Happy Holidays from Major Mom and Family!

Happy Holidays from Major Mom and Family!

Okay, okay, so I’m a bit behind here.

“But at least you’re kept your head above water with all the holiday obligations, right? You seemed to have had a billion Christmas parties for Dave’s unit, scouts, the spouses’ club, and the boys’ piano lessons.”

I guess so — the house was decorated, trees trimmed, gifts were purchased and wrapped, cards made and sent out, and we made it to everywhere we were expected to be this season — with White Elephant gift exchange gifts as needed.

I was pretty tired by the time the kids started their holiday break on the 18th. It was non-stop from the week after Thanksgiving.

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18. December 2012 · Comments Off on A Holiday Post to Let You Know I’m Not Dead…. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

This has been an insane holiday season!  But let me just toss up some You Tube videos showing off the kids. These were all taken with our new camera…with the telephoto lens zoomed in as far as it would go.

I promise I have so much more to write about this week, bear with me, thanks!

The first four are from the boys’ piano recital last Friday night.  The first two are Timmy, the second two are of Jacob.

And this is Jacob this morning reciting a poem he wrote himself at the school’s “Peppermint Parade”, in which each student from four of the classes recited a poem about winter, Christmas, or any other theme from this time of year. I apologize for the zoom sounds in the first 15 seconds or so…I had a hard time seeing whether the image was zoomed in or not.  I need to learn to adjust that manually so you can’t hear the motor.




I’m only putting text here because otherwise those colorful “Share This” buttons cover up the controls for the Peppermint Parade video.

23. December 2011 · Comments Off on The Annual Holiday Open House…Cute Party Idea and Recipes to Share · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
Why invest in those complicated key-ring-like wine charms when you might have a house full of THESE?

I’d heard about it from one of the GeekMoms.  I can’t remember whether it was on GeekMom itself, or one of the GeekMoms referencing another website with this idea.

I went through my kids’ THOUSANDS of Silly Bandz and found some particularly fun ones that our guests would recognize.  Spongebob and Phineas and Ferb bands made it into the batch, along with some sports-themed ones.  Folks who had the wine got a laugh out of choosing what charm to put on their glasses from the 20-or-so I had set out.

Mr. Krabs from Spongebob.

Ferb from Phineas and Ferb.

Last night we had our annual holiday open house.  We’ve tried to do this every year…this year we almost DIDN’T do it because of Dave’s back surgery recovery.  If you had asked in mid-November, the answer would have been a resounding NO.  We didn’t even decide to proceed with it till after Thanksgiving.  So long as folks had about 2 weeks notice, right?

However, I think as time goes on over the years, planning for it gets easier and easier.  I set out the cookies that I’d made this week, and set out two fondue pots: one with cheese and one with chocolate.  Diced bread, fruits, veggies and pound cake all over.

I make something for my punchbowl each year too.  Last year it was a festive rum punch that was too sweet, IMHO.  This year I attempted homemade egg nog with spiced rum and I was impressed with the flavor and texture (and I was impressed with how quickly it was consumed).  I made a double batch based on Alton Brown’s recipe, except with Myer’s Spiced Rum instead of the bourbon recommended in the recipe.

I messed up by not taking pictures of my pretty punchbowl filled with egg nog.  So I found this picture to inspire you.

We also presented these incredible bacon-cream cheese wraps that we had tasted for the first time at someone else’s holiday open house last year.  I followed the recipe linked above, except I baked them at 375F instead of 350F.  Wednesday night I hand-rolled 3 lbs. worth of bacon roll ups!  Not to gross folks out, but the bacon grease gets into the bread some and then toasts the bread up really nicely.  Yum!  Seems like a rather campy, 1950s-esque hor d’oeuvre idea, but they disappeared very quickly!

My bacon-roll-ups looked like these.  Photo by Janetishungry.blogspot.com.

We had a nice time — because it was rather close to the long holiday weekend, many of our friends were out of town, but that was okay.  As usual, I made too much food, and I’m convinced we now have more wine and beer than we started with, thanks to our guests bringing so much!  Thanks to everyone who could make it.

20. December 2011 · Comments Off on Holiday Piano Recital · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , , ,
Our boys after last night’s holiday piano recital.  Their teacher is in the upper right…

Last night my boys had their holiday piano recital.  In Nebraska Jacob only had one recital per year (May), but their teacher here in Florida puts on a nice holiday recital also.  They will have a bigger one in May.

This time I brought a tripod to take the video, which helped things out in two ways:

  1. The video isn’t wobbly at all.
  2. I could actually watch my sons play, instead of watching them through the viewfinder of the camera.
The boys’ piano teacher likes to give a somewhat-elaborate introduction for each student, which I could cut from Timmy’s but couldn’t find a nice place to cut from Jacob’s.  Miss Ashley is saying some nice things about Jacob and his playing, but if you want to skip ahead (and believe me, I’m not offended, Jacob starts playing at about 1:00 into the video).
Timmy’s “Jingle Bells”
Jacob’s “Jingle Bell Rock”
10. December 2011 · Comments Off on Squadron Christmas Party — It’s Fun to Play Dress Up · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

It had been a very long time since Dave and I were able to dress up and go out without the kids.  A couple years, I guess.  Don’t get me wrong, we go out occasionally, like to dinner or a movie, but of course we don’t always dress up for those.

Last night we went to Dave’s squadron’s Christmas party and it was a very nice time.  Those who planned the party did a wonderful job.  Everyone seemed to leave having had a great time!

For the past couple tours, our holiday parties have been family events.  That’s fine.  Last year’s party here was family-friendly, and this year the squadron opted for a more formal event at a local golf club restaurant, complete with a cash bar, prime rib and grilled mahi!

I won’t post ALL the pictures (remember, there was a cash bar), but here are a few.  The pictures aren’t in the right order because we combined pictures from two cameras and the times are off between the two.

There was a scavenger hunt.  If there was a coupon taped to the bottom of your chair, you participated.  I think they were sorry I was part of it once I clawed at a couple folks to get Dave’s Christmas tie.

There was a donation/voting contest where the “winners” dressed in costume and sang a holiday song.  Even though he didn’t have to, one of our “winners” opted to remain in costume all evening.

Our MC, Todd VonAlmen.  He did an outstanding job.  Here he’s reading the story for the gift exchange.  Every time the participants heard key words, they had to pass the gifts, left, right, forward, etc.  By the end, the folks only wanted the key words, we didn’t really care about the story itself.

The scavenger hunt finalists.

Don is trying to pay off Glen to get out of wearing a costume.  There were 5 minutes to pay out before the “winners” were announced.

Dave and Todd are giving the final remarks and are about to give away the big raffle prizes.

I tried to get a couple nice pictures of the whole room.  This was tough — I think our camera is done.

04. December 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

I made these last evening also.  I didn’t have enough almonds, but had plenty of almond extract so these taste SO GOOD this year!


Cranberry Almond Biscotti. This is a recipe I’ve been making for over 10 years.  This is one sophisticated cookie…cranberries are always so, well, holiday! What’s cool is that the only fat in the cookie is in the eggs (well, the almonds, too, I guess)!!!! So that makes them as healthy as my Holiday Surprise Cookies, right???

So here we go…

The dough mixes up pretty straightforward in the stand mixer:

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti
From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

This dough will be sticky…be prepared to keep your hands floured for the next part:

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Now, divide the dough into portions and pat it into logs of 2-3″ width onto an ungreased cookie sheet, or, in my case, baking stone.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

You’ll bake these in two shifts. The first shift is at 325, so don’t expect the logs to be browned when they’re done, just a little puffier.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Remove these bars to a cooling rack. I use two spatulas, one on each end of the bar, to move them.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

After about 15-20 minutes of cooling, you will then cut the bars into 1/2 – 3/4″ wide slices.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Move the slices back to the baking stone, this is going to bake at a VERY low temperature, so don’t be shy: pack ’em in!

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

These will bake at 300F for another 15-20 minutes, until super crispy-firm-dried-out. The way biscotti’s supposed to be.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Unfortunately, on this batch, there was leftover sugar on the baking stones from the Holiday Surprise cookies, so pardon the green sugar on the bottom.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Happy Holiday Baking!

03. December 2011 · Comments Off on The Neiman Marcus Cookie: Legend Turned Family Tradition — from 2008 Post · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Another post from 2008, and the next cookie recipe headed into in my stand mixer this afternoon.  This isn’t really a Christmas cookie, but it’s among my most popular (after the Holiday Surprises).


I’m not going to waste time going into the legend of the Neiman Marcus cookie.  I will simply  refer you here and you can read all about the legend. Whether it’s true or not, every time I’ve made these cookies, they’ve been a huge hit and I’m always asked for the recipe. No problem! No big family secrets here!

Neiman Marcus itself has even embraced the legend and provides a manageable sized recipe also.

For the photos here, I’m making a 1/2 recipe from the version on the Snopes page. I did a full recipe on 11/22, and it filled the bowl to the brim when I added the chocolate chips and nuts to the mixer.

First you cream the butter and white/brown sugar. I’m very particular about this — I set the mixer on medium and let ‘er rip for about 3-5 minutes until it’s fluffy.

Then I add the remaining wet ingredients: eggs & vanilla. Beat it to a pulp for another couple minutes.

Then start adding the dry ingredients. Alton Brown and folks like that will tell you to sift all the dry ingredients together: all-purpose flour, blended oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Then add it slowly as the mixer is running on low. I don’t do that…call me lazy. AB, I love you to death, but I just want my cookies! I add the dry goods directly to the mixer one ingredient at a time.

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

Once the dough is all together, slowly add the grated Hershey’s bar (I ground up leftover Hershey’s Kisses from my Holiday Surprise cookies – refrigerate the chocolate for about an hour and then run it through the food processor), chocolate chips and nuts. You’ll want the mixer on the slowest setting possible, or you can even hand-mix it. The dough will be VERY thick, and my mixer actually struggles quite a bit on the full recipe once all the ingredients are added.

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

Now you simply roll the dough into 1 – 1 1/2″ balls and pop them onto your handy-dandy cookie sheet or baking stone.

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

A closeup of a finished cookie for your enjoyment:

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

I’ll tell you what, you do this recipe right, and you’ll have mostly chocolate and nuts in each cookie, hopefully you see it in this shot:

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies
30. November 2011 · Comments Off on Holiday Surprise Cookies: Revisit of 2008 Post · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Instead of recreating a blog post about one of our favorite cookie recipes, I’ve “repurposed” my November 2008 post.  Many of the commercial links from 2008 had to be changed, so I’ve updated the links to the recipe, some of the ingredients I like and the cookie-making equipment I recommend.

Similar to 2008, this will be the first cookies we make for the season, and I the kids once again have to deal with unwrapping about 150 Hershey Kisses.

What I will do differently this year is bake and store the cookies in batches according to the filling.  In years past I’ve jumbled everything together: Timmy doesn’t like milk chocolate, Jacob doesn’t like dark chocolate!



The first batch of cookies: Holiday Surprise Cookies, courtesy of the Quaker Oats company. Hit the hyperlink to go to the recipe straight from the horse’s, er, Quaker’s, mouth.

I gave Dave the camera tonight and asked him to document our experience so I’d have some nice pictures with which to blog. He told me, “Okay, I’m going to be like Maryann!”. He did a great job, he took almost all the photos…

So, to start, we have to come up with a filling…this is the “surprise” in the cookie. In years past, we’d used Wilbur Buds, a Lancaster County, PA staple. In fact, the first time I made this recipe was to keep Dave and me from eating an entire bag of Wilbur Buds we’d gotten for Christmas in one sitting, I think. It was either 1999 or 2000…I can’t remember. The beauty of Wilbur Buds is (a) you can buy a combo pack of milk AND dark chocolate together and (b) the buds aren’t indivually wrapped.

If I’d had the foresight to order the Wilbur Buds ahead of time I would have. But it was much easier to pick up some assorted flavored Hershey’s Kisses from my local mega mart. As can be seen in this photo, we had a lot of unwrapping to do.

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

As the boys were unwrapping about 100 Kisses, in 3 flavors shown here, I was preparing the dough. It’s essentially a sugar cookie dough replacing about 40% of the flour with oatmeal.

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies
From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

Look at those oats — your cholesterol is lowering just looking at it, right? Don’t worry…won’t happen: there’s 2 sticks of butter in the basic recipe…and I doubled it tonight!

Once the chocolates were unwrapped and the dough was ready, I set up the assembly line in the dining room. The boys were great — Jake stuffed the chocolate in the dough, and Timmy rolled the little ball of dough in the colored sugar and placed the ready-to-bake cookie on the baking stone. My job was quality control — I pre-measured wads of dough for Jake to stuff so they’d be uniform in side, and I made sure the cookies were properly spaced on the stone.

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies
From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies
From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

Does that look holiday or what?

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

We tested the cookies, of course, and everyone in the Vollmer clan gave them a thumbs up!

29. November 2011 · Comments Off on A Quick Holiday Craft Idea · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

I’ve been contemplating holiday crafts for Dave’s squadron’s Christmas party.  I’m helping to set it up.

(Oops, did I say “Christmas?”  I mean, um, “Holiday“.)

I recalled doing God’s Eyes in Girl Scouts and Sunday school when I was growing up.  With all these remnants of yarn hanging around from my HAP afghan rectangles, and a huge box of popsicle sticks in my craft drawer, this was an easy one for my kids!

With standard craft popsicle sticks, these are perfect size for the Christmas tree!

If you don’t have popsicle sticks on hand, just march out to the backyard and pick up two sticks!

It’s fun to see my kids grow in dexterity and pick up on more difficult crafts!

The kids “tested” out this craft with some multi-colored yarn, but I have a bunch of holiday colors for the party.

Timmy’s alway been my “craft” kid, and he did most of one of these with a smile!
This one is Jacob’s completed God’s eye.  Hanging on the tree!
27. November 2011 · Comments Off on Holiday Lights! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Today the family more or less was lazy around the house, every once in a while working on the holiday decorations.  I whipped together three recipes of sugar cookie dough for this coming week, and we finished decorating both Christmas trees.

This year, for the first time, we put up two Christmas trees.  We started to run out of room on the one tree we’d had for years with the kids’ craft ornaments.  Yes, how “first world problem” of us, right?

But since this house had the space, and last year right after Christmas we could get a 6 1/2′ pre-lit tree for about $10, we decided to give the kids a tree of their own.

Jacob chose the garland, star on top AND the bow on top!

If you look between the two tail pieces of the big bow at the top of the kids’ tree, you’ll see my new Pensacola Beach sign ornament, courtesy of my thoughtful husband.  He knows how much I love this sign!!!  This ornament connects to the light string and blinks similarly to the real thing.  The connection is compatible with the boys’ new little tree, not the grown up tree, unfortunately.

The “grown up” tree!

This afternoon we put up the outdoor lights.  And by “we”, this year it had to be “me”.  Dave was considering just wrapping the lights around our small bushes, but I really really like lights on the house, so I offered to do it this year.  There was no way Dave should have been doing this stuff!

I’ve been on roofs of two-story houses, no problem.  But for some reason, on this one-story house, I got myself in an awkward place when I first tried to climb up to the crevice between the upper and lower roofs on the left side.  Then I freaked out and had to come down for a little bit.  I hadn’t had fear like that in a really long time.  Strange…

I counted to 10 a few times, got a hug from Timmy, and went back to work.  I only actually had to be on the roof for the two transitions between the upper and lower roofs, but the rest of the time I was on assorted ladders underneath the soffit tucking the light’s wires up into part of the soffit moulding.

Here’s this year’s finished product, courtesy of Dave’s iPhone camera that worked better in the sunset than mine.  You can see the boys’ Christmas tree in the window just left of the front door.