Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve Preparations

The afternoon of Christmas Eve is spent mostly in the kitchen and doing sundry cleaning. The reason for all the cooking is that we must do the meal prep for our Christmas Eve dinner as well as the Christmas Morning Brunch which we serve to our entire family. When we have a big cooking day everyone pitches in to help. Here JoAn is taking care of the Cherry soup which was to be served cold on Christmas morning. (It was really good and looked so pretty. It actually tasted better served hot a couple days later. I will definitely repeat this recipe. It is a good way to use up all the sour cherries in the freezer.)
Thomas worked hard frying up sausage and bacon to go in the quiche we made for Christmas brunch.
JoAn was greasing the pans for the potato casserole we made for brunch. I have worked with the children from the time they were young to be helpful and competent in the kitchen. It is a good family time as well.

T-Bob took a break from his Legos and Bionicles to wash veggies and cut up the broccoli.

I was able to go out to the garden and cut some fresh herbs to use in our shrimp bisque. This is thyme and sage. We also used fresh lemon. It was yummy, even our non-seafood eaters like this. They don't want the shrimp, but they love the soup.

It smells so good as it sits steaming on the stove.

Our friends at a local restaurant made the crab cheesecake for us. It was really tasty as she used baby leeks and lots of big pieces of crab. It was moist and delicious. She made it with the gluten free crumbs in the crust so everybody could eat it (except the dairy-free people).

Michelle set the table and created a simple center piece with cinnamon sticks, a candle, and a place mat.

This is how it looked before most of the food was put on. Our only mishap was with the Elegant Baked fish. Mr. Boots made it and JoAn told him to follow the recipe to the letter. He did. I usually don't on this one. It calls for a TABLESPOON of TABASCO sauce for a pound and a half of fish. That's really hot, as we discovered when we started to eat it. I usually only use about a quarter teaspoon when I make it. Mr. Boots really liked it as he enjoys spicy things. Some of the younger children skipped it. We didn't need tears on Christmas Eve, but we did need lots of beverages to drink. We finished up the meal with homemade ice cream which JoAn mixed up and Mr. Boots ran the ice cream maker.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hot House

The red stove in the basement has exceeded its statue of limitations. We have spent the last three months waiting for different parts to arrive. The stove will work fine when the parts arrive, that's why we have patiently frozen in the house for the last 3 months. We had a different wood stove in the garage just sitting there unused, but the thought of switching stoves was rather unpleasant. They weigh about 600# and they have to go to the basement. DH and Mr. Boots combined weight is about 270 #. They have to be smarter rather than work harder. Here's how they did it.....

DH put his work planks on the stairs. Then they moved the stove via a dolly over by the stairs onto a 3/4" piece of plywood. They slid the piece of wood and stove onto the planks and using ropes they pulled it down. I thought it might just slide easily down a ramp this steep, but the heavy weight of it made it that the stove required a lot of force to get it to move down. It cleared the ceiling by about an 1/8". They moved a heavy set of drawers for the planks and then the stove to set on. It is something that my hubby built for the garage.
I was late getting my camera out and didn't get any pictures until the stove was at the bottom. I couldn't convince the guys to do a re-enactment. Wonder why....

This is a cast iron stove which is why it is so heavy. They took of all the parts they could to make it as light as possible. Here it is on its platform. Needless to say OSHA was not a party to this project.

They turned it around on its piece of plywood and started the big slide to where it belonged.

They had to make sure that it first sat on some 6x6" beams so they could reattach the legs without having to lift and hold it.

A lot of thought went into planning this step by step so it didn't get stuck or injure anyone.

This was a good manly man project. It required more brains than brawn. They got the legs back on.

Then JoAn came along and helped Mr. Boots put all the pieces and parts back on the stove.

Success was obtained. We had a hot fire on the hearth. The basement was soon toasty and gradually the first floor has warmed as well. We can no longer store the milk on the kitchen counter and not have it go sour. I can't see my breath any more in the living room and the snow has melted off the Christmas tree. I am seeing sweaters lying around and I think T-Bob is only wearing 5 or 6 layers instead of 8 or 9. Guests no longer have to step outside to warm up. It's a beautiful thing.

Christmas Carol Writing Assignment

The children prefer creative writing assignments, and when I can I try to be creative and think of some. My latest brain storm was to have the children incorporate at least 5 Christmas carol titles in their writing assignments. I gave them a list and they could use others that they knew. Here are a couple that were done. I present them youngest to eldest authors.

T-Bob Wrote:

One Christmas day a farmer was caroling. When he came home his cows were singing 'Oi Low Joyfully'. His sleigh horses were singing 'Jingle Bells'.
When he went into the house, his children said, "'Joy to the World,' Daddy's home."
He went to feed the sheep the next morning and there was a huge commotion among the ewes. He asked them what it was all about. They said there was a new adorable ram 'in yonder stall'. He said, " I bought him for you."
"Whose flock is he from?" they asked.
He said, "'From Jesse's stock upbringing.'"
They said, "Thank-you!"
The farmer and his animals had a great Christmas.

The End

Michelle wrote:

Joy to the World

She listened to the birds singing. It was 'joy to the world'. She was thinking about the 'silent night' that they would enjoy that evening, when she suddenly heard 'jingle bells'.
"Visitors", she shouted.
She heard her dad tell them to bring their horses into the barn.
Then she heard them yell, "Who is he in yonder stall?"
"I forgot about the lamb." Dad said.
She went down to welcome her Aunt and Uncle. Her Aunt was talking about the great time they would have singing "Hark the Herald Angels sing" as they danced around the Christmas tree. She just loved Christmas, she thought as she went in to help her mom.
"What a great Christmas this will be," She said.

Mr. Boots wrote:

'It came upon a midnight clear' that John and his father Bill were travelling home from work. They stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities.
John asked, "Who is he in yonder stall?"
His father replied, "That's Warren Henderson."
They talked along time until they remembered why they were there.
On the way out, Bill called out,"John, 'thou didst leave thy throne'?"
John replied, "Here I am," and they went back to the truck.
It was Christmas eve and on the way home they sang "Joy to the World".
When they got home Bill called out, "Bring the torch, Jeanette Isabella". She brought the light and on the front walk there was an inebriated lady.
The lady kept saying, "I saw three ships, I saw three ships, I saw three ships." They finally got her quieted down and it became a 'silent night'.
Bill asked his daughter,"Janette, do you know who we saw tonight?
"No", she replied.
"We saw Warren Henderson."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Frost on the pumpkin

James Whitcomb Riley. 1853–1916

"When the Frost is on the Punkin"

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,

And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,

And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,

And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;

O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best,

With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,

As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere

When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here—

Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,

And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;

But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days

Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock—

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,

And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;

The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still

A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;

The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;

The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—

O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps

Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;

And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through

With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...

I don't know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be

As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me—

I'd want to 'commodate 'em—all the whole-indurin' flock—

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

This post is here in honor of my friend Carol Tater who also has her pumpkin still out on the porch.
The children memorized this poem our first semester of school.

The Tree Expedition, Dallas Assists

Red's Tree Farm is a little over a half hour away. It is our family tradition to go cut our own tree. It is truly an expedition. My DH leads the troops. It was a cold 30 degree day and snow was lightly falling. It was actually quite beautiful. This close to Christmas the crowd was down considerably. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.

We brought Dallas along to help pull the tree out. He needs to earn his keep.

A lot of the good trees that had been up close were already gone. We weren't interested in anything up close anyways.

Red's Tree Farm is HUGE. There are acres and acres of trees. The one we were after was at the very back of the lot. Michelle had seen the perfect tree in the farthest corner last year and had been very upset when we hadn't gotten it. We HAD to go back this year and get that tree. Alas, it was gone already, but we found some other ones that were nice.
Elizabeth helped by carrying the saw or running ahead.

Did I say this tree was in the WAY, WAY back?

We did the traditional pose the family in front of the appointed tree.

The sawing began and we noted the snow on the branches. We tried to decide if the snow would melt in the house or was the living room cold enough to keep it frozen.

All the boys took their turn at this manly man task.

Mr. Boots had the honor of the final cut. Dad helped pull it over. "Timberrrr!"

Some of the children were happy and the rest pretended.

We put Dallas in his harness and let him pull. He wasn't sure about it at first.

The snow kept falling. We now have about and inch and a half. Looking much better for a white Christmas.

Dallas finally got the hang of it and we began the half mile hike out with the tree.

This year we were smart and brought the trailer. It simplified the bringing home of the tree. No trauma this year of trying to fit a big tree in a van with eight people.
It was a successful expedition.

Elizabeth's Birthday and the Worst Mom in the World

Did I mention that I am a bad mom? It's true. Elizabeth's birthday was November 30th, and I just never got her presents together and wrapped. The poor girl. She was very patient, but every day she would ask if today was the day she could have her presents. FINALLY, today her procrastinating mom was able to say "YES". (The date is December 19) I was able to dig out all the gifts and separate the Christmas from the birthday stuff and find the tape, wrapping paper and scissors all at one time. I used mostly gift bags even.

She was so happy to have her presents! She tore into them with glee!

Well not really tore into them, she is much too lady like for that.

Her favorite and much requested gift was a Star Wars light saber. It needed to be blue or purple. She really likes dueling light sabers with her brothers.

She also got lots of clothes. She is transitioning out of 6X and into 7. She proudly informed us that she could read 'Land's End'. I know you will have a hard time believing this, but there was a pair of jeans wrapped up with this fleece top. She was pretty tickled about that. They even fit! Now I need to go and play her new game with her. I don't want to be the permanent winner in the 'Worst Mom' category.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dallas and the Photo Shoot

Dallas was allowed in the house for a brief while to participate in the photo shoot. He behaved pretty well. Isn't this a charming group?

Dallas is Michelle's dog. Aren't they a cute team? She is doing a good job with his training.

Dallas got tired of all the photo business and was very happy just enjoying the 'warmth' of the house. I say 'warmth' because it really is relative. We are still waiting for a part for the basement wood stove and so we only have one space heater to warm the first floor. Most winter days it is in the fifties in the living room or dining room. You get used to it after awhile. We wear lots of sweaters and long johns. We will have plenty of wood this winter as we have only been able to burn the with the one stove so far. The upstairs bedrooms are warm, so if you come for an overnight visit, you won't suffer too badly.

Christmas Photo Shoot

Every year at Christmas I try and get a decent photo of all the children smiling and looking charming to mail out in our Christmas letter. It is a challenge. It is a lot easier now with digital than when I shot real film. I would then take in several rolls to the drug store and pray that one would be decent. Sometimes I had to make several trips. This is our traditional family pose on the living room floor.

We always try a pyramid shot, but this year my hubby wasn't home to help stabilize Elizabeth on top. She was more than a little nervous and after about 3 quick shots she 'had to go to the bathroom'.
Michelle is seated on a stool for this picture. It is the only way to get that stair step look anymore.

Thomas was very cooperative. He didn't want me to take any bad pictures that might have a negative impact on his future political aspirations. He didn't want to ruin his image.

Not sure which one I will use. There are several more good ones that I like. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ulysses is Shorn

This picture was taken of Ulysses at least 6 weeks ago. His hair is really getting long.

The weather is cold and rainy here today and the girls were looking for a project. They decided that cutting Ulysses hair would be fun. They convinced him (bribed him with candy) to let them do it and then asked Dad's permission.

Before lunch they got out the clippers and the scissors. Brooke took the scissors and Michelle used the clippers and they went to work. Ulysses sat there like a king on his throne and commanded more treats. They had to pay HIM to let them cut his hair.

They both worked simultaneously.

They clipped and they chopped. He fussed a little but was pretty tolerant of all this activity on his head.

Elizabeth had the job of keeping him fed. She held the bowl of popcorn and periodically one of the older girls gave him a tiny piece of a candy cane. When he was totally and literally fed up, I came in and did a little straightening. Overall it was pretty good.

What do you think? Doesn't he look more like a 4 year old boy now? I think he was pretty pleased with himself.
We will have to file this classroom experience under home ec and economics.
Life at the 'Mengo Academy' or as the boys call it 'Stalag 17'.
PS. Yes, the girls did clean up when they were done.