Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Copycat

Thanks to Nicole for this meme.

Eggnog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Does Santa wrap the presents or leave them open under the tree? Santa leaves unwrapped gifts by the stockings in the living room. The rest of the gifts are wrapped and under the tree in the dining room.

Colored lights on a tree or white? How much time do you have? I like white lights. Scott likes colored blinking lights. So began the epic battle of our newlywed years. We alternated years. We tried white blinking and colored non-blinking. For several years I wound the tree with both white and colored lights. During this time, even my mother-in-law switched to white, non-blinking lights. Then the children were old enough to vote, and they chose colored. Scott would rather they blink, and I would rather they be red, white, and green only, which is my new favorite kind, but mostly we are too tired to care. At least they don't blink.

Do you hang mistletoe? No.

When do you put your decorations up? The first day of buck season, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving. We get the tree a couple weeks later.

What is your favorite holiday dish? All of the seafood dishes on Christmas Eve.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Chaotically. Almost ALL homemade ornaments with a few fragile, not-homemade ones at the top. And a lot of these sprinkled around.

Snow. Love it or hate it? I love snow. I would rather be cold than hot. I love walking in the snow. I even like to shovel. What I hatehatehate is bundling children in and out of snow gear all. winter. long. And of course I hate snow in April.

Can you ice skate? Nope.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? Is 'cookies' too vague? What about 'all of the obscure, old-fashioned cookies the ladies in my neighborhood used to make'? You know, like these.

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Everyone holding candles and singing "Silent Night" at the Christmas Eve service.

Candy Canes. Yum or yuck? I like them with chocolate. Dipped in chocolate, stirred in cocoa, on ice cream with chocolate sauce....

Favorite Christmas Show? It's a Wonderful Life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Wellness Tree

Garden Mama (Nicole) started a Wellness Tree for Kelly, a blogger with stage-four breast cancer, a few weeks ago, and she asked her readers to consider sending an ornament to support Kelly. Nicole writes, "The Wellness Tree was planted as a seed of compassion and inspiration during this time of challenge in Kelly's life. We endeavor to share our love and support by nourishing this wellness tree by crafting ornaments and wishes of hope to sustain every moment that she experiences, moving with her in sisterhood forward into a future full of health and joy for her body and spirit as she continues on her life's path."

The ornaments quickly started pouring in, and they are beautiful: felted wool angels and crocheted gingerbread men and beeswax snowflakes and knitted garlands.

Then Garden Mama emailed me and asked me if I wanted to contribute something. And I did! I did! But I do not have mad crafting skillz. *sigh* So what did I do? Dudes, I sent in an ornament from an Oriental Trading ornament kit. Because I care enough to send the very best, and because I love the cheap gifts from China.

If you feel led to send an ornament for Kelly, too, please know that I have successfully lowered the bar for you so you shouldn't feel any crafty pressure. You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some rambling and some Kenzoil

It's that time of year again. The time where one day it's December sixth and you're happily making Santa pancakes (with dairy-free coconut whipped cream) for your children and then life speeds up and becomes a blur of concerts, plays, dinners, lunches, neighborhood parties, church events, trips to the post office, and late night baking 'ideas': "How can I make Christmas cookies with what I have in the house? Maybe if I put crushed candy canes in these chocolate chip cookies...." (I did, too. I'm serving them to 20+ children and their mothers this morning. We'll see.) And suddenly you come to and it's December 24th and you're driving home in the dark from the Christmas Eve service to look at the luminaries your neighbor decorated the street with and to watch the children sprinkle reindeer food on the sparkling snow.

In the midst of all of this chaos, we're still trying out new dairy-free products. Because our commitment to taste-testing free samples stops for no holiday! One of the latest is Kenzoil, an oil blend of olive oil, fresh basil, fresh garlic, and spices. The company says, "Kenzoil is free of the following allergens: eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat, milk, corn, potato, rice and yeast. We only produce Kenzoil in our facility and on our equipment.... Kenzoil is a fresh product. It contains fresh herbs and no preservatives. Like most produce items, it will keep longer in the refrigerator. Kenzoil is good for 4 ½ months if kept in the fridge."

We tried it as a dipping sauce for bread. It tastes like really fresh liquid basil pesto. Everyone in our family enjoyed it, even the littlest ones, who often find pesto to be too strong tasting. Scott also tried it as a baked potato topping and liked that as well. I bet mixing it with mayo would make a fantastic sandwich spread, and I'm sure it would be good on pasta, salad, etc. I can see it being a versatile addition to the fridge door.

My only issue with Kenzoil is the name. I know, I know, it's Ken's oil. But it makes me think of Pennzoil, which? Not so appetizing. Ah well.

Kenzoil can be purchased online in 5 oz. and 10 oz. sizes. I think it would make a great stocking stuffer/hostess gift/gift basket addition.

I was not given an extra bottle for a giveaway, but Grace was! So head on over for a chance to win. Contest ends on Friday, December 18.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why I love living in a small town

When your child forgets her medication case at school, her teacher drops it off at your house on her way home.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Luna Bars: Same as they ever were. Except different.

Many, many moons ago, I eliminated dairy and wheat from my diet because of digestive problems. (T!M!I!) During that time, I became very dependent on Luna bars. Until I became pregnant and very dependent on Kit Kat bars. And Sonic chili cheese tater tots. The guy in the cubicle next to me at work's wife, who was pregnant, (got that?) believed pregnant women shouldn't eat chocolate because of the caffeine. He believed it, too. I kept the Kit Kats in my top drawer and ate a piece of one whenever he wasn't at his desk. Whereas today I proudly proclaim, "I eat chocolate when I'm pregnant and lots of it."

Anywho. Luna recently released bars with a new formula that includes Vitamin D. I tried them, and... they taste exactly as I remember them. (Flavorful, topped with chocolate or white chocolate, kind of like rice crisp bars but a little... grittier.) Which is a good thing. I don't think products need to be newing and improving all the time. Usually that just means they're adding dairy, which ticks me off. (I'm looking at you, Wyler's bouillon.) And Luna bars are the only nutritional bar I've ever liked, so I'm glad they didn't mess with their formula too much.

I tried:
Caramel Nut Brownie
Nutz Over Chocolate
White Chocolate Macadamia
Lemon Zest

Of course I liked the chocolate ones best. The white chocolate was fine; I am not always a white chocolate fan, but I liked it. The lemon zest was OK, but I've always much preferred their chocolate bars to their fruit bars.

Pack of 15 Luna bars available for @ $20 on Amazon.

This review written for Go Dairy Free.

Dairy-Free Christmas Baking Book

The other night I served cookies for dessert. My husband bit into one, paused, and said, "Is this for review?"

That should give you an idea of how many new foods and products we've been trying out lately. I want to hurry up and tell you about all of them so that you can give them as gifts or add them to your own wish lists! (The cookies weren't for review, but Scott did like them.)

Several weeks ago, I shamelessly requested a review copy of Kelly Rudnicki's cookbook, and she graciously provided a copy for me to review for Go Dairy Free. If you're looking for a cookbook gift, I can't recommend Kelly's The Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book: Great Dairy-, Egg-, and Nut-Free Treats for the Whole Family highly enough. It is my favorite kind of cookbook: dairy-free (and egg- and nut-free), easy to follow with lots of great tips for food allergy parents, filled with beautiful photos of the food and her (four, soon to be five!) children, and calling for no obscure, hard to find ingredients. One photo in the book pictures the ingredients Kelly uses the most, and Scott said, "That looks like our fridge!"

The recipes are fantastic. Here's just a sampling:
Apple House Cinnamon Doughnuts
French Puff Muffins
Italian Fruited Jam Tart
Dairy-Free Classic Cheesecake
Key Lime Pie
Classic Yellow Birthday Cake
Chocolate-Soy Nut Butter Candies
Caramel Corn
Cranberry Bread
Whole-Wheat Waffles
Bakery-Style Bagels
Gingerbread Kids
No-Nut Russian Teacakes
Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies
Cutout Sugar Cookies

I'm currently obsessed with the Emerald Isle Coffee Cake, based on her mother's recipe. Mmm... cinnamon.... OK, forget it. You need to go buy a copy right nowfor all of your holiday baking. Trust me.

This review was written for Go Dairy Free.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmas around the world

When the kids were Mario and Luigi for Halloween, Scott ordered their hats on Ebay. That Ebay seller just sent him a festive email:

"Thank you for your support to us on ebay. We had a good deal experience with you in the past!

Now Christmas will come. If you have not prepared for Xmas presents, we hope you can come back and visit our ebay store again.

You know it is one good idea to get the cheap Xmas presents for Children from China.

But you know it is one long time to your country from China. So we suggest you can do one earlier plan to order Xmas items."

Oh yes, it is one good idea to get the cheap Christmas presents for children from China. I think I read that in the news.

A few weeks ago, we went to a German Christmas celebration in an old German settlement town. At the end of our evening we ran into Weihnachtsmann, (Christmas Man), the German Father Christmas. He was dressed in his traditional Father Christmas finery and spoke with a strong German accent. After greeting the little ones, he spoke to Katherine for several minutes. He taught her how to say Merry Christmas in German (Fröhliche Weihnachten!) and told her about the little girl who always helps him on Christmas Eve.
Then he said, "And how is your room?"
Katherine: *big eyes*
Father Christmas: "Have you cleaned it yet?"
Katherine: *shakes head 'no'*
Father Christmas: "Ah, yes. You know, I help Santa Claus, and he was asking about that. Shall I tell him you'll work on it?"
Katherine: *nods 'yes'*
Father Christmas: "Oh, good."

You rock, Weihnachtsmann. We'll think of you on Saint Nicholas Day.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Filled with holiday...something

I think I am almost recovered from our Thanksgiving. I can see the bottom of the laundry pile, anyway. The highlight of the day for me was getting a picture taken of our family with ALL of our children's grandparents, aunts, and uncles. *sniff*

I ran around with a very cute little girl in tow this morning while the two big kids were in school. And yes, that was me singing along to "Midnight Train to Georgia" in the store. I was just so happy not to be listening to "Same Old Lang Syne" (Shut it, Dan Fogelberg.) or "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

We made Christmas card photo prints (What score does our photo get, Swistle? It features all of us AND Mr. McFeely!), paid bills, went grocery shopping, and fixed the rear-view mirror on the van. Again. I made the mistake of buying Krazy Glue ("Bonds to glass! Plastic! Metal! Plywood! Drywall! Polyester! Skin! DO NOT USE FOR REAR-VIEW MIRRORS.") and then bought regular Super Glue, which didn't work, and ended up using the Super Glue gel we already owned. Maybe I should send someone a glue care package....

Boy, am I cheery. Here, go cry over Beck's much more appropriate Christmas post.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009