Thursday, December 30, 2010

gingerbread house - 2010

Last year we made a little gingerbread house with Cecilia.  As you may remember, we had decided to try something new and use melted sugar instead of frosting to keep the thing together.  Bad idea.  Turns out the humidity and heat (yes even in December) did the little house in as by day 2 it looked like a hurricane had blown through.

This year we went back to the classic and used the recipe that comes with the cast iron mold (I actually bought myself one this year to keep in California).

Recipes for the house

Recipes for the frosting
My mom actually made two houses for decorating - one to stay with us, and one to go to Cecilia's other grandmother Yaya (the mold has two sides and makes two different types of houses).
Getting set up
Aunt B went to the grocery store and got all kinds of candy for decorating the house and helped Cecilia put on the glue (i.e. frosting).
Cecilia and her handiwork
I'm pretty sure that for every piece of candy that made it on the house, there were two that were consumed!  She was in heaven.
The first house (for Yaya)!
For the second house, Cecilia and I worked together while Aunt B held baby Keira.
The second house!
The finished houses!  It was so fun to decorate with Cecilia, Aunt B, and Nia!  My hubby would have been there to help, but he was off with my uncle and cousin's husband at an all boys lunch downtown.
the gingerbread house village!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 buche de noel

Every year for the past several years, my mom has made a Buche de Noel cake for our annual Christmas Eve dinner.  This year, my sister and I were excited to see what she had in mind!  My mom had saved a Holiday Cookie magazine from last year and there was a section on Buche de Noel ideas (she is convinced Martha Stewart isn't the biggest fan as she doesn't have many recipes online).  Anyway, my mom chose a red velvet peppermint buche de noel.  YUM!  All the things I love!

The picture from the magazine
With the inspirational photo in hand, my mom made the red velvet cake and let it cool rolled in a cocoa dusted tea towel.  She then made a 7 minute frosting (according to the recipe) with peppermint oil.  It was glossy and delicious.
the filling and frosting!
She then unwrapped the buche and filled it with frosting.  The one small change we made was to roll it along its long axis rather than its short side. We did this to get a longer buche, but it also meant it didn't get as curled looking.  If we were to make this again, I think we would make two along the short axis and then glue them together with frosting so no one can see.  
my mom and her handiwork!

spreading the frosting

rolling it up

placing it seam side down on the serving dish

making it look log like!

the dessert spread

a close up of the red velvet peppermint buche de noel

Another year, another delicious bouche de noel!  At the end of the party, there was only one little piece left!  I think we'll have to make this one again!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

10 years on

On Sunday night I headed down to the Wolf's Den for my 10 year high school reunion.  One of the highlights?  Getting my homeroom back together for a photo (last names P through S).

Mr. Hess's 324 homeroom
It was surprisingly nice to see people I hadn't seen in a long time (many I hadn't seen since our graduation)!  I felt a little bit bad dragging my husband to this (although I did go to his), but there were plenty of familiar faces as I am still close with about 20 of my high school friends.

Class of 2000! 
One of my favorite movies in high school was Romy and Michele's high school reunion - so the 10 year reunion felt like a bit of a life milestone.  I briefly considered saying that I'd invented post-its, but since they were around before I was born... I figured I might as well stick to the truth. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ho Ho Ho

Baby Keira says hello and merry Christmas!  Fleece footie pajamas are so cute!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This year we had new baby Keira and my new husband to celebrate with us, but we were missing my brother Tommy who is in Africa for work. 

Merry Christmas!
We miss you Tommy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gingerbread + coffee

About a year ago I gave up drinking caffeinated coffee.  I found that I didn't need it to stay awake and sometimes it made my heart race in an uncomfortable way after a big cup!  At work we have decaf coffee in big carafes, but once and a while I treat myself to a coffee drink from a coffee shop (crazy when you get free coffee at work) - usually Philz with Niki. 
Philz is my normal obsession (house decaf, cream, medium sweet).  However around the holidays I love getting a decaf gingerbread latter from Peets or Starbucks! Such a treat in the bright red cup.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas came early!

Ever since I heard about Google TV - I knew I had to try it!  My husband has lately gone gaga for google - even thinking of switching from a blackberry to be able to try the nexus s. Tonight I bit the bullet (with prompting from him) and purchased  google TV from the sony store as an early Christmas gift to share.

We spent the night playing with it and streaming Netflix is amazing! No more fooling with my computer and cables everytime we want to watch Netflix on our TV! One night in and I'm impressed!  We also watched some YouTube (hide yo kids!) And checked email. Love it.

Renegade Craft Fair - SF

This weekend my parents were in town for my little brother's graduation from nursing school on Thursday and Friday.  Before my brother's graduation party on Saturday night, my mom and I set off to explore the Renegade Craft Fair.

the flyer!
It was huge!  Much bigger than I expected.  In the photo below, you can really only see half of it - there are two wide side aisles that you can't even really see.

renegade crowds
I found out about the fair from Whitney Smith's email update (she is my favorite bay area potter).  First stop?  Whitney Smith's booth!  I ended up buying a little one off blue dish with cherry blossoms on the bottom.  Not sure what I'll do with it yet - currently it is on my desk.  I have a weakness!

my Whitney Smith addiction continues...
Then, my mom treated me to an early birthday present!  She got me this amazing terrarium from Planted.  I had seen other terrariums in various shops - but they were always sooo expensive!  This one was just right.  It has already moved into a very happy, sunny spot in our kitchen.

I hope to keep this little guy alive... 

top view

Last but not least, I got a mounted rice paper butterfly from Bugs Under Glass.  I went back and forth in my mind about the sustainability of this purchase (even calling my husband for his opinion).  I talked over my concerns with the guy running the booth and he assured me that these were farm raised butterflies that lived a full live and were collected after death.  He said my butterfly had lived at the Cal Academy of Sciences in the rainforest exhibit.  I was in love with the butterfly at this point and it now lives on my desk. My husband even likes it (keep in mind is still very opposed to my reindeer pelt idea).  Now I need to come up with a name for my new friend.

rice paper butterfly under glass
I wasn't the only one to pick up a few treats.  My mom got some gifts and a pair of really cool earrings made from recycled cymbals!  They make a musical tinkle when she is wearing them.  A lot of the art and items for sale had a recycled element to them. Very San Francisco (in a good way). :)

Bell earrings from Chime Jewelry
This craft fair was a lot of fun!  I definitely plan to go back next year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

merry Friday

the finished product
For the fourth year in a row, my hubby and I made my mom's candied pecans as gifts for our coworkers, neighbors, and friends. 

the set up!
The recipe is actually one my grandmother got from my friend Arden's mom a long time ago (20+ years).  Be warned! They are seriously addictive. I find myself walking by over and over to nibble as they cool.  

can't stop with just one... 
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

grocery shopping, southern style

This weekend I am making dinner for my brother, our family, and 15 of his closest friends to celebrate his graduation from nursing school. Last night I went to Safeway to buy the ingredients and check out my haul! That is four pounds of butter, nine ponds of beef, three pounds of cheese, two dozen eggs (one dozen for the homemade eggnog), and lots of other good stuff.  This is going to be a great party. I hope they bring their appetite!  :)

Monday, December 13, 2010


It has literally been an ice age since I had painted finger nails (in stark contrast to my toes that have been painted for 20 years straight). 

nice clean nails!
This past weekend we went to New Jersey for a wedding of my dear friend from college.  I would say her name, but she is now a federal law enforcement officer and I feel like she would disapprove of me blowing her cover!  Not only is she a federal law enforcement officer, but she married one too!  I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid and as part of the deal we got our nails painted on Friday.  Check it out!  Blood red! I love it!  I used to work in a lab where we cleaned everything with Acetone (aka nail polish remover) so I got used to never wearing nail polish. Now that I have my nails painted, I have really enjoyed pointing at things.  For example, today my boss needed help figuring out how to eject a cd from his computer (he just got a mac).  I was very happy to point to the cd icon and tell him to right click and select eject.  Look how pretty my finger looks with a painted nail, I pointed out.  He didn't really respond. It's the small things!

I'm also excited that it's the last full week before the Christmas Holidays (aka - it will be three weeks before I have another 5 day work week)!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

and Keira makes four!

2010 has been a big year for many reasons - it was filled with weddings and babies!  We got married (as did Laurie and David, Rachel and Tim, Tyler and Lindsay, Graeme and Cary, Amy and Michael, Jeff and Mona)!  In addition, we welcomed three more nieces into our family - making for a total of four gorgeous girls.

First came Cecilia almost four years ago.
A photo from last Christmas

Then came Daniela earlier this year (her birthday is very close to mine)! 
so cute!

Then came Claire just a few months ago!
a little ballerina!

and last, but not least, Keira joined us just a few days ago!
sweet sleeping baby

We consider ourselves the world's luckiest aunt and uncle!  A word of warning to the parents - our aunt/uncle philosophy is impractical gifts and lots of sugar!  

the happiest season of all

If you're ever walking through Bed, Bath and Beyond and wonders who spends $9.99 on a giant gingerbread cookie mold, well ask no more questions.  You've found me.  Guilty as charged. 

one giant cookie tin
Now I usually make my cookies from scratch, but I have had this mix since last Christmas and figured it was finally time - that I had the perfect application.  My husband and I were going over to his co-worker's house for dinner and they have two small girls (4.5 and 3) who might like a giant cookie.  Here's the catch, I don't really have a huge sweet tooth - so I like making desserts when I know others will be on hand to do most of the damage. 

one stick of butter - always a good idea
 At first I wasn't sure that the dough was going to fill out the mold.
dough boy
 After a few good whacks with my spatula, I got it all smoothed into the pan.
ready for baking
While my little guy was in the oven, it was time to prepare the icing bag.  Break out my 56 piece set of icing tips.  Yes I own 56 piece set.  Could you resist this?
so many options!
I also picked up some holiday sprinkles at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (20% off coupons burning a hold in my hand).  The red cake sparkles on the right came from Sur La Table.
so much fun - I need my nieces around to help!
The little man came out of the oven and looked SO good!
naked gingerbread man
Not knowing exactly what an iced gingerbread man should look like - I searched online for "gingerbread man" and was very inspired.
a simple buttercream icing
I mixed up the icing (sugar, butter, milk) with a hand mixer and dumped it into a disposable piping bag fitted with a tip from my 56 piece set.
all ready!
So here is the final product!  I brought it over to our friends house and their two little girls were pretty excited.  I'm not so sure their parents were excited at the prospect of their kids eating it before bed, but the holidays are really about kids any way. :)
gingerbread man success!

I'm tempted to bring my new pan home for Christmas (where two of my nieces will be).  It would fit in my carry-on and I'm sure the TSA has seen stranger things.  I wonder what they would make of the 56 piece icing tip set... 

Happy Holidays!
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