Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas morning breakfast


I have usually made granola for our Christmas morning breakfast in the past because it's easy to make ahead of time, and we don't have it often, so it seems special.  But this year I found another make-ahead recipe I wanted to try.  It's Baked French Toast, from the King Arthur Flour blog (GREAT baking blog, by the way; I love it) and you can find the recipe here.

I made it with my own wheat bread and it was delicious!!  I put it together the night before (it only takes 10 min. to prepare or so.)  Then I put it in the oven when we came downstairs on Christmas morning and it was ready when we were done looking at our stockings.  We also baked the bacon (Beth taught me that you can do that, but I usually forget to try it---it's a great method though) and everyone declared that we'd found our new Christmas morning breakfast tradition. 

Would you like to try it for New Year's?  Here is the recipe with my suggestions:

Glaze---this is 1 1/2 times what they suggest; I found there wasn't enough syrup the first time I made it (my bread soaked up more, perhaps?)

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add sugar and honey and cook it for a few minutes, till it boils and the sugar dissolves.  Pour it into a 9x13 glass pan so it coats the bottom.

Lay slices of bread on top to cover the syrup.  (About 9 pieces of bread, or 6 if they're big)

Custard:
Then whisk together until smooth:
1 1/2 c. whipping cream, half-and-half, or milk (I did 1/2 c. cream, 1 c. milk)
5 eggs
1 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt

Pour this custard over the pieces of bread, making sure everything is well-coated.  Cover the whole pan with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.  The bread will soak up the custard as it sits.

In the morning, mix this Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (they say 1/4 t. of each, but I always double my spices in something like this)

Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and sprinkle the topping evenly over the bread.  Then bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes.  (If desired, put the bacon in for the last 30 minutes or so.)

When you serve it, drizzle some of the extra syrup from the pan on top (you can also flip the pieces upside-down so the syrup side is up).  It is also good re-heated the next day (right, Sam?) if you have any left over---which you won't unless one of your ravenous children is not feeling quite as ravenous as usual :)

Christmas Eve


The boys love candles


Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days (nights?) of the whole year---we have our butterscotch roll party in the morning and then in the evening we have dinner by candlelight and Elf Olympics and various other festivities.  The last few years we've made a greater effort to have everything ready/wrapped early, which allows us to relax and have fun on the 24th.  This year we watched last year's Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert on KBYU, and it was excellent---we all loved it---so I think that may become part of our tradition too.




Elves.  (Malachi was doing this toothy thing all night---not sure why)


One of the contests is Lego-building.  Here we have my Segway scooter---with peepholes for younger riders.


Seb explains his creation (very elaborate)

The Sock Game (with animals---renamed "Load Santa's Sleigh").  Great hilarity always ensues during this game.  Seb's scary red eyes edited out, to become scary black eyes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sometimes I

yell "Stop that!" to Sebby in the other room, even though I don't know what he's doing.

And usually, I'm right.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not that the nature of the thing has changed

So, you know how supposedly as you become more familiar with something you tend to like it more?  Like that saying---first we dislike, then tolerate, then embrace (or whatever it is---sorry for the bastardization)?  Well, I guess that's really true.

Because there's this kid who sits in front of us every year at the BYU basketball games.  And apparently we are really, really fascinating to him because he always turns around and STARES at us, wearing this vacant, slack-jawed expression.  Usually I meet his eyes right on, or wiggle my eyebrows at him, which freaks him out so he turns back around, for a few minutes anyway.  But this has been going on for YEARS now, and at first he was just a tiny kid, so you figure, kids are just like that, but then as he got older it got kind of annoying and I kept wondering what was wrong with the kid, quit staring, sheesh!  I mean, Sam and I cheer and sing the fight song and yell at the refs, but really we are not THAT loud or surprising so I don't know what the open-mouthed captivation is all about.  It bothered me and for awhile I took to giving him stern and forbidding looks every time I met his eyes.

Anyway, now he's this hulking preteen, and it was so weird, because he came to a game for the first time a few nights ago, and when he sat down I felt this surge of almost paternal affection for the kid.  (I say paternal, not maternal, because it was kind of detached---a pat on the head rather than a hug.)  Like, "Oh, look at our little guy, getting so big and independent!  I can remember when he was just a rosy-cheeked young pup holding his mom's hand, and now look at him going out to get his own popcorn!"  When he turned around and looked at me (he's getting slightly less obvious about it, too) I felt so proud and proprietary, I'm pretty sure I actually beamed at him.  (Which still freaked him out and made him turn back around, I might add.)  How odd!  I suppose all those hours of exposure* to the little dear finally wore me down. 

(*Note to self: do not watch any more Elijah Wood movies!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lights and hot chocolate

Do you celebrate the anniversary of the day you got engaged?  Tell your husband that you ought to.  We don't do anything elaborate, but it's another excuse to do something fun and tell your kids the story of how it all happened, which we all like a lot. 

Last week we bundled up and rode Trax up to see the lights on Temple Square.  It was freeeeeezing!  7 degrees.
This little bundle was the warmest of all, zipped into Daddy's coat
Luckily I had taken the precaution of telling the boys several times earlier in the day, "You will be cold!  You will be really, really cold, and you'll want to complain about it, but it won't help, because I will not feel bad for you, and I'll tell you there's nothing I can do about it, because there won't be, and then afterwards we will warm up with hot chocolate."

So the complaining was minimal.  Also, we were wearing double socks (for some reason the boys thought that was really hiliarious).
The lights were gorgeous.  I had heard they'd scaled back the number of Christmas lights on Temple Square, and they had, but it was still so beautiful.  Daisy (the warm one) just looked around happy and bright-eyed the whole time.  The boys liked the fountains (still running) and the lights floating on the pond.

Afterwards we went to our favorite chocolate place.  Oh, it is SO good.  Hatch's Family Chocolates---it's in the Avenues---a little family-run chocolate shop that sells THE BEST hot chocolate you will ever have.  It tastes like pure melted chocolate (which it basically is)---like what I always imagined the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would taste like.  [Remember when Willy Wonka dips out a cupful of that chocolate and gives it to Charlie?  That always sounded so good to me.]  If you are ever in Salt Lake, and are cold, you must go try it.  The address is 390 E. 4th Ave.

Their chocolates are really delicious too.  These pictured are peanut-butter-filled dark chocolates with sea salt on top---they're amazing.  And Hatch's also has ice cream for sale---if we ever make it there in the summer I'm going to have their hot fudge sundae, which I've heard is great.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't forget . . .

to come have yourself glamourized at our party tomorrow!
We can't wait to see you (come hell or high water).  And if you didn't RSVP . . . come anyway!
See you then.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My new favorite pie crust


I like making pies and pie crust.  My mom taught me how to make a good crust when I was pretty young, so I'm not scared of it or anything, but I don't think I've ever mastered it quite as well as she has.  In my attempts to improve, I've tried lots of recipes with various "secret ingredients" (7-up! Vinegar!), but I always come back to Mom's recipe because it tastes so great.  Occasionally, though, I have problems with it shrinking a little in the oven---or folding down on one edge---which never seems to happen with my mom's crusts.  Maybe my technique is not quite the same as hers?

Anyway, I saw this recipe on The Pioneer Woman, so I tried it out.  And it worked SO well!  Here are the things I like about it:
  • It has shortening in it (I like a pie crust with shortening instead of butter; somehow they work better for me)
  • It doesn't require a food processor (I don't have one---and anyway I like using the pastry blender)
  • It makes 3 crusts, and they are meant to be frozen, so I can easily keep a spare crust in the freezer---which is great because I make dinner pies quite often and that will save me time
  • It makes a supple crust---easy to roll out and mold, but doesn't shrink! (With my other recipe, if the crust feels too supple, I know it's going to bend or shrink in the oven---but if it's drier, it's harder to roll out in the first place!)
  • It is THE FLAKIEST crust I've ever made.  Cast your eyes upon it in the top picture.  Delicious!!
So, I recommend this recipe with my wholehearted approval.  Again, you can go here for her pictures and step-by-step instructions, but here are my notes.

Pie Crust 
  
1-½ cup Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
3 cups All-purpose Flour
1 whole Egg
5 Tablespoons Cold Water
1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt

Preparation Instructions

In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Separate the dough into thirds. Form 3 evenly sized balls of dough and place each dough into a large Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you will be using it immediately it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes.  (After 15 min., mine was still cold, so I put it in the microwave on medium power for 20 sec. or so---perfect.)  Then, I always roll my crusts out in waxed paper---it works so much better than the counter for me!  Just set your disc of dough between two large pieces of waxed paper.  You can wipe the counter with a sponge first to get the waxed paper to stick in place, or I just pull the end of the paper slightly over the edge of the counter and pin a corner of it there with my stomach while I roll out the crust.  Sounds super nerdy, I know!  But it keeps it still.  When your crust is large enough, you take off the top waxed paper and flip the crust, crust-side down, into your pie pan.  Then you carefully peel off the other piece of waxed paper.  Voila!  It's in the pan with no mess. 

Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge.



I made this
turkey pot pie recipe with our leftover Thanksgiving turkey (we had some from both our dinners), and we loved it so much that I made it a couple more times until the turkey ran out.  (It only uses one crust, for the top, so if you make it you'll still have 2 crusts to save in the freezer!)  The only trouble is that I so rarely have meat around to cook with, I don't think I'll have many other chances to make it.  But I was thinking I'd try it next with potatoes and maybe cauliflower in it, without the meat (still using chicken broth for flavor, maybe?) and I bet that would be just as good. 


Monday, December 7, 2009

Monsters


You may know that I am afraid of things that grow too fast or too big or in the wrong places.  Like this (horrible; I had to close my eyes as I found the link) and this.  That's right, have a good laugh about it.  Wait till your brothers leave vines and branches snaking through your window onto your bed . . .

Sebby is afraid of the Pixar lamp (the one that bounces on and then squishes the "i" in "Pixar").  We have tried to tell him how cute and nice it is, but to no avail.

Abe and Seb are afraid of "the hat" that is hanging on the wall downstairs at my mom's house (one of those cone-shaped Filipino hats).  "I can't go down there!  I'm afwaid of the hat!"

Ky is not afraid of anything, but says he is whenever his brothers are.  ("Fwayd of hat TOO, Mommy!")

Do you have any odd fears I should know about?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Affectation


Everyone seems to be signing off letters with "Hugs," or "Kisses," these days.  I find it alarming because I already have problems knowing how much affection to show in person, and this just adds another arena in which to display my awkwardness.  (And also, why do I always see the plural used? Not only A kiss, but more than one kiss? Or does the sign-off encompass each singular kiss, given by both parties involved?) 

There are a few people I know I will hug when greeting them or taking my leave (my mother-in-law, some friends) and there are many people I know I will NOT hug (my bishop, the greeter at Harmons), but the in-betweens leave me flustered.  The worst is when you think the other person is going in for a hug, so you hold out your arms and then realize with a sinking feeling that it was only meant to be a handshake.  No doubt some of you have become embroiled in such an exchange, perhaps even with me (sorry, Melissa) and can relate.

I should be grateful, I suppose, not to live on "the Continent" where you have to add kisses ("Bisous!") into the mix: one cheek?  Both?  Even (in a positive orgy of affection) three, on alternating cheeks?  What an emotional minefield!

Anyway, now that the internet has supposedly made us all isolated and distant from each other, are we trying to compensate with virtual uber-affection?  Or are there people who really mean "Kisses!" to all and sundry, and would actually distribute those kisses if they were physically present?  Perhaps the only reason I don't receive such greetings regularly myself is because of the prickly "don't-touch-me" vibes I give off?  I suppose I often sign emails with "love," but that seems a little more ambiguous: Yes, I love you, but don't worry!  I won't be too demonstrative when we meet!

Or maybe people are being forced, through social pressure, to use sign-offs that don't accurately express their sentiments.  For such people, I offer a few possible alternatives to "Hugs," and "Kisses,":

Handshakes,

Friendly slaps on the behind,

Fond smiles,

Thinly disguised grimaces of relief,

Cordial Nods,

Poorly executed fist bumps/finger snaps,

and my favorite: the ambiguous

"As ever,"


Monday, November 30, 2009

Dear Sir or Madam:

I protest the use of the adjective "guilt-free" to describe your "green" merchandise.  I reserve the right to make consumer choices based on my own rationale, not yours.  Non-"green" merchandise does NOT make me feel guilty, nor should it.  Please do not project your own eco-neuroses onto me.

As ever,
Marilyn

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The gift of glamour


The holiday season is upon us, and Sam and I want to give a little something back to our kind friends and neighbors.

And what better gift than a glamourous photo for you or a loved one?

When: Sunday, Dec 13th, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Our house (email me for directions)
What: Our trained photographer(s) will be at the ready throughout the evening to capture your lovely selves on film.  We will have a few props on hand, but please bring your own if you desire---and dress appropriately!  Finished pictures will be emailed to you later.
Oh, and: dinner.  I will make soup and bread.  Bring a dessert to share, if you are so inclined.

Come; eat; simply slip in and out for your photo, or stay all evening and chat.  You decide.

But one thing: you need to email me [marilyn dot nielson at byu dot net] if you want to come.  Or leave a comment.  Even if you haven't previously revealed your presence here as a reader, don't be shy!  We would love to have you---all of you---come!  After all . . . glamour knows no boundaries; no rich or poor; no east side or west side.  Glamour can embrace us all! 

P.S. Yes, your kids can come too, but we will NOT be attempting to photograph the little hooligans.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

But you're tired of words, I thought you said

Oh please. I'm so over that already. Ready to offer my opinions on anything and everything again!

Random thoughts, then:


Daisy already does this poke-your-fingers through the afghan (holes of the crocheted afghan, I mean, not trying to be racist or anything.  Oh dear, now I sound obscene.  I'll stop, but why is it called an afghan anyway?  Did they come from Afghanistan or something?) thing.  Do everyone's children do this or is it just mine?  I did it myself as a child.  I love the look of five toes poking out through individual holes.  So tidily charming.

Here
are some people who are discussing the word "blog."  I am the type of person who thinks about these things.  I find it funny, alarming, and obscurely comforting that there are other people who debate such matters seriously.

Talking of which, I have written before about words I just have a hard time using.  There are also many words I simply do not like.  Let's add these things to the list:
  • "round and round we go"
  • "out on your ear"
  • When. people. write. with. periods. for. emphasis.
  • When people say "the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble."  (Just to be clear: people actually putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable is fine.  It's the phrase I don't like.)
  • "drool-worthy"
  • "well-edited," referring to something besides writing.
  • "There are so few ingredients, it's important they be of the highest quality!"
  • And for the holiday season, can I reiterate how much I dislike the formulation "to gift"?
Sometimes I get words in my head, like "Wernike's Area" or "Myanmar" and I don't know what they mean or how they got there. Probably from a former life but as you can see I retained no actual knowledge from that life.

Western Family plastic bags (sandwich bags---we call them "baggies;" is this correct, or something only terrible people do, like use "kleenex" for facial tissue and "xerox" for photocopy?) have undergone several changes!  I used to like them fine, and then a couple years ago they got terrible.  They split apart at the seams anytime you put anything in them, and they felt really brittle, like paper instead of plastic.  (I observed this scientifically, after buying several different boxes.)  So I stopped buying them, but then recently I accidentally bought them again, and they're fine again.  Good job, WF chemists!
 
There are few people that I dislike more than Elijah Wood as Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movies. I mean, just conjure up his white, wistful face in your mind's eye. Doesn't it make you want to hit him?

When I've been reading something for a while I start to write in that style. I don't mean to, but I do. So if you think I sound like Dickens or someone when I'm writing, I'm not plagarizing. I'm just that talented. It just happens. Deal with it.

It is bad that "deal with it" is a phrase I use so often, I even overhear Abe using it? I don't think it's something I heard from my mom EVER. Yet it sums up so nicely what I so often want my children to do!

Whenever something I'm baking needs "a few more minutes," I think I'll just remember to check it again in a few minutes. I don't ever think I need to set a timer for it. Sometimes I set one anyway. Coincidentally, these are the only times my food doesn't get burned.

Nepotism


I saw my sister-in-law Jane on Sunday and she was wearing this fabulous (not usually a word I use, but we're venturing into the realm of fashion here; deal with it) watch she made, and it reminded me I've been meaning to link to her jewelry site.  Here.  I love handmade jewelry, don't you?  Well, if it's cute, of course.  I wouldn't just like it non-discriminatorily; that would be like supporting "mom-n-pop" stores just because they're not THE MAN rather than because they sell something we actually want . . . right?  (And Katy---that hat/poncho set you made was super---I'd post a picture if I had one)

And speaking of my delightful family . . . Pam's post reminded me of something great I read (not by a family member. sorry).  I can't remember where I saw it linked recently, but I heard the guy who wrote it talking on KBYU a month or so ago.  Hilarious, I tell you.  I wish I'd written it myself.  (Well, I did write this! Same idea, less hiliariously executed.)  Behold: http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97feb/frazier/frazier.htm

Oh and for goodness sake I might as well link this too.  Christy's book's "book trailer" (evidently that's a "thing" now).  What talented people I'm related to (and you don't know the half of it).

Just some words


Are we boring you, Malachi?

Sometimes I start off the day reading through various things; news, stories, commentary, blogs, etc., and at the beginning I'm all excited with all these things running through my head, things I want to talk about and comment on and ask about.  And then I continue through my google reader, reading other people's comments and more, and by the time I'm done I'm totally tired of it all and I have nothing more to say because a. anything worthwhile has been said already and b. everything stupid has also been said and c. I'm totally annoyed by it all anyway, who are all these people who think anyone cares about reading their two cents on everything?

What is wrong with me?  Just information overload or what?

Goodbye forever. 
(Joke.  Ha.  As if you could get rid of me.)

P.S. Is that what my kids are feeling at the end of the day, having been a captive audience, stuck with me, scolded and talked at and preached to for 14 hours?


And that reminds me of a story.  We were driving around returning dishes after people brought us meals when Daisy was born (thanks everyone!) and Sebby went up to the door with one of them.  The lady opened her door and took the dish and then stood outside and talked to Sebby for several minutes.  They both appeared to be conversing quite animatedly, and when he got back to the car, I said curiously, "What was she saying to you, Seb?" 

He answered without much interest, "Oh . . . just some words . . ."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Great Beyond


Picture doesn't do it justice, of course.  But I'm surprised we were able to get the camera to take a picture at all.  Isn't it interesting how colorful the stars look captured here?

A few nights ago we took a picnic dinner and drove up into the Uintas so we could see the stars.  It was cold but so beautiful.  So many stars!!  I wonder if you would ever get used to seeing so many stars, if you lived far away from the city, where you could see them like that all the time?  I can go for long periods of time without even thinking about the stars, let alone looking at them and pondering the significance of it all.  But it seems like it would be impossible to avoid thoughts of eternity if you saw a sky like that every night.

While we drove, Sam told the boys stories about space and the stars, (Sam loves astronomy. Just like he loves geology.) and the next day the four of them spent two hours on the computer looking up astronomy pictures and videos and talking about black holes and meteors and the Milky Way and Saturn and dust storms and the Great Red Spot and so forth.  They were all fascinated, of course (even Malachi).  The last few days they've been playing rockets and moon landings and black holes nonstop.

This is a picture Abe drew yesterday.  Labelled items are: the Milky Way, the moon, galaxies (spiral), space, Jupiter (note the red spot near the bottom), Mars, Saturn (with eight moons), Earth, a rocket, and a black hole.

It was cool to think about space. I used to think about it when I was little (I wanted to be an astronaut, who didn't?) but it's been a while and I've gotten all jaded and used to the idea of it, I guess. But it's just as amazing as it ever was. All those stars! The vast, incomprehensible sizes of things! Are there other planets like ours? Which of the stars has already burned out but the light is still reaching us? I got all excited, thinking about it, and started wanting to be an astronaut again.  Do you suppose I'll ever get my chance at that? :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bump


I make it a point never to do anything on Mondays, until dinnertime anyway, because I figure I should be applauded for having the fortitude to let Sam out the door to work (it's so hard to have him leave after we've been together all weekend) and the dishes, floors, etc. can wait.

Today it was sad because Malachi ran into the wall (or was pushed . . . I suspect it, but don't have "ocular proof," [Othello, thanks Mrs. Brown]) and got this huge bump on his head.  It looked so bad at first that I was really worried about it, but he seemed okay after a while; perhaps the 2-second intervals during which I was able to apply the bag of frozen peas before having him push them away and say "cold!" in a betrayed tone made the swelling go down. 


Anyway, it just reconfirmed my belief that Mondays should be spent in bed reading or cuddling.  So that's what we've been doing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The decision had to be made

Friday miscellany:

1. I like passive voice.  It used to bother me, but now I find it charming, especially when used in an attempt to evade responsibility for something, as here:
I've already used it on my kids a few times.  "I'm sorry Sebby, but the decision had to be made."

2. This speaks for itself, I believe:
Words to live by!

3. From now on I plan to end all correspondence with the words "Goodbye Forever."

4. You've seen the grocery store musical?  And the food court musical?  Here's a new one (my favorite!).  I love the work of these guys.  It just doesn't get old to me.  I think because it's never mean-spirited like some of those hidden camera, try-to-embarrass-people things you see.



Goodbye forever.
--M.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nice


This is the time of year that I feel grateful for nice weather rather than entitled to it.
Which is really much better for the soul, don't you think?

Monday, November 2, 2009

I like this guy

The other day Seb was talking to me and I suddenly out of nowhere thought, "My goodness, that boy is handsome!"  That happens sometimes, but I guess I get caught up in being annoyed with the boys and wishing they would quit fighting with each other and breaking things, so those little flashes of amazement (whoa, THIS is MY SON?) still take me by surprise.

So I told him to keep talking (he was explaining to me how "the windmills turn, which genawates electricity"---his words---he is like those little boys who know the names of every dinosaur, but with machines) and took a million pictures.  Which led to quite a lot of pictures that look really like like him, if you know what I mean.  So don't be alarmed, but here they are.

And there's one more thing I should tell you about Sebby.  You know how when you're nursing your babies, the other kids are interested.  (My boys "nurse" their bears and monkeys all the time.)  So they know all about how the milk comes out of Mommy's nipples and Daisy drinks it and it makes her happy and so forth.  Except Sebby somehow got the idea they were called "nibbles."  Perfectly understandable, right?  But it leads him to say, in very business-like tones, things like, "Well Mommy, looks like Daisy isn't quite happy.  Give 'er the other nibble!"  And it just cracks me up every time.