Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010 - More Hats and other ramblings

Awww. I was so touched to see that my daughter, Shauna, had her oldest girl, Hailey, dressed in one of the dresses I saved from when Shauna was her size! LOVE IT!!
 Charlotte (3 months)
Annika (3 years)
Hailey (22 months)
Saben (5 years)
"I don't want to sit here for a photo!" 

I did make a hat for each of the grandkids. Snowboarder hats for the two older ones.

 Hailey's Christmas hat is on the left. The pink one didn't turn out too good (you can't see the detailed pattern because of the fuzzy yarn I chose) so I gave it to Charlotte a month ago.
I got each of the girls teddy bears (Saben is too old for one :( ) and then I used my embroidery machine to make a heart patch for each one that says "Grandma loves Charlotte" (or Hailey or Annika.) Each one of them is super soft and cuddly! (Oh, and so are the kids)

What a fun time with family once again this year. We are so very blessed! Traditions here include food. We usually have Pierogi (Ukrainian potato dumplings) on Christmas Eve. My dad's parents immigrated from the Ukraine so it is a tradition passed down from his parents. This year we had it for breakfast along with other breakfast items on the 26th, since that is when Kari & Kyle and kids came to celebrate Christmas with our side of the family. All the kids/grandkids were here for breakfast. We usually have cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, but since our kids are grown and gone, traditions change and get passed down to the next generation. I brought homemade cinnamon rolls to Shauna's house for Christmas brunch. She and Pete are such good hosts! She had a crowd with Pete's side of the family and Jason, Dave and I.

Then there are the gingerbread men that I made every year before Christmas so the kids could decorate them with frosting and all sorts of candies. Shauna has taken over that tradition as well and had her daughter and nieces and nephews do the decorating both at her house and again yesterday at our house. FUN! Kids are so creative!

I also treated the family to homemade lefse, which is a Norwegian dessert. Dave's neighbor growing up was of Norwegian heritage and made lefse and homemade donuts and would share some with Dave's family. Luckily I got the recipe years ago and decided to try to keep this tradition going too. All of this stuff is really pretty calorie laden! Lefse is made from mashed potatoes and flour and then you roll it into thin rounds and fry it until it bubbles up a bit and gets brown. They are stored in the refrigerator and you simply spread one with butter, sprinkle sugar on it and roll it up and enjoy! Here is what it looks like:

Yummy lefse

We always have a gift exchange with the extended family, who arrived yesterday at 3:00 and it's not a white elephant exchange but everyone provides a gift and then we draw numbers and do the typical stealing from each other. It is always a fun tradition! This year I saw someone selling marshmallow/hot dog roasting "sticks" at a craft show. They were made from golf clubs with the heads cut off and forks screwed in their place. What a great idea! I thought Dave could surely make these in no time and that since everyone in the family (except Dave and I) enjoy camping that this would certainly be a great item for the gift exchange. Unfortunately Dave discovered that the metal was way too hard for normal tools, so he took them to his friend, Marv, who has a drill press, and Marv ended up drilling the holes and attaching the forks. What a great friend he is! Here are a few photos of the gift exchange:
 Chip, Shauna, Kari & Jason
 Jason, Emily, Bob, Jill, Nathan w/Kyle & Pete in back
 Here are those hot dog roasters!
Chip, Brian, Kari
 Dave did not end up with this doughnut maker!
We were missing several members of the extended family and we still had 18 of us. Sorry you couldn't be with us Wilsons, Donna, Roger, and other nieces & nephews with kids. I think it has been quite a while since all 36 of us have been together at the same time! Maybe next year.

Hope you all had a very merry Christmas and have a wonderful 2011!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vegas, Baby!

We really aren't that wild, but we were in Las Vegas for 4 1/2 days. We wanted to go away in honor of our 40th anniversary to somewhere warmer, cheap, not too far away, cheap and without spending too much money. Oh, I guess I already mentioned that. So by using our air miles we didn't have to pay to fly there and staying at Harrah's (our preferred hotel) was $35 per night. Not too shabby!!! Harrah's is centrally located right across from Caesar's (great window shopping at the Forum Shops) and the beds (king size) are super comfortable. Huge room and some may think it is old and it would be better to stay at a newer hotel, we say, "Fine. Go ahead and waste your money!!" We were able to walk North to the Fashion Show Mall, the Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn and see the fantastic architecture. And we could walk south to our favorite site, the Bellagio. Fantastic decorations for Christmas and of course that chocolate fountain is a sight to behold! Here are some sample shots of the Bellagio. No outdoor fountain shots as you can see that anywhere! Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Beautiful lobby registration desk
 Lots of fabulous  Christmas decorations and check out that handsome guy!
 Gotta love that chocolate fountain at Jean Philippe's Patisserie
 Can you see me taking this photo?

Lovely, isn't it?
Here is the other side of that HUGE tree!

We walked and walked all the way down to the new City Center complex which sits on 76 acres! That really gives you pause at just how oversized everything is in Las Vegas.
I kind of wanted to eat at Eva Longoria's restaurant, BESO, which is kitty-corner to the Aria hotel at City Center, but we decided to forgo such an expensive lunch and certainly were not interested in walking all the way back here for dinner!! I might have decided to eat there if Eva herself had been there. I think she is one gorgeous lady. Notice the water floating in mid air....I managed to catch this shot as the interesting water feature was doing it's thing.
 We didn't eat here either! This was located in Crystals, the shopping mall at City Center.
 Do you recognize this giant eraser? I did! They have a similar one at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle.
I wanted to put this photo in even though it is sort of boring, just so you could see how big things are. Isn't this a huge intersection? You really need good shoes on to make it all the way across some of these intersections before the light changes. They do have bridges across the street every so often.
This is looking north. We have a long walk to get back to our hotel! Did you know that it is almost 9 miles from the south end to the north end of Las Vegas? The Stratosphere and Freemont are way up north. We didn't go there this time. Been there, done that. I wore black tennis shoes the whole time.  I enjoyed looking at the Louis Vuitton and Gucci purses (my favorite was $3900...cough, cough) and Jimmy Choo shoes for only $600 to $1000 per pair. My feet wouldn't cope in those shoes but they sure looked pretty!
And yes, the street performers were interesting! Although we enjoyed the dueling piano bar at Harrahs, the Elvis impersonator was really bad! They have karaoke from 6 to 9 pm every night and though some people had fabulous voices, this Elvis person really needed to have a friend tell him he can't carry a tune!!
 Here is another reminder of how wonderful the talent is in our great Pacific Northwest. Dale Chihuly. I just love this piece in the Bellagio, of course!
And this breath-taking ceiling is in the lobby of the Bellagio. Wow. That's all I can say. I suppose that is enough photos of Las Vegas. I didn't even take photos of the fabulous buffet restaurants. We ate almost as much as we would on a cruise! Burp. And the 2 for 1 coupon for waffle cones at Ben and Jerry's at Casino Royale just next door. They also have the best price for a beer (blech) or a glass of strawberry or regular marguerita, for only a dollar. So there you have it. A quick and relaxing get-away that didn't cost us an arm and a leg! The bonus was that we didn't get rained on and it was sunny, shirt-sleeve weather.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

How lovely are your polyethylene branches!

It's only 4 1/2' tall, arrived in a box yesterday and it is now up and decorated. WooHoo! Easy. And I don't have to rearrange all the living room furniture. Yes, I could remove the plant that is behind the tree, but then I would have to find another place for it. This works!

I ordered this tree from and they were quick! They shipped it the day after I ordered and it arrived 4 days later. I'm impressed with that company and hope to order from them again. I forgot the most important part...the price! On sale marked down from $159 to...................$39! That's right! $39, no tax and no shipping. You can't beat that! Uh Oh. I just checked their site. Guess my timing was perfect because it looks like this one is sold out.

It's dark at 5 pm. I like!
 with flash on
with flash off

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Coconut Cream Cake

I had a successful dessert with that flourless chocolate cake, so figured it couldn't be that difficult to make another dessert that looks just as good as it tastes. WRONG!! I had 2 recipes for Coconut Cream Cake and frosting, so used the cake & filling from one cookbook and the 7 minute frosting idea from the other, since I didn't have enough whipping cream left to do the other frosting. Baking the cake was fine. Making the coconut cream filling was fine. Even splitting the layers was fine. Then the problem began....stacking and layering the filling. So, OK it wasn't a disaster yet! Just tricky since I had so much cream filling between the layers.

Then I began making that 7 minuted cooked frosting. You add the hot sugar mixture into whipped egg whites and beat it for 7 minutes. Well. I was still beating it 30 minutes later!! Finally it looked like it might just hold together so I frosted it, sprinkled the top with coconut and rushed it to the refrigerator in the garage. The cake filling needs to be kept cool. Of course, the frosting on the sides began oozing ever downward. I knew I was in trouble but it was almost bedtime so it would have to wait until the next afternoon since I had a hair appointment in the morning. I needed this cake finished and ready to take to Dorene's house for dinner with a dozen or so of her friends by 4:15. YIKES!! I'm glad I don't decorate cakes professionally! What a stress that would be.

2 pm. Scraped off the sides of the cake and cleaned up the cardboard base, but left the top in tact. Made more 7 minute frosting. Just a tad bit different recipe, but still needed to be whipped for 7 minutes. This time, I thought I had it nailed! But, as you can see in the photo, some of the frosting sagged a bit! No time to fret or try to make another dessert. By golly, I was going to make this work!! Sharron picked me up and off we went, cake sitting on my lap the whole way there. And it is a HEAVY, calorie-ridden cake!

Luckily, all the ladies were kind and told me how "beautiful" the cake was! I know different, but it did taste good in spite of itself. You can bet I won't be making this cake again! Talk about labor intensive!

It was a good time together and we all drove from dinner at Dorene's in Seattle to the Issaquah Theater to hear local harpist (from Sultan, WA) Bronn Journey in his annual Christmas concert. If you haven't been before, check out his website, sign up for email reminders and GO NEXT YEAR!! His wife sings and has an exquisite voice.     

Next year I think I will volunteer to bring an appetizer. Like crackers and cheese! How tough can that be??

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Birthday wishes for Don

Tonight we had our friends, Don and Mary, to our house for dinner. Since Don's birthday is Monday, we wished him a happy birthday with this flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Yum!

The recipe I used was from the cookbook, Christina's of Sun Valley. Her Christina's Restaurant is famous for their breakfasts. Dave and I have eaten there when we've been to Sun Valley and will go there again when we visit. I have a "thing" for cookbooks, so I bought two of her cookbooks and have found them to be loaded with good recipes and she has nice color pictures of the food, which to my way of thinking is what all cookbooks should have!

And here is a copy of the recipe in case you are interested. You can click on the recipe to make it a bigger size.Hope you enjoy it. Oh, I should mention that when I removed the sides of the springform pan and placed the cake on my cake plate, I forot that the slippery bottom piece was just sitting on my glass plate, so after I served our cake, I was able to slip that piece out and leave the cake (parchement paper still attached) on my cake plate. I discovered my problem when I moved the cake to cut it and it almost slid right off!

As you can see, Don is quite the jokester! They are a fun couple and we are blessed to call them friends.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Parking Lot Annoyance

OK, people. When you park your car, please pay attention to the cars on either side! When I took my aunt to the doctor today,I backed in to the parking space, straight in and far to the other side where there was a curb and shrubbery. The lady who parked next to me scraped past my bumper as you can see and didn't even have the courtesy to leave me a note! BUT another person saw what happened and left me a note on my windshield with her name and number and the license number of the other car.

To make a long story short, I tracked down this driver as she was quickly exiting the clinic (I had someone page the driver of such and such model car, license #such and such) and lo and behold, the woman scurried out with key in hand to exit before getting caught. Of course, she denied hitting me, but I told her there was a witness and I had photos of both vehicles and she was parked at an angle and over the line, with corresponding damage to her car. I did get her insurance information but she still didn't believe that she had done this. Holy cow!! Can you not feel it when you scrape another car??? I already talked to my insurance company, got an estimate for $ doesn't look like much, but I don't want to pay for it!! 

I am so thankful for this other lady who took the time to leave me a note and make sure I knew what had happened. When I see someone do this sort of thing, you can be sure I will be returning the favor!! I'm thankful that it's just a car and no one was hurt, but sure wish people had a conscience!!