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Gingerbread Houses, 2014

As I get older, I become more and more about traditions. Isn’t that funny? The first part of life you spend imagining how you’ll do things when you’re in charge. And now I am in charge and I’m more and more insistent on doing things the way we’ve always done them. I’m apparently a 90 year old woman living in a 35 year old body.

Gingerbread houses are becoming a tradition that we always host. We’re running on our third year now.

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Then

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Now

What a difference a year makes, huh?

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As all good gingerbread house parties go, there was festive food.

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My classy decor involved jamming a string of Christmas lights into a vase. I know, I know, I’m a regular Sandra Lee. And yes, Miss Rae is shirtless. I have no explanation.

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And then the competition began.

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And I do mean competition. These people take their gingerbread housing seriously.

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Team Grandma/J Man and the winner of the title “Most Colorful”

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Team Papa/Miss Rae and the winner of the title “Most Delicious”

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Team Unk C/ Matty B and the winner of the title “Neatest/Cleanest Presentation” (they won this one by a landslide)

This event is fast becoming one of my very favorite Christmas traditions. With a name like Holley, are you even surprised?

Almond Swirl Cookies

Living at Grandma V’s house during Christmas brings back a flood of memories.

And while some of Grandma V’s Christmas decorations are not my taste (imagine the most elaborate Dickens village you’ve ever seen), there are some pieces that I LOVE.

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The three angels

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The wise men

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And of course, the nativity. My cherubs took their role of setting this up very seriously and if I ever sneak in and move the cows further away from baby Jesus, they somehow find their way back. I guess they’re confused about where to get their dinner from.

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And then there’s Santa. Now, I’m not as nostalgic about Santa, but it didn’t seem right to banish him to the closet along with Mr. Dickens and his decorative barbershops.

So Santa has joined us.

We actually call him Spooky Santa.

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And now you see why.

Apparently Grandma V also found Santa’s eyes slightly menacing because she put some blue paper in his eye sockets in some attempt to make him less alien like.

I guess he isn’t technically “local”.

Regardless, his eyes are kind of hypnotic. Sorta like these cookies.

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Prettier swirl cookies have been done, just not by me.

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I used the recipe on the crisco can. Classy, no? But I substituted almond extract for vanilla and then split the dough in half, mixing in two TBS cocoa powder into one half for color alone.

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Then I wrapped each disk in Saran and stuck them in the freezer because I wasn’t ready for cookies yet. (Right now Matty B is wondering, “how can you not be ready for cookies at all times?”)

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I wouldn’t actually recommend freezing the dough. It worked okay, but I think it would have been more pliable fresh, versus freshly thawed.

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Light disk on top of dark disk and roll into a burrito.

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Slice into thin rounds, baking at 350 for 16-18 minutes.

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Certainly, these would be cookies that no Santa would turn down.

Even Spooky Santa would want a taste.

She & Him, 50/52

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014

Both: on this day these poor children were forced to smile with odd creatures from all over Leavenworth, WA. It was a fun, holiday-crazed weekend and we’re exhausted.

But at least we have a picture with a really fat bear.

Five on Friday

1. Miss Rae is apparently 3 going on 13. She is insistent on either fixing her hair herself, or not at all.

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Drives me batty. However, my current solution is to bribe her with YouTube clips while I fix her hair.

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Her favorite is these animals singing the 12 Days of Christmas. Also drives me batty.

2. For whatever reason, I’m very popular in Finland.

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What?!?

3. I didn’t think this moment would come for at least five more years, but we’re already here.

J Man asked for his own cell phone. When we told him “no”, he took matters into his own hands and created this:

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Matty B took pity on him and gave him a very ancient, old school phone that does nothing but let J Man play one game called Word Attack.

He just asked me how to send a text, so I’m going to figure out how to break the bad news…

4. The kids and I made some adorable Rudolph cookies and then Unk C ruined it by laughing hysterically and comparing my innocent cookies to something inappropriate.

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I don’t want to talk about it.

5. I sent out my Christmas cards!

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Chocolates

I’ve always been an overachiever.

I’m the classic “first born child/people pleaser” and these tendencies have stayed with me from kindergarten (when I memorized not only my monologue in the Christmas play, but everyone else’s as well) to now when I’m making homemade chocolates packaged in Christmas themed mason jars for my kid’s teachers.

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“Oh,” you might say. “You’re that mom.”

Well, yes and no.

I want to be her. I really do. But I just don’t have it in me. Between Kidnastics and multiple Christmas programs and multiple gift exchanges and, oh yes, laundry, Christmas could kick my booty.

So, sometimes I fake it. I bail on some Christmas programs (sorry, Matty B). I regift. It’s true. And it’s no secret that J Man wears the same Seahawks T-shirt several days in a row.

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Also, I fake it on teacher Christmas gifts.

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Today my kidlets gifted “homemade” chocolates in jars that looked like Rudolph, complete with the tag “Thanks for making my future bright!”

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But here’s the “faking it” part.

1. I am not that creative and totally stole the idea from Pinterest.
2. Grandma V left me with more mason jars than I could possibly know what to do with.
3. My “homemade” chocolates? I melted chocolate chips, poured the melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle, filled the molds you see below, 5 minutes in the freezer, voila!

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They popped out like a charm and 1 hour later (because I had 8 jars to fill) I was done. Also, J Man is a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, apparently….

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I did three batches: white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The dark chocolate was by far the easiest to work with. Super fluid, poured really easy and set up the best.

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The only unfortunate part of me sharing the simplicity of this gift is the fact that some of the gift recipients also read this blog, so now they’re not fooled into believing that I’m an overachiever anymore.

Maybe I could still impress them with a Christmas monologue? I’ll bet I could still recite it…

Pho Sho Review

I only have one joke.

It’s not that good.

I’d like to think that I’m a witty person, but joke telling is not my thing. With an introduction like that, are you ready for the joke?

Q. What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

A. Nacho cheese!

I know, I know, it’s terrible. I honestly find this hilarious.

Today, when I was out at lunch, my joke kept running through my head.

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Pho Sho does not, actually, serve nacho cheese but the play on words (Pho Sho=for sure) kept my stream of consciousness flowing with a river of nacho cheese.

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I’ve officially lived in Walla Walla for 18 months and today was my first experience with Pho Sho, the city’s self proclaimed first Vietnamese pho restaurant.

I was lunching with colleagues and they already thought I was weird for taking a photo of the menu, so I didn’t want to further exacerbate the issue by snapping photos of the appetizers we shared but there was some awesome tempura (butternut squash and Walla Walla sweets) and some beautiful spring rolls.

One of my friends got the tofu and vegetable pho. She liked it, but I also saw her dump a bunch of soy sauce in it, so it may have been a little bland?

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My entree was the tofu noodle salad and I loved it.

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The sauce wasn’t spicy at all (perfect for me, others might prefer a little kick) and the tofu was delightfully crispy. Others at the table also loved it.

In little Walla Walla where we really lack diversity in ethnic food options, I was very happy with this restaurant.

Would I go back?

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Pho Sho!

Gingerbread Scones

There’s been so much “christmasing” going on around here that you’d never accuse us of grinchish tendencies.

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We’ve been making Christmas crafts. Ok, ok, we’ve been assembling pre-cut, pre-adhesed, foam ornaments. I only have so much energy.

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Because it takes a lot of energy to twist candy cane cookies! Ok, ok, the dough was from a tube in the refrigerated case at the grocery store. I didn’t have time to make dough because the Christmasy events we’ve been attending have kept us hopping!

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Walla Walla does the cutest holiday parade. Notice how excited Miss Rae is. As always with parades, she was very concerned that it would be too loud…

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I also made the fam go to a holiday bazaar at the Kirkman House museum. Ok, ok, the “bazaar” was lame, boasting 6 tables and we left after 10 minutes, but I had to save some time for the biggest event of the season!

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Santa! Apparently the kids looked a little tense, because the photographer instructed them to “just relax”, thus J Man’s “lounging look”.

They managed to summon some energy for ice cream.

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J Man is following in his mint-loving mama’s footsteps with his first peppermint ice cream- he loved it!

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But it takes more than peppermint ice cream to sustain all this holiday frivolity.

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I made these gingerbread scones from my favorite epicurious and they were a hit! I omitted the raisins, added maple glaze and baked them for five minutes less than called for.

You should try them if you like peppermint ice cream and Christmas parades and boring holiday bazaars.

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Oh, what fun!

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