Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 -- A Special Year

This was a tough year for our country. The economy took a dive, the joblessness rate is at a 10 year high, and many people are struggling just to put food on the table.

For me, 2008 was a year full of wonder and love. My little girl was introduced to the world, my little boy went from baby to toddler, we made a move back to New England, and I celebrated five years of marriage with my best friend.

While others can't wait to turn the page on 2008, I am a little sad to do so. I truly felt it was one of the best years of my life.

I was thinking about how to appropriately mark the end of this year with photos, and decided to share my favorites with you. It was hard to pick so few, but these are the ones that make me smile the most. Here they are! My favorite photos from 2008:

Tonight we are saying farewell to 2008 and welcoming 2009 with some friends that have two little boys, each a month older than James and Ella. They have invited a few families with children the same age to join in the fun. I am looking forward to sharing these last moments of 2008 with them in the warmth of their home.

As we turn the page on this year, I want to thank you for your friendship across Blogland. Your comments, humor, insights and attention have given me great satisfaction over the year. Thank you.

Best to you and yours in 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

What a Wonderful Christmas Holiday!

We hope you had a Christmas like we did;
filled with warmth, love, family, friends, great food
and the sheer magic of the holiday.

We are looking forward to a happy and healthy New Year!
Hope yours is all you are wishing it to be.

With love,
Chris, Allison, James, Ella, Rocco, Gino and Henry

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Chris,

Happy 5th Anniversary, Babe!!!

I "wood" do it all again in a heartbeat!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flower Power!

We have tons of fun snow pics to show you, but right now we are too busy sledding, snowman building, snow-blowing, and fort making to share!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My All-Time Favorite Holiday Cake Recipe

I stumbled upon this blog last night and they are sponsoring a contest to win a great cookbook! I needed to post a favorite recipe, so with the holidays in mind, I am posting my very favorite cake recipe!

Julie Bengtson
Bemidji, MN
Bake-Off® Contest 33, 1988

1/2cup butter or margarine
1/4cup whipping cream
1cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4cup coarsely chopped pecans
1(18.25-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 1/4cups water
1/3cup oil
1 3/4cups whipping cream
1/4cup powdered sugar
1/4teaspoon vanilla
16pecan halves, if desired
16chocolate curls, if desired

1.Heat oven to 325°F. In small heavy saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup whipping cream and brown sugar. Cook over low heat just until butter is melted, stirring occasionally. Pour into two 9 or 8-inch round cake pans; sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans.
2.In large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs; beat at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture.
3.Bake at 325°F. for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.
4.In small bowl, beat 1 3/4 cups whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form.
5.To assemble cake, place 1 layer on serving plate, praline side up. Spread with half of whipped cream. Top with second layer, praline side up; spread top with remaining whipped cream. Garnish with whole pecans and chocolate curls. Store in refrigerator.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft) Add 1/3 cup flour to dry cake mix; increase water to 1 1/3 cups. Bake at 350°F. for 30 to 35 minutes. Immediately remove from pans.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Paper Hearts and a Pretty Girl

Work has been stressing me out.

Today I decided that I needed to take a little break from
totally mind-numbing and meaningless crap
webinar e-commerce set-up and cash and carry sales reports.

One of the best ways for me to de-stress is to do something creative.

I left a web page open on my computer for days
(my I'm too busy to be smart version of bookmarking)
with a tutorial on crafting paper heart Christmas baskets.

I finally worked on some of them today.

They were totally easy and fun.
I will be filling them with little goodies
and bringing them to a Christmas Eve party
that I am attending with my family.

Want to make some of your own?
Here is the tutorial:
Gingerbread Snowflakes Blog

I think they are so darn cute.

Here is something, or someone I also think is cute.

Spending some time just sitting and loving her today,
quietly, during James' nap, with no work calls,
no television on, and no thoughts of my job
creeping in to my mind was just

w o n d e r f u l.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seriously Freaking Me Out

I made a chicken pot pie last night.

I pulled out a bag of carrots to slice and put into it.

I dumped the bag onto the cutting board
and started yelling my head off!










I dunno, you tell me . . .
what the H -E double L does it look like TO YOU????

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas . . .

Our stockings are trimmed and hung by the fireplace, waiting to be filled with all sorts of great goodies!

This Victorian doll holding a Christmas tree sits in a beautiful vintage stocking trimmed with garland and a tortoiseshell hair comb.

Our Santas are waiting patiently on the mantle for midnight on Christmas Eve to come so that they can start to put presents under the tree!

My collection of vintage ornaments look especially sparkly to me this year!

New and old ornaments are side by side, like this button-eyed gingerbread man that James made last year.

One of my new favorite decorations is this Rudolph that James and his Auntie Amy made during her visit.

"But the prettiest sight you'll see is the Holly that will be on your own, front door!"

We're getting excited!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are We Done Yet?

I have a great colleague who, when we are trying to have a meeting for work and gather everyone in the same room she always throws up her hands and says "It's like herding cats!"

That's the way I felt today.

I tried to take the Christmas photo of the kids this afternoon with my sister's help.

Now, I did this last year, and my biggest problem was that I had ordered the prints online and had them ready for me to pick up at CVS. Or was it Walgreens? No, it was CVS. I think . . . anyhow, you can read about that minor I think I'll blow my head off now holiday breakdown here.

This year my challenge was trying to get a 3 month old and a 2 1/2 year old semi-posed for a photo. You know, I wanted them both looking at me, I wanted the photo to be clear, I wanted James to hold the stinking candy cane in his lap for Pete's sake smile nicely and naturally for the camera . . . you know--the normal stuff.

Did it happen? Was I able to get that one, perfect, make-your-heart-melt photo? Well, you be the judge:

Okay, do you see James in the last photo here? What exactly is the attention span of a toddler?

Anyhow, I won't spoil the surprise with the photo that I actually got. Is it perfectly in focus? No. That's why they have the soft blurring effect in Photoshop, so that it makes it LOOK LIKE that was the effect you were going after.

Right? Well, anyhow. It did come out perfect after all. I mean look at them. How could it not?

(But I do think these collages are WAAAAAY better. Just for the record.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Auntie Amy

My sister is visiting with us this week. She is six years younger than me and does not have children of her own (yet--but no pressure, Amy). She plays the role of Auntie well--at one point during the visit she acts as a jungle gym, at another point in the visit a giver of pinch bugs. James adores her and is sucking every moment of Auntie Amy time out of her that he can. I adore her for being here to give me an extra hand and to allow me to get some work done. I am also glad that there is someone in the house who likes snapping pics of my kids even more than I do!

We took the kids to see Santa. James would not go in. Here he is standing outside, STARING and getting all worked up.

He CRIED and SCREAMED and TREMBLED. So I took Ella in and had her picture taken.

After, since there wasn't a line (I guess Tuesday afternoons are slow at Enfield Square Mall), Santa actually CAME OUT and said Hi to James and gave him a lollipop. Fresh from his crying jag, my son still managed to say "thank you Santa" and "Merry Christmas" to Jolly Old St. Nick.

That evening we started to decorate our tree. I simply could not help myself, and pulled out James' Christmas pjs early. What the heck. I mean COME ON--sock monkey gingerbread men? HOW COULD I RESIST???!!!

Then, after realizing that all of my huge and heavy glass ornaments weigh down all of my live tree branches, we gave up and then watched Frosty and had hot chocolate and sugar cookies (homemade from the tube.)

Here is Amy in her favorite place, with her favorite beer and her favorite dog. (What you can't see is that Gino and Henry are also in her lap.) She is a kid and pet MAGNET.

Ella couldn't decorate the tree, but she did her job of just looking cute just fine!

Today I had to take Amy to Shady Glen, as she is somewhat an expert on Diners and Drive-ins. She was impressed.

She snapped this pic of the kiddos. I just love the look on James' face!

Here she is working her magic on Ella Bella.

Here is a great video she took of Ella's FIRST GIGGLES.
Sorry Babe!! Come home soon!