend it was offered. Old City Park in Dallas has a Candle Light Service each year. It's not what I thought it would be. They have the grounds completely covered in hurricane, glass protected candles. There has to be a thousand. You can see a few lit, but even in the ones not lit yet (we arrived before sunset), you can see where the paths will soon be lined with the lanterns.
I went to Heritage Park as a child. They have brought in homes, log cabins, old stores etc from around the area as it would have been in the 1900's and beyond. They have authentic furniture, and people with a love, and knowledge of history at each home to tell you a little bit about each one. It's a complete town. In the homes people were actually baking, sewing, etc, and wearing clothes from the time period. In this home they had decorated for Hanukah, and they were making potato treats, and apple sweets, and a gentleman was explaining the significance behind the candles, and games present in the home.

There is a church on sight, along with a doctor's office, lawyer's office, print shop, merchantile (with items for sale being made on sight), school house, lawyer's office, etc etc etc). They were also providing carriage rides in various forms of transportation around the park.

I went with Holly, her roommate from college, and my friend Maggie, and we grabbed a cold, bottled rootbeer from the saloon, and Holly got some kettle corn from a vendor making it fresh in the park.

They also had a ton of variations on what some of the houses would have been like, they had working farm houses with gardens, and animals stationed in the back.

It's Texas, so of course they had a traditional Native American teepee, and a cowboy camp.

They had potters, and blacksmith at work as well. You can custom order various objects from these guys, and it was neat to watch them work.

Caroler's strolled the grounds singing, and other singers, and dancers took the stage on "Main Street" throughout various scheduled times.

They always have set tables, and rooms that look like they are in use by a family, but my favorite part of this particular evening is seeing the decorations in the houses representing the ways people decorated for Christmas in year's past.

A Little Update Before the Festivities Begin...

So this year, I didn't want to let stress get in the way of celebrating Christmas, and so I'm planning on celebrating in some way, big...or (mostly) small leading up to Jesus' birth, and pushing anything else that comes along aside to enjoy the memories being made! I know, I know, it's all too commercialized, but it's also such a great opportunity to witness to people who love the commercial side, and wonder where it all began....my goal is to bring along the camera and capture a few of the moments. Tonight was my first evening out...I've been getting over a really nasty stomach bug that came on Friday morning....and has lingered throughout the weekend. I taught my last Saturday School for the season (yeah).....just barely, and felt much more alert for a fun Christmas party in the evening.....but was dragging most of Sunday. Despite all that, I did enjoy my first 12th day events....I even received my first gift of the season....I filled my gas tank up after tons of driving this evening, and it only cost me $26 dollars, that's a gift, and an answered prayer! ...and so the festivities begin...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Cookies

Peppermint

Peppermint Family

Angels

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Swirly Twirly Peppermint....Tornadoes?

"I passed through the seven layers of the candy cane forest, through the sea of twirly, swirly gumdrops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel."-Elf
I love the movie Elf, and anytime I see a peppermint, this quote runs through my head. This year I was really excited about baking cookies because I decided to make them in the shape of peppermints (a new idea for me)! So last night, I got carried away, and started baking cookies at 10. Even though I have about twelve projects going in my house, none of them involved cleaning, all of them involve glitter whether it's in the form of project glitter, or sugared glitter....it's all over my house. I found myself producing icing at 11 pm trying to get the right color 'red' for the cookies I was originally going to finish 'another time.' (Note to self-"Christmas Red" from Wilton looks very orange to me, no matter how much you use, I'd suggest a different color.) As I was contemplating this issue of dark orange/red, the phone rang. It was my aunt, who was calling to see if we were aware we were under a tornado watch? Oops, nope, I had the Christmas music too loud, and didn't hear the tornado SIRENS going off! I guess for us non-weather people there are 'stages of a tornado,' and just over a mile from my house an area of rain had begun the 'circling' pattern and a high risk for tornado development was underway. We all went into the bathroom. Even the cat hung out with us until the sirens went off. I had a a conversation with God that went something like, "OK, I get it, in the grand scheme of life, I'll let the red/orange go, a tornado is not necessary..." After about ten minutes, the sirens went off, I went back out, and I stopped worrying about the red and just slapped it on the cookies. Look, if my swirly twirly peppermints going flying off in a swirly twirly tornado, I want the people that find them to have a fully iced cookie, but I guess they are just going to have to be OK with orange/red! No more sirens went off, though there was another wall developing about two miles away, but eventually the stormed moved off, and my cookies got iced. And so, here are my Swirly Twirly, Christmas Tornado cookies in the making, I don't think I'll have too many tornado icing stories, so I had to share this one.
"Unwrapped" Peppermint Cookie

One of four cookie trays.

Angel Cookies (Mom was in charge of the sprinkles for these little gals, she went a little crazy.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Oh, (Another) Christmas Tree!



Friday night I headed to 'Downtown' Plano with my Mom and Kelly to Dicken's. We met up with family to watch the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The streets was closed off, and vendors and stages lined the area. The trees isn't that big, but the real point was walking around to the shops that stayed open late, and there are some new, cute shops to browse, along with some old favorites. This is my favorite area of Plano with it's brick streets, old store fronts, and the cute little park that borders the area. I think the owners have been increasing rent now that is is directly along the Rail Line and for a few years some great shops were closing, but it looks like a few new ones have taken their place. My favorite shop is still Nooks and Krannies. They also have a sweet little tea room that is open for lunch. The weekend was completely packed, rewind a little more and every one of my evenings was filled with a lot of fun activities. Someone asked me how my week was going, and I said 'busy'....I learned it's hard to use that word without people assuming you are also being negative and dreading those activities. Let me correct myself by saying my week and weekend was 'overflowing with fun.'