Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas at Home

Every year since my brother and I were little, our family has travelled down to Cincinnati to visit my mom's family. I really miss waking up in my own bed on Christmas morning, but I love seeing my Grandma and all my aunts, uncles and cousins. We have formed our own traditions down there like Christmas Eve mass with Grandma, morning walks with Dad before anyone wakes up (and it usually includes Panara Bread or Starbucks) and the annual unwrapping of gifts in the "Bukvic Rip-o-rama." It's great fun!

(You can see last year's shots at An American Christmas on my photo blog.)

So, we celebrate our own family Christmas before the calendar one. It just means that we have to open gifts early...too bad!

I started my "Christmas weekend" with Adam as I snuck into his apartment to decorate. The funny thing was that his exam (my cover) ended really early, so he came home and kind of ruined my plan. But we had a good giggle over it nonetheless! It all worked well though as we placed our gifts for each other under this little tiny pine bush I had bought from IKEA and lit with lights (along with the rest of his room). He loved his Toronto Rock lacrosse tickets and guess what he get me? This zipper sweatshirt from Jedidiah and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA TICKETS!!! How cool is that? I've always wanted to go and he's taking me in February! After gift swapping, we had Christmas tacos...yum!

We then had our Christmas night with the junior high kids, then on Saturday, we helped to lead the "Fun Skatin' and Good Eatin' " also known as the youth Christmas party. Sunday and Monday we spent out here in Mississauga with my family. I love how he just fits in so well into our family...it's really nice. He's an amazing guy and I keep thanking God for putting him in my life. Adam, I know you read my blog and you are phenominal in every way. Thank you so much for our "Christmas" (since we can't spend the real one together) weekend and for everything else. You're the best and I love you, too!

Mom and Dad had to work all day, so I agreed to get everything ready. I spent my morning wrapping gifts that I had bought for the family, as well as for Dad seeing as he didn't have enough time to wrap his gift for Mom. The nice thing is that I turned on Sound of Music and Julie Andrews kept me company while I was knee-deep in ribbon, tissue paper and boxes.

By lunch, I had wrapped everything and then began the Christmas lasagna. I pre-cooked the ground beef with onions, EVOO and garlic. I figured that I may as well make the cheese mixture, too. It was fantastic. I finished in an hour and had enough time to lift weights, then shower.

Anyway, I made dinner and had it ready for 6pm. My spicy meat lasagna, pesto garlic bagette and salad went over really well. Everyone was famished!

Then came the fun part...

...I unwrapped my gift to find a DIGITAL CAMERA!!!

I couldn't believe it! I've really wanted one for awhile now, so I asked for one (among many other requests of a more affordable manner), but go figure...Who knew that I'd actually get a 6MP one with a 1GB card with panoramic shot?

I also got some totally cool socks from Tim from Banana Republic...

I got Mom a neat hot water bottle and cosy from Chapters, and Tim and I got Dad a stir fry pan from Williams & Sonoma...

So, after we had unwrapped all the gifts and cleaned up the mess, as you can see...

...We made some coffee and finished off the last few ounces of Bailey's.

Now, as I type we are finishing our night with our own little Christmastime tradition: We are all gathered in the living room watching the classic White Christmas with only the tree lit up.

I couldn't have asked for a better night with my family.

Hope you all have a very merry Christmas and don't forget, even amidst the gifts and good eats, Jesus is the only real reason for the season...So don't forget to wish Him a happy birthday!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Life, Flour and Christmas Cookies

Hello, again!

I know...It's been a very long time since I've last blogged. But what can I say? Life's been keeping me on my toes. School, church, the Christmas play, family, the amazing Adam, and friends all have made the past month and a half very busy, but I'm grateful for all of it. After all, I'd rather be busy with the ones I love (and the with the things I like to do) than be bored! By the way, you can check out the Christmas play pictures at In My Shoes, or by clicking on the first link in the sidebar entitled the same.

Dave, Stu and Mark as the Three Kings, with us girls in the back and Terry holding the umbrella.

Well, today I was going to spend the day baking cookies. So, I wondered downstairs in my pjs, put my apron on and began to set up. I'm one of those ultra-organized types, so I scrubbed down the already clean counters first, set up my bowls for mixing and my sifting area for dry ingredients and then went for the flour...

...but it was empty. Someone had put the flour tin back with only a few spoonfuls of the powdery stuff left in the bottom. I ran to the window to see if the car was in the driveway, but it was gone. Sometimes I really hate being a one car family in suburbia! There was no way to get to the store even in desperation. Ten cups of all-purpose flour wasn't worth a thirty dollar taxi ride!

So, it looks like chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies and gingerbread stars are going to have to be baked tomorrow! But, if you are needing a couple of good-old Christmas cookie recipes this season, try these as they've been tried, tested and are a total succcess among my friends:

Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 cups semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips (about 12 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon shortening

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in half the chocolate chips.

2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

4. Melt chocolate over stove. (Place a small pot with water over low-medium heat with a heat safe bowl over top to melt chocolate.) Melt in shortening to temper chocolate. DO NOT LET MIXTURE BUBBLE! Dip half of each cookie in the chocolate and let cool on wax or parchment paper.

Store cookies in an airtight container with wax paper in between layers. Keep cool and dry.

Gingerbread Stars

Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on the size of cookie cutter

6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses

1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture; combine on low speed. Divide dough in thirds; wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour.

3. Heat oven to 350°. On a floured work surface, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes but preferably one and a half hour. Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire racks, then decorate as desired.