06. April 2012 · Comments Off on My Easter Egg Plans · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Thanks to Pinterest, and a GeekMom who actually tested it last weekend, I will be trying a new approach to dyeing Easter eggs: Kool-Aid!

I had written about Kool-Aid while we were living in Nebraska (since Hastings, NE is home of Kool-Aid!) but honestly I don’t get it that often.

But this display at my local commissary gave me a change of heart.  I bought 6 packets.

It had a display all to itself today! It was a sign that this was how we needed to color our Easter eggs this year!

So check out the recipe for doing this — recommend you click on the Pinterest link above, then click on the picture to go to the original post. We’ll let you know this weekend how it goes.

Happy Mardi Gras, friends!

I haven’t written much lately — it’s been crazy busy around here and things are getting busier as the boys’ baseball practices start up this week.  They’re both playing this year.  Part of why we’re busier is that Dave’s now more active and we can again do family activities.  The cruise really cinched things for us — Dave’s back surgery from October was a resounding success.

For the past week or so I’d been suggesting we take the family to see a Mardi Gras parade in the area.

I guess, in typical Major Mom fashion, I should give you some background to what Mardi Gras is, huh?  Here you go.
While the phrase “Mardi Gras” does literally translate into the words “Fat Tuesday”, which is the day before Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras along the Gulf Coast is actually more of a “season” — between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday.  This is the time to be festive, eat richer foods, imbibe on beverages and just plain party before the more serious penitential Lenten season.

Many Americans are familiar with Carnival season in many parts of the world, such as the largest Carnival there is: Rio de Janiero, Brazil!

More »

26. December 2011 · Comments Off on Happy Boxing Day! I KNOW You’re Wondering…. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
Fox hunting is now illegal in the UK, but Boxing Day is still the country’s biggest hunting day, with the hounds searching for a “dragged scent” instead of a real animal.

Happy Boxing Day!  I know for Americans, this is the day we get in lines to return gifts, and hit the mobs of shoppers grabbing wrapping paper, Christmas trees and strings of lights at at least 50% of off!  The retail industry has even termed the day “Mega Monday“.  For most nations in the Commonwealth of Nations, the day AFTER Christmas is also a holiday: Boxing Day.

Have you ever wondered what exactly Boxing Day is?  Is it a day where everyone watches boxing?

According to Wikipedia, the origins of Boxing Day seem to come from a tradition where wealthier citizens would give gifts — boxed gifts — to their servants or other trademen in service to them (such as their cobbler or ice delivery man) on the first weekday AFTER Christmas…this is when servants would usually get an extra day off, also.

Check out the Wiki for more information.

26. December 2011 · Comments Off on Alabama Discoveries 1: The Santa Train and Zoo Lights! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

We had a fun couple days sightseeing and enjoying some of the local holiday traditions.  Dave’s finally getting his “travel legs” back after his surgery and on Friday withstood about 4 hours in the car, to and from the Foley, Alabama area.

We live about 1 1/2 hours from the Wales West RV Park…and Tourist Railroad.  Yes, if you can imagine the two businesses coexisting, that’s what we have.  It’s tucked deep in a rural town in Alabama, east of Mobile….

Okay, an aside here: I’m not sure what you officially call that part of Alabama that’s due west of the Florida Panhandle and has the Gulf of Mexico as its southern border.  I always thought of it as a “stem”.  I did some cursory research and determined it could be either “South Alabama” or “Lower Alabama”.  Wikipedia didn’t offer too much help.

…anyway, this RV Park offers Welsh Narrow Gauge train rides on weekends, and in December they had an adorable Santa Train experience.

After dark, the train takes riders throughout the extensive RV park, which is brilliantly lit up.  You ride to the far eastern side of the park, where you’re dropped off: Santa Claus is waiting for the kids in his “North Pole” workshop.  The kids meet Santa, photographs are free, and Santa gives each child a wooden toy train to decorate in a craft section at the workshop.  What a wonderful way to meet Santa!

After returning to the main train station on the west side of the RV park, the riders get cocoa, cookies and entertainment.  There were a traveling petting zoo on hand, and a snack bar/gift shop area.

The facilities were well-kept and the holiday decorations were beautiful!

After the train, we headed over to Foley, AL to a touristy restaurant called Lambert’s Cafe.  They advertise that they’re the “Home of Thrown [sic] Rolls”…and that’s precisely what they do: fling the HUGE yeast rolls across the dining room to customers.  The boys enjoyed catching them for us!  Sadly, I tried and tried to get a picture of the young man just as the roll was leaving his hands.

The menu is “comfort food”, like what you would expect at Cracker Barrel, and the portions were ENORMOUS!  Dave and I should have share something!

The kid was too fast for me to catch the roll flying through the air.
Look at the size of these rolls!  Still warm, too!
There’s a paper towel with fried okra in front of me.  Servers came around with “pass arounds” all throughout the meal.

On Saturday evening, after Christmas Eve church services, we headed to the Gulf Breeze Zoo for the “Zoo Lights” event.  We had a nice time seeing the lights, and even got a sneak peek at many of the animals at night!

Unfortunately, I left the good camera at home and most of my iPhone pictures were pretty lousy.  This one was nice, though.  The kids were being silly in the foreground.

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
26. November 2011 · Comments Off on Black Friday…Laid Back Style · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Happy Black Friday friends!

I occasionally have done the first-thing-in-the-morning thing on Black Friday.  Of course, that was back when Black Friday had a morning to it.  Now it’s more of a Black Thursday Night, since that’s when you have to get going to make it to the stores for the “doorbusters”.  I’m too old, too busy, and too fond of my sleep to go any earlier than about 5am.

It’s fun when you’re with a friend and you can just chat it up while waiting in the long lines.

But this year, with much of the shopping about 30 minutes away, and the beginning of the Best Buy and Kohl’s sales were too early, I decided to do Black Friday on MY time this year.

After lunchtime, Jacob and I went out and spent an insane amount of money.  Jacob had some more of his birthday gift cards to spend, and I’m so proud of how he got the Electronic Monopoly at the Black Friday price (under $20) with his $20 gift card!  He also chose some Pokemon cards and the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid DVD.

There were no crowds to speak of this afternoon, which was great!  You could see the remnants of the mobs from this morning at Walmart and Old Navy, but there was plenty of whatever we were looking for.

I misbehaved the most at the Hallmark Store.  I have quite the collection of singing snowmen (called the “Jingle Pals”), and today I got the 2011 version.  I didn’t get the 2010 version (I couldn’t find it in this area last year), but maybe I should find one at eBay or something.  I marched right into the store with my arsenal of extra Gold Crown points coupons, 20% coupon and reward dollars.

Jacob saw ads for Hallmark’s “Jingle the Husky Dog” and begged and begged for one.  Jacob has such a soft spot for Siberian huskies, so I gave in.  We got the stuffed dog home just in time for the companion TV show tonight on the Hallmark Channel.  If you turned on the dog and sat him near the TV speakers, he’d react to some of the lines of the show (same as the book he came with).

While Jacob and I were out, Dave and Timmy worked with some of the holiday decorations at the house.  The boys have been a great help so far this year (knock wood!).