Thursday, December 27, 2007

More about gingerbread

We finished the gingerbread house last Saturday:

Like it? We do. Bethie was soooo proud of herself helping hold up the house pieces while the icing dried, and helping to put on the roof tiles, and planting gumdrop bushes. (She was also so, so sick after eating tons of candy off of the communal candy table! She came over to where I was working on the house, climbed up in her chair, and said, "Mommy, I throwed up." Poor kid. I felt horrible not letting her eat any more candy...but....)

I mentioned to the girl who'd organized the whole thing that I thought the concept of a gingerbread house party was hilarious — she said, "Oh good, I'm glad somebody got that!" Apparently mine isn't the only warped mind in Belmont.

On Christmas Eve we made more dough — for eatin' cookies this time, not construction cookies — and cut out dozens of gingerbread men, Christmas trees, candy canes, angels, stars, snowmen, holly leaves...any Christmassy cookie cutter Beth found, we used. That afternoon we decorated them with royal icing and goodies (red-hot buttons and holly berries, raisin eyes, lots and lots of sprinkles). Beth set out a plate for Santa. Glorious.

I love love love having a two-year-old who's just learning about Christmas! She's terrified of Santa (but intrigued), wants nothing more than to help me bake cookies, and is impressed with the ritual of it all. Happy stuff!

(Oh, and the cookies are GOOD. Really, really good. We took a bunch of them to our downstairs neighbor, and Santa ate three, but I've been snacking away at the rest...unfortunately.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Some things I've learned about gingerbread in the last 2 1/2 hours:

Bethie and I are going to a gingerbread house party tomorrow (which I think is endlessly funny: it's a house party, right? But it's a gingerbread house party. What tunes do you bring to that? The elves be gettin' funky, yo) and after dinner tonight we started making pieces for our gingerbread house out of the dough I'd oh-so-thoughtfully made and chilled last night.

Alas, I'm a novice at this. But, thankfully, a quick study.
  1. The great elastic-band-over-the-rolling-pin-to-roll-dough-out-to-the-perfect-thickness slide thingies that you gave your husband 'cause he's enamored of That Man and His Cooking Show? They're great. Just have the husband put them on the rolling pin, 'cause they have a mean snap.

  2. Don't try to roll out large construction-ready slabs of house and then transfer them to the cookie sheet. Roll everything out on the back of the cookie sheet. Or, better yet (I love this solution), use the elastic bands on the rolling pin and roll out the dough on a Silpat, cut the dough, and transfer the Silpat to the cookie sheet.

  3. After you learn Rule #2, above, make sure to redo the first gable end piece you cut out, somehow peeled up off the counter with a pastry blade (which you own thanks to the husband and his Food Network obsession with That Man), and baked. Sure, it looks nice, but it's an inch shorter than it should be. Getting it onto the pastry blade squished it.

  4. But the squished piece doesn't have to go entirely to waste/waist. It happens to be just the right size to cut two trees from. Even with a rather dull-edged plastic cookie cutter. (We now own a set of eight Christmas-themed cookie cutters, a dollar store find. I have quite a few more dollar store finds that are going to make it into the girls' stockings. Beth was sitting in the cart playing with the 30 or so tins we'd picked up to put homemade hot chocolate mix in, and Sarah's oblivious to everything but trying to kick off her shoe, and I snuck lots of good stuff onto the bottom part of the cart without them noticing. I think.)

  5. A pizza cutter doesn't leave messy edges like a serrated knife does. (And it contributed to a major flashback to high school sewing class, when I first used a rotary cutter to cut out a pattern. Bliss.)

  6. And I knew this one before, but:
  7. Gingerbread dough ALWAYS tastes better than the cookies. Mission accomplished, then, because I introduced Beth to gingerbread dough and she loooooves it. "Can I have another window, Mommy?"

Okay. Off I go to take the right-sized gable end piece out of the oven. And to cut out a door, and some more trees, and some chimney pieces.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Two-year-olds, and logic

"Beth, why is the jingle bell ornament on the floor again?"

"I was using my imagination."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I thought I heard Christmas music!

Remember the video that made its way around the Internet a few years ago? Some guy in Ohio rigged his Christmas lights so they'd sync with holiday music he (considerately) broadcast on low-power FM so people driving by could hear it.

Well, apparently Ohio doesn't have a monopoly on tacky. This afternoon I could hear Christmas music, and I knew it wasn't coming from my house, and my downstairs neighbor is away for a few days. I finally looked out the window — and, well, it's pretty awful. I took this from my deck a few minutes ago:

If you turn up the volume, that's "Jingle Bells." I'll try to get a daytime video of this tomorrow. They're amateurs compared to the Ohio guy, but imagine having this on your street!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I'm pretty sure this is a federal offense, but...

Last week I had Beth write a letter to Santa: she told me what to write, I wrote it, and she drew the pictures. It's darling. Something along the lines of "Dear Santa, I need a kitchen please" and going on from there. She's been a good girl, so has baby Sarah, and baby Sarah wants a dolly.

We then folded this up, placed it in an envelope, and let it sit around the house for several days. Last night we finally put a "stamp" on it (a Christmasy stamp-shaped sticker that came in the piles of junk mail) and this morning Beth drew a picture of Santa on the front (a few red and brown squiggles) and helped me put the letter in the mailbox.

I then told Scott it was his responsibility to take the letter out of the mailbox before the letter carrier came — you BET I want to save my kid's first letter to Santa! — and the girls and I headed to the mall to do some Christmas shopping.

Well, the husband forgot. And the mail came before I got home (at top speed, racing up my quiet suburban street hoping to beat the mailman). And it just broke my heart, and I told Scott it was his job to call the post office to see if maybe, just maybe, there was any way we could get the letter back.

"They won't do it," he said. "There's no point in asking."

"Just ask," I said. "I don't care if they won't do it. I want you to do everything possible to get that letter back."

(I should explain, too, that I'm royally pissed off with Scott for forgetting this, and that he's likely to be sleeping on the couch tonight regardless of the outcome.)

But Scott was teaching a class, so I figured I'd have a stab at the post office (with Beth safely ensconced in front of The Wonder Pets! and me upstairs feeding Sarah her pre-nap bottle), and I finally got through to the little post office in my town and explained (in a whisper, in case Beth wasn't as glued to the TV as I hoped she was) what I needed. They couldn't have been nicer. "We keep all the letters to Santa right here," the woman on the phone said, "until it's time to, um, deliver them to Santa." But she didn't have the one I was looking for. Everything was addressed to "Santa, North Pole," or something similar — nothing with just two-year-old scribbles.

"Is it possible that you don't have all of today's mail from the letter carriers?" I asked.

"Oh, you want today's mail? They're still out. Let's see...what street do you live on?"

So I told her, and she looked up the carrier on my route, and called him on his cell phone, and it turned out he'd just put the mail from my street into the outgoing mail box, and Beth's letter had gone in with it because it looked like it had a stamp on it. But he was perfectly willing to go back and (get this!) dig through the outgoing mail until he found the letter. Which I'm pretty sure is a federal offense.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," I told the postal clerk. "Tell him to ring the bell when he comes by and I'll have some cookies for him." Cookies! I could have kissed him. I will never, ever, ever complain about postal workers again. No more jokes about mail traveling by postal squirrel.

Scott, as it turns out, felt guilty enough that he called the post office right after his class let out (without checking his e-mail, where he would have learned that I already had the letter back). They told him he was a few steps behind the game. Bethie's letter is safely tucked away in a file drawer, and when she's about twelve I'll tell her this story.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Winter blues

We're all sick: runny noses, sore throats, grouchy temperaments. And it snowed really wet thick snow, which is now icy and frozen-0ver-ish on the top. And my car, which wouldn't even start yesterday morning, is in the shop, probably to the tune of several hundred dollars. And on top of everything else, Scott got an e-mail from a creepy ex-girlfriend. Ick.

I suppose I should be grateful for a bunch of things: my awesome next-door neighbor Kiersten who's more than willing to trade babysitting while I run the car to the mechanic and she goes in to work for random things; having a snow removal service (even if they don't come when we expect them to); getting the last mostly-full bag of ice melt at Home Depot (and getting a discount on it); getting the Christmas tree up and decorated; the fact that my kids, even with colds, are mostly healthy and happy. But I just hate the onset of winter, and how much more difficult it makes everything. I mean, going to the grocery store should be a snap, right? But worm two kids into winter coats, and troop out to the car, and get your feet wet in the process, and then bundle them into the shopping cart, unzip the coats so they don't overheat in the store, wipe their noses while you make your way around the store, bundle everyone and everything you just bought back into the car, and then try to get it all inside without leaving puddles all over the kitchen floor. Yeah. Things are much easier in the summer, which is why I think everyone should live in Southern California.

(C'mon, what were those Pilgrims thinking? They couldn't head farther south? Couldn't steer the Mayflower a little to the left and wind up in, say, South Carolina? These guys were seriously into martyrdom, if you ask me.)i

I'm just not ready for winter, even if it does mean Christmas and hot cocoa and teaching Beth to make snowballs (if I ever get the will to go outside with her). Think I'll go turn on my halogen lamp, and bask in its nice bright sunny light, and pretend I'm on a beach somewhere.

On another worrisome note, I took Sarah to the doctor last week and she's all of 15 lbs. 4 1/2 oz. (that last 1/2 oz. was her binkie, I think, but let's just let it be) — which puts her off the bottom of the chart for weight. I'd be okay with it if she were even in the fifth percentile, but off the chart has me worried, especially because she eats constantly. Where does all this food go? So I'm gradually weaning her onto formula, and we'll see how it goes. She's obviously healthy, developmentally speaking. She waves, claps, raises her hands over her head and throws herself at us while giggling. She says "hi" occasionally, and this morning Kiersten swears she said "Oggie!" when she saw the doggies next door.