Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holiday Cookies

Being of Norwegian descent on my father's side of the family, we indulge in platters of Christmas cookies during the holidays.  There are the Norwegian goodies -- sunkage, krumkage, etc. -- and then there are the fifteen or so other kinds that have been added to the mix.  In fact, our Christmas morning gift opening used to be interrupted halfway by a breakfast of cookies...until Meredith's husband joined the family and thought this was such an odd and unseemly tradition that we were shamed into adding real food to the breakfast, like an egg casserole and bread.  Bah humbug!

I used to enjoy bringing along a few kinds of cookies to the celebration, and would always make one or two old favorites and then try out new recipes.  Owen's arrival put a temporary hold on my holiday baking, however.  Until last January, he didn't sleep much, so I had no free evening hours to don my baking apparel.  This year, however, things were different!  Owen sleeps (knock on wood)!  So I tentatively stuck my toe back into the waters (perhaps not the right image to use while writing about baking), and made two new kinds of holiday cookies.

Martha's husband Gordy is a big fan of the chocolate and peanut butter flavor combination, as am I.  I wasn't really in the mood to make my usual peanut butter balls with chocolate hats, but was a bit worried I wouldn't be allowed into Gordy's house without a pb&c offering.  I thus ended up trying a recipe I saw on the Cup of Jo blog for peanut butter fudge with chocolate and sea salt.

Above is the fudge pre chocolate.  It turned out well, except there was one instruction that was unclear, where it said to bring to a boil for two minutes without stirring, and I wasn't sure if the two minutes included the bringing to a boil, or if the two minutes should have started once the boiling began.  But all was well after I used Sean's upper arm strength to do a lot of the stirring.  Then I added chocolate and sea salt and voila:

Delicious!  They were a hit at Martha's too.

The second recipe I tried was the winner of the Pillsbury baking contest this year, and I tried them because the recipe was so strange I was intrigued.  You cut a Pillsbury pie dough into tiny little squares and baked them for six minutes so that you had a cookie sheet of tiny crackers.  Then you added the "crackers" to melted white chocolate and peanut butter, and then also added cocktail peanuts (I added cocktail cashews) and toffee pieces, and then dropped rounded tablespoonfuls onto wax paper and let them solidify.  I don't have pictures, but they weren't a very photogenic cookie anyway.  I liked them. I'm not a big white chocolate fan, but it was a different taste all together, and a good variation to have on a cookie plate.  Huzzah!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pippa Middleton Pug

One of the highpoints of traveling to Massachusetts for Christmas this year was that we would get to see my sister's new 11-week old pug, Pippa Middleton.

Hello, Pippa!

Pippa Middleton is an absurdly small and absurdly cute little lady.  She's about the size of four sticks of butter, and is even currently a couple of pounds smaller than Posy!  As you can imagine, however, Pippa does not know -- or care -- that she is a pipsqueak.  She has a great personality and was completely unfazed that her new home and new family was overrun with ten additional people.

As puppies do, Pippa would go go go at full speed and then collapse into a heavy slumber.

She loved chasing her Uncle Sean around the kitchen island and attacking his feet.  And she loved sleeping on her Great Aunt Elsie:

Owen liked Pippa, although he quickly learned to avert his face when she came over to him.  Pippa is teething and those puppy teeth are needle-sharp!  Pippa would start tugging on Owen's trousers, and Owen, as he is wont to do, would start apologizing for the both of them:  "Sorry, Pippa!  Sorry, Owen!"

And then there was Dorothy!  Pippa thought she was great fun and did her best to try to engage Dorothy in some sort of playful activity, usually one that involved body slams or puppy teeth sunken into bulldogge hindquarters:

Dorothy was very good with Pippa on the whole.  Since she still has sore knees, we were trying to keep the playing to a minimum, or at least trying to manipulate it so that Pippa was the one who was moving around Dorothy, while Dorothy stayed relatively immobile.  Luckily, Pippa was happy to oblige:

And Dorothy was happy to teach Pippa some important things, such as how to chew on wrapping paper and discarded boxes:

And when things got too rowdy, Dorothy would remove herself to a bed, however small the beds in this household tended to be:

I am very glad to have a pug back in the family again!  And I look forward to the next time we meet Miss Middleton, when she will be perhaps bigger than a wind-up toy.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Massachusetts Christmas

We spent Christmas in Massachusetts this year at my sister, Martha's, house, and had a merry time.  I feel the need to state for the record that we had ZERO traffic on the way up on Tuesday and ZERO traffic on the way home on Saturday.  ZERO.  We didn't even have to slow down to get on the Mass Pike from 84, which is practically unheard of.  Owen was pretty good in the car, too -- not quite as phenomenal as he was driving down to North Carolina last year, but good on the whole.  He's not as excited by my car toys as he was when he was younger, so I'll have to keep looking for things to hold a 2 year-old's interest.  Apparently magnet boards and sticker books are not worth spending more than a collective minute on.

Here is Dorothy in the car riding shotgun next to her beloved pack leader:

And here is Owen in the car out of his carseat at a rest stop:

There was one incident at a rest stop on the way up, in which while I was in the restroom, Owen started calling out, "Help! Help! Help Owen!" causing a passerby to wonder if Owen was being abducted by Sean....

But we all enjoyed staying at Martha's very much, and Owen had a great time with his cousin Josie, especially, who at nine years old was very kind to Owen.  On the second day, he even took her hand and walked down the basement with her to play, giving me a cheerful, "Goodbye, Mommy!"

Owen loved playing with Josie's dollhouse, especially once he discovered it contained a tiny telephone:

Here is Owen with his Andersen cousins on Christmas Eve:

And here he is later on Christmas Eve enjoying his new toy sushi set from the Hunters:

And then in troll jammies opening a new book on Christmas day.  Thank you, Santa!:

And here he is eating strawberries for the first time (not because they haven't been offered to him.  They have.  But for some reason he decided to eat four big juicy berries while sitting on Martha's counter):

The trip was a success!

Owen's Christmas Decorations

December got very busy very quickly, as Decembers are wont to do, especially when Thanksgiving falls later than usual.  I learned that a 2 year-old is a very appreciative audience for Christmas decorations.  We decorated our downstairs in installments -- first the Scandinavian Christmas trolls on the mantel and the advent calendars, then the tree went up and the lights went on, then the ornaments, then the table and the odds and ends like sparkly garlands, and Rudolph stockings and whatnot.

Each time Owen would come down in the morning and see what had been added, he would proclaim, "Wow!" over and over.

Owen helping with the tree:

Here's the troll half of the mantel:

And here is the woodland critters half of the mantel, with cute birds from Target and a cranberry tree:

Here is Owen reading with full lips in front of the Christmas cat quilt from Aunt Elsie:

And here is the tree decorated and with lights on:

The biggest hit this year was the train we set up around the tree:

The first day we put it up, Owen sat for a good hour watching it go around and listening to the whistle and the bell and the all aboards.  The cats were very curious about the train, too.  Here is Plum being brave and giving it a sniff:

And in this picture you can see that Posy has come down from upstairs to check out the train, although she doesn't dare get too close to it.  That would be foolhardy, and she is not a foolhardy cat!

Owen was also good about following our no touching the train and tree rules.  I put most of the breakable ornaments towards the top of the tree, but it turns out I didn't really need to do that.  Good boy, Owen!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pancakes With Daddy

I’ve been thinking lately that it might be good to start doing some baking with Owen.  I’m always looking for more activities that we can do on the weekends, and even though he doesn’t really eat much, I figure he might be interested in helping stir, etc.  

Last weekend Sean was cooking pancakes for breakfast and we gave Owen the bowl and had him whisk.  He liked it!  In fact, we had trouble getting the bowl away from him.  Here he is with his fresh new haircut, helping Daddy with the pancakes:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Ant and the Grasshoppers

We had our first snowfall of the year the day before Thanksgiving, which we could enjoy since we weren’t traveling in it.  On Thanksgiving then, while Sean was slaving away in the kitchen making his glorious (truly! It was a masterpiece!) feast, Owen and I got bundled up:

Then we headed outside and made ourselves a miniature snowman.  Here he is when he was just the basics:

And then I went inside and stole a carrot from the chef to use as a nose.  So here he is with fancy nose yet still no arms:


The carrot nose was a big hit with Owen—he talked about that for a long time.  The stick arms were a big hit with Dorothy, and we had a hard time keeping her from stealing them and chewing them to bits.

And while Sean was cooking and Owen, Dorothy, and I were winter-wonderlanding, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum were upstairs thusly:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Snick! Snick!

Owen has needed a haircut for some time now, and I put off trimming it badly myself, since I really wanted a professional to do it.  The last cut Sean and I gave him in the summer was basically a choppy mess, and so we had let it grow until it reached even messier bowlcut proportions like this:

Monkish, no?  So I made an appointment at a nearby barber shop that had good yelp reviews regarding toddler haircuts, yet we set off with much trepidation, as we couldn’t imagine Owen suffering fools gladly while getting his hair fiddled with.  I tried to prep him by talking up the whole encounter and saying that a woman would cut his hair making “Snick! Snick!” noises around his head – and it got to the point where he’d happily join in with the snick snicks!

But I wouldn’t say the haircut went well.  They gave both me and Owen black capes and sat him on my lap facing me, and then the nice hairdresser cut his hair as fast as she could, Owen sobbing all the while and saying, “No thank you!”  She said he was better than some, in that he didn’t hit and kick, so there was that.  But he didn’t keep his head very still either.  We tried to distract him with Peppa Pig on the iPhone, and it later occurred to me that I should have used something sweet as a bribe.  At any rate, we left many sobs and a large tip later, with one handsome haircut!  Here is the result:

And now if you ask him about the haircut, he will rather indignantly say, “I told the lady no thank you!”