Saturday, December 31, 2011

Greetings From the Sunshine State!

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone!

We've been busy this week...packing up the kids, and making a quick getaway from the normally-frozen tundra of the Midwest, but thanks to the myth known as Global Warming, is actually not as frozen as normal....and landing in southwest Florida.

We arrived Tuesday, and walked into our house that is about 75% completed with the extensive remodeling job that was begun in, we had construction tools, dust, chaos, dirt, etc. greeting us.

But who cares - when we're on vacation, right?

And look who joined us:

Yup. Our resident Elf, Buddy, was found lounging at the pool in the back yard - soaking up some rays.

Our week has been spent cleaning, sorting, organizing, meeting with contractors, plumbers, electricians, glass installers, etc - to put the last, finishing touches on the house. We hope, hope, hope that it will be done by our next visit, which isn't until March - so cross your fingers and toes, please.

In between the housework, we've managed to spend some fun time with the kids - shopping, swimming in the pool (it's heated, thank goodness!), chatting with the neighbors, and heading to the beach. Good times.

I so need this Vitamin D that Florida is providing right now - trust me.

Tomorrow, our neighbors have graciously invited us over to watch NFL football, as our cable has not been hooked back up yet, and being the good guests that we are, we've loaded up on some chips and dips so we can party hearty on New Year's Day in 80-degree temperatures.


That's the way to do New Year's. With the family and friends that you love, doing what you enjoy...and in a warm climate.

Buddy would agree.

Peace - and Happy 2012!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Musings

Merry Christmas, everyone!

It's been a whirlwind of activity at our house the last few days...what with the normal hustle & bustle of the holidays, we also celebrate my husband's birthday on Christmas Day...which really sucks, when you think about it, as it kinda' gets lost in the whirlwind. Go figure.

Yup - it's not enough that I have 27 people (I counted) on my Christmas list to buy & wrap presents dawns on me every year at the last minute that, "YIKES! I have to buy a birthday present for Hubby!!!!" And then panic sets in.

You would think after 13 years of marriage that I would KNOW his birthday is on Christmas Day and I would buy his gift early.

But nope. Always the last thought on my poor, Christmas-addled brain.

To top everything off this year, Hubby has decided to get sick...he's been suffering from the sniffles for the last few days, and has been pretty much out of action. So, that has left everything Christmas-related to me...

We spent Christmas Eve watching the Chiefs lose (again), and because I have too much ADHD, and can't just sit still and watch a game, I decided to bake.

And bake I did...I baked 3 dozen oatmeal scotchies and 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies...yum. Yum - but kinda' tiring, going back and forth to the oven, over and over again, pulling baking sheets out and putting them in. Again. And again. And again.

Don't they look yummy? And they WERE yummy! Some of my best cookies, YET!

I also made a HUGE batch of delicious Taco Soup in the crock-pot, which simmered and stewed all day...sending wafts of delicious aromas into the air, along with the smells of cinnamon and freshly-baked cookies.

We then put on some fancy clothes and headed downtown to a local theater, for our annual tradition of watching a live performance of "A Christmas Carol." It's always a heartwarming performance, which really gets us in the mood for Christmas, as it sends such a powerful message of love, humility and generosity.

Daughter and I, enjoying some "Dickens" cheer at the theater...

After the show, we headed through the streets of the Country Club Plaza, where we took in the thousands and thousands of lights. The lights have come on now for 82 years, and if you live anywhere near Kansas City at Christmas, then it's almost mandatory to make a visit to the Plaza for the spectacle.

Normally, it's bumper-to-bumper traffic, but we've discovered that it's EMPTY on Christmas Eve - woot!

Then, it was time to come's now about 8:30 pm...and the Taco Soup is now calling our names...yum.

After dinner, we watched "It's A Wonderful Life" on television...we love this movie, and love it even more, knowing that the actress who plays "ZuZu", Karolyn Grimes, lives nearby us....

She even autographed an ornament for me a few years ago which hangs proudly on my tree!

I eventually left the movie a bit early, so I could join my parents for Christmas Eve services at their church. The service began at 11:00 pm, and I was getting a little sleepy (you think???!), but I managed to stay awake and not embarrass myself by sleeping. Or snoring. Hee.

I got home in the wee hours of the morning - around 12:30 a.m...and still had to do "Santa" Hubby was sound asleep in bed, knocked out by massive doses of cold medicine. Yup - setting out cookies and milk, and then making sure all was in order for the Big Guy's Visit - I finally turned in around 1:30 a.m.

And promptly tossed and turned with insomnia for a few hours.

Sucks being me sometimes.

Anyway, we had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope all of you did, too.

As Tiny Tim says, "God Bless Us, Everyone!"



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monsters vs Elf

Our resident elf, Buddy Crocker, has decided to make the most of the short time he has left at our house...because, as we all know, once Christmas arrives, he's headed back up to the North Pole for the next 11 months until he deigns to visit us again.

And after the stunt he pulled this morning, I wouldn't be upset if he decided to cut his visit here short and head back to the land of snow and sugar and syrup early. As in...right now.

After a very restless night of sleep, I stumbled sleepily to the kitchen and found Buddy engaged in an epic snowball fight...

...with some other nightly visitors to our house....

...the Monsters.

You know...the Monsters...who went all-Hollywood a few years back when they starred in their own movie, "Monsters, Inc".

Sully, Mike Wozowski and gang.

Yes, there was Sully, caught red-handed (red-pawed?) with a snowball in hand...while Randall lurked behind him, cowardly as usual...and the boss, Mr. Waternoose, giving orders from the right flank.

There was no sign of Mike Wozowski, so all I can deduce is that Mike was out doing what he was SUPPOSED to be doing, as in collecting laughter from the children...while the rest of the Monster gang was fooling around with Buddy.

When my daughter saw what was going on, she was understandably a little freaked out, realizing that our house gets visited by all SORTS of creatures every night...Monsters...Elves...who knows what else??!!

As upset as I was initially to have to clean up snowballs in my house - on wooden floors, no less - I had a hard time staying mad.... I'm rather partial to Sully, as this photo from this past summer will attest:

With hugs & love like that, what's a Mom to do?



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dealing with Puddles

This morning, we woke up to the sight of Buddy the Elf having a meltdown...over the meltdown of his good friend, Frosty.

Yes, Buddy was prostrate with grief...the wailing, the sobbing, the gnashing of was terrible. I was surprised he hadn't woken the kids, what with the haunting sounds of elf grief filling the house.

It wasn't until I reminded Buddy of Frosty's own words, "I'll be back again some day!", that he managed to snap out of his depression. Geesh.

Who knew that Elf Grief Counseling was part of my job? Like I don't have enough to do this time of year...and now I'm having to wipe up puddles of Frosty, as well as puddles of Elf tears.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Death By Chocolate

It's a well-known fact that I am a chocolate fanatic.

I've often said that when I die, I hope my family buries me in a chocolate-scented casket with pots and pots of chocolate syrup and hot fudge and chocolate candies and chocolate cakes buried right along beside me...cuz hey, we all need some chocolate in the after-life, right?

And you can never have too much chocolate.

So...when I was perusing my local Culinary school's upcoming classes, my attention was drawn to the all-day "Death by Chocolate" class.

Yes, please.

"Sir, may I have another?"

This morning, I headed over to the Culinary Institute, armed only with some Diet Dr. Pepper and my camera, of course, so I could blogument all things Death By Chocolate class-related. The things I do for my blog readers.....

The class was full...obviously, I am not the only chocolaholic in the area, and we soon broke up into teams of four to take on several sinfully-delicious recipes.

As we approached the first recipe, imagine my shock when one of my fellow team members, Gayle, whipped out a camera and announced, "I have to take pictures. I have a blog."

"I DO, TOO!" I squealed in excitement.

You will have to check out Gayle's blog, A Sweeter Life, HERE.

We then dove in, up to our elbows, into chocolate...

By the end of the day, we had made:

Chocolate Nut Gateaux cake with homemade Chocolate Ganache:

Chocolate Truffle Cake:

Chocolate Orange Souffle:

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce:

...which we poured over some cream puffs:

...and finally, Grand Marner-injected Chocolate Dipped Strawberries:

And here's a shot of me shooting up those strawberries:

Needless to say, the class was fantastic...and I even managed to bring home a few tastings for the rest of the family.

Not only did I learn some fantastic recipes, but I met a fellow local blogger...and FOODIE!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Red Solo Cup

"Red solo cup...I fill you up...

Let's have a party!"

And so we did.

Last night was our annual Reindeer Games Night, where we set up dozens of games and invite friends and family over to embarrass themselves have fun...

Of course, we throw in some alcohol and munchies, and it's usually a night to remember.

Now, there's a recipe for fun...

It began, though, on a rather peculiar note.

The party was scheduled to begin at 5:00 pm...Hubby and I rushed around all afternoon like banshees, to insure that everything was perfect...we had food, candles, games, booze, music - everything that a perfect party needs for perfect ambiance.

And then...we waited.

And no one was showing up.

WTH? Where WAS everyone?

By 5:15, I couldn't stand I called my mom to see where she was...because on any OTHER given party night, my parents are usually 15 minutes early, which drives me totally crazy, so now that it was 15 minutes past-party-time, I knew something had to be wrong.

"Mom," I began, "Where the heck ARE you?"

My mom calmly replies, "What do you mean, where am I? I'm at home. Why?"

"Because no one is HERE," I whined, in my best whiney voice. "I can't believe no one is here yet. FORTY invites, and no one is here yet!!!!" This last was said with a bit of panic thrown in.

You'd panic, too, if you had enough food and drinks to feed an army, and NO ONE was THERE.

My mom paused for a minute, and then patiently said, "'s because it's only 5:15. Your invitation said the party starts at 6:30."


Yup. 'Tis true.

My own party - that I made out the invitations for - was not to begin until 6:30....but I had it in my head that it was to begin at 5:00.

My bad.

(Did I mention that I'm blonde???!)

Imagine the look that Hubby gave me when I said I had goofed, which is a rare event, I know, but that we still had 90 minutes until the start of the party, ha ha, and we didn't have to rush around as much as what we thought we had to....sorry.

Anyway, once everyone DID show up, we had a lot of fun...playing Kerplunk, Operation, pool, Connect Four, and various other games...of which I lost Every. Single. Game. I. Played. (is that a record??!)

...Check out this bit of Twister with my Hubby, my stepson, and my they all try to figure out which hand goes on which dot.




Saturday, December 17, 2011

All Wrapped Up

Last night, Hubby and I went downtown and watched The Blue Man Group.


At one point, I looked over at Hubby, and he was crying. From laughter. I don't see that too often, but there he was - with his glasses off, and wiping his eyes...yeah, the BMG was THAT good.

We'd seen them in Vegas a few years ago, so we knew what to expect, but we were still pretty much blown away.

If you've never seen them, they're somewhat mimes - think 21st-century mimes - with music, technology and visual arts - all wrapped up in comedy.

You can expect marshmallows, twinkies, neon-colored paint, giant balls, and toilet paper streamers. Among other things.

After a late night, I slept in a bit this morning, only to wake up and find Buddy Crocker had been busy:

My first thought was, he was inspired by The Blue Man Group and was streaming our bathroom - much like the BMG stream the theater....

However, Buddy indicated that last night was "Wrapping Night" at the North Pole, where Santa and Mrs. Claus had set up a giant assembly line of wrapping, and all the elves and reindeer enjoyed feasts of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and syrup while they wrapped. And wrapped. And wrapped.

When he got back from the NP this morning, Buddy decided that our bathroom needed wrapping, as well.

I guess I should be thankful that it wasn't remodeling night at the North Pole - I would have caught him trying to re-paint the bathroom, and heaven only knows what color he would have used.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Midnight Pizza Antics

Just a heads-up…I’m NOT in a good mood today.

My sleep was disrupted last night by the sound of…partying.

Laughing. Shrieking. Giggling. Belching.

At first, I thought it might just be a bad dream, but then I heard a distinctive voice say, “There’s a snake in my boot!”

And there’s only one guy who says that…

Woody. From “Toy Story”.

I HAD to get up to investigate…and when I did, I found THIS little tableau in my living room:

Buddy Crocker, our resident Elf, had hosted a pizza party last night, and had invited a few of his friends:

…there was Barbie, in her little seductive Christmas-green slinky dress and wind-blown hair…

…there was Woody, in a root beer-induced drunken stupor, moping and whining to anyone who would listen because Jessie had dumped him yesterday…

…and there was some weird dude with big, muscular arms and war-paint on his face. The guy is wearing camo pants and a Frank Sinatra hat – what’s with THAT??!! And with his 6-pack abs, he appears to be a toy version of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from the Jersey Shore…

And Buddy, the host…sipping his milk, looking all so innocent…when I KNOW that it was MY credit card he used to pay for that pizza…and heaven knows what kind of tip he gave the delivery guy.

Wait a minute. Maybe the guy in the Sinatra hat IS the delivery guy....?

At least they saved me a slice.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Heigh Ho, Prancer - Away!

Our Elf is making himself quite at home.

Upon further questioning, we found out that Crocker has a first name...which, only makes sense, because EVERYONE has a first name, right?

So, wanna' know what it is? Of course you do.

It's Buddy.


His last name IS Crocker, after all - so what else would his name be but Buddy Crocker...??!!

(Okay, if you're not into old cookbooks or fudgy, delicious brownies, I guess you don't get the joke.)

Anyway, this morning, we found Buddy riding the open range of our living room:

Apparently, he's picked up a riding partner - Jessie - and the two of them were whooping it up, bareback, on the reindeer.

Buddy even donned golden cowboy boots for the occasion - which I noticed Jessie eyeing with a little bit of envy...and who can blame her, right? Because all women love golden cowboy boots.

I sure hope Woody isn't the jealous sort, but hey, I figure if he liked it, he could have put a ring on it. Which he didn't. So Jessie is free to ride reindeer with anyone she chooses.

You go, Buddy Crocker.

Heigh ho, Prancer - away!



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's Heeeeeeeeerrrrrreeeee!

Damn it.

I've succumbed.

I held out as long as I could...but after awhile, the momentum was against me, and I just couldn't fight it anymore.

We now have an Elf on the Shelf at our house.

Damn it.

I really thought the whole idea of an "elf" watching my kids was rather creepy...and, no elf in our home.

But after seeing the multitudes of cute, creative and ornery elf photos on Pinterest, I couldn't NOT be a part of it anymore....

Yes. I'm a lemming.

So, "Crocker" arrived today at our house. (Crocker is a blend of "Creeper" and "Stalker" - cute, huh? Hee.)

He left the kids a note, which says:

Greetings from the North Pole!

To begin with, my name is Crocker. And I’m an Elf. Obviously.

I’ve been sent down by the big guy himself to keep on eye on all of you….I’m sorry that I’m late, but somehow, somewhere, our Reservations Department at the North Pole had you all in Florida already. So guess where I was? Yup – on the beach. Darn my luck when I realized you weren’t in Ft. Myers – yet – and so here I am.

In the cold, blustery frozen tundra of Missouri.


By now you are aware that it is the Christmas Season. This year I shall be spending some time observing you, watching your every move, and reporting back to my master - you know him as "Santa Claus", but I shall not speak his real name here - on your progress.

Your parents speak to you of the importance of being Nice, as opposed to Naughty. They seek to impose their notions of Good and Bad upon you, and along with that their purpose is to, yes, instill fear in you.

Let us be frank. I am not a happy Elf, sent by "Santa" to provide you with amusement. The game we play - I fly back to the North Pole each night to report to tell my master if you've been Naughty or Nice, returning to perch in a different spot each morning, there to wait while the likes of you search the house for me - is a charade.

And let us drop the pretense: we both know that, despite their threats, Santa will be visiting you this year, as he has every year. He is not a monster; neither are your parents.

But a line must be drawn. Candy cane and cookie-fueled anarchy must be kept at bay; the demented ravings brought on by watching too many toy commercials must be staved. My true purpose is to ensure that all of you do not completely succumb to the madness of the holiday season.

There is no "Naughty" or "Nice", kiddos. There is only Chaos and Order. Order must and will be maintained.

And though you may now be thinking that my presence here represents an ultimately empty threat - rest assured, we have ways of ensuring your compliance.

Put in more practical terms: on Christmas morning, there may be electronics and games...or there may be socks and underwear.

Sleep well. I will be watching.

Merry Christmas!


Anyone else do Elf on the Shelf? Anyone else think it's kinda' creepy? Or is that just me?

We'll see how this all works the meantime, time to go figure out where Crocker is going to hide next.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Sister's Christmas Rum Cake

I found this HERE and had to share...especially since a lot of us are up to our ears with baking. Enjoy!

My Sister's Christmas Rum Cake

Every year around this time, my sister makes an attempt to create what she says is her masterpiece of culinary delight (in fact, she usually makes two or three attempts) but alas, I have yet to sample even a tiny morsel of it.

Here is the recipe she uses:

1 or 2 quarts rum
baking powder
1c. butter
1tsp. soda
1tsp. sugar
lemon juice
2 large eggs
brown sugar
1c. dried fruit

Before you start, sample the rum to check for quality.

Good, isn't it?

Now go ahead.

Select a large mixing bowl, measuring cup, etc.

Check the rum again. It must be just right.

To be sure rum is of the highest quality, pour one level cup of rum into a glass and drink it as fast as you can. Repeat.

With an electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 seaspoon of thugar and beat again.

Meanwhile, make sure that the rum is of the finest quality-- try another cup. Open second quart, if necessary.

Add 2 arge leggs, 2 cups fried druit and beat 'til high. If druit gets stuck in beaters, just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Whatever.

Sample the rum again, checking for tonscisticity.

Next sift 3 cups of pepper or salt (it really doesn't matter which).

Sample the rum again.

Sift 1/2 pint lemon juice. Fold in chopped mutter-oops-butter and strained nuts. Add one babblespoon of brown thugar, or whatever color sugar you can find. Who cares about the color of the freakin' sugar?

Wix mell.

Grease oven and turn cake pan to 350 gredees. Now pour whole mess into the coven and ake.

Check the rum again, and bo to bed.

Now you know why.....



Monday, December 12, 2011

Reindeer Games with the Girl Scouts

Tonight was our annual Girl Scout Christmas party, and all I can say is, "Thank God for Pinterest!"


I planned, executed and partied single-handedly with my 7 little Scouts, and pretty much every single activity was pulled from Pinterest.

We began the evening by making Advent activity bags...

Different holiday activities on strips of paper...put in bags...draw one out each day....

...followed by assembling a gift for their parents. The gift consisted of a kitchen wisk, filled with Snickers and Hershey's Kisses, with a tag that said, "I 'wisk' I could do more - but don't 'Snicker'! At least you got something! Merry 'Kiss'-mas!":

After this, we headed to the kitchen, where we made the most adorable reindeer cupcakes:

I think these are just TOO FREAKIN' CUTE!!! And SO easy!!!

Here's all the ingredients...ready for assembly!

Intently decorating her reindeer cupcake....

We also made some delicious and easy Reindeer Munch:

Three ingredients...Rice Chex, vanilla chips, and peppermint sticks...

I broke out my favorite reindeer mugs for the occasion, filling them with hot chocolate and peppermint:

All 8 of order, of course!

My personal favorite mug is Blitzen. Go figure.

It was then time for Reindeer Games...our first game was the One-Armed Wrap:

How quickly (and prettily) can you wrap a gift using just one arm apiece???

We then played several rounds of Face the Cookie, using a Girl Scout cookie, of course!

Can you get a cookie from your forehead to your mouth - by not using your hands??? Quite hilarious, I promise.

We were going to play Christmas Card Cliffhanger and Bite Me, but simply ran out of time...and I was running out of energy by this point, as I was doing this all by myself. I'm kinda' a sucker for that.

It was a great evening...I really do enjoy leading my Girl Scouts, as they are an awesome bunch of girls, and they give me such joy.

And to nibble some more Reindeer Munch and sip some hot cocoa. From my Blitzen mug, of course.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

'Tis the Season

I love this time of year.

I really do.

I love, love, love everything connected with Christmas....

I love the decorating.

I love the baking.

I love the eating.

I love the fellowship.

I love the music.

I love the lights.

And I especially love the shopping.

This year, I am SO ahead of the game, it's scary. My shopping is done. Everything is wrapped. My cards have been sent. Our parties & traditions are all firmly entrenched on the calendar....

I guess all that's left is baking...

...and partying...

...and eating...

...and perhaps a wee bit of exercising.



That made me laugh.

Well, however you choose to spend your holidays - I hope you're all having sleighfuls of fun!



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Heaven on Earth

I like things in their place.

Not only is my closet organized by season and color, but my spices are organized in alphabetical order...and then by size...and then by brand. Hey - don't judge. It works for me.

So, it would only be logical that I would want all of my rewards cards, gift cards, and credit cards sorted. In perfect, alphabetical order. Everything in it's place.

Several years ago, I came across the Card Cubby...and it was love at first sight. look, and I asked the Card Cubby if I could have it's babies. Sigh.

When I need my Price Chopper card, there it is - under the P. My Hallmark card? Under the H. My Macy's card? get the idea....

The Card Cubby come in lots of different colors, but I have the hot pink one (see above), and it doesn't matter where I go, I get lots and lots of comments about it...Invariably, a store clerk will say, "Oh, that's so cute! Where did you get it?"

And I'll say, "Oh, this little thing? At Isn't she a beauty?"

Tonight, I went out for dinner with my sister, and when I whipped out my cubby to grab the Applebee's gift card, I was greeted with the usual....

"What is THAT?" my sister asked, her OCD-laden eyes lighting up. (It runs in the family.)

"This," I replied, "is Nirvana."

Seriously...check out for more styles and colors....Please note that I am not a paid spokesperson, and I received nothing for this endorsement...I just wanted to share my Little Piece of Heaven on Earth with all of my blogging buddies.