Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Final Christmas Recap

After church we headed home, changed clothes and got down to business.

We traditionally wear our bows and ribbons.  Some years it's hard to see the hair under all the decorations.

Mike opened his gift box from his mom.  Christmas and Easter - without fail - includes a toothbrush in everyone's packs.  It was the first thing he dug for to make sure it was included...

From the looks of it you would think we are a very formal family...

I wanted to tell him, "Thank you, Webster."

My darling son knows I love jewelry.  He ususally tries to pick out something I will like but rarely goes off of my list of suggestions.  Mike said it gets painful some years to shop with Jake because he has his own mind made up on what style I would should like.

Last year I mentioned that Mike always buys me an ornament that represents something that happened the previous year.  He said he spent three hours searching and finally found what he was looking for.


It's for our Steinway that arrived last February.

Our final gift was for the whole family.

I was a little nervous by Maddie's reaction but 1) Jake was really loud at that point and 2) Since then Maddie has played it almost as much as Jake and actually unlocked several new levels all on her own.  The current favorites are either bowling or basketball on Wii Resort and we all have our own characters though Mike's and mine has actually never been used.

I have no idea what Jake will talk about everyday now.

After gift opening we headed over to my parents' house for more festivities.

First we take the annual family picture though this year was fairly easy.

Afterwards the kids dove into their stockings.

I wasn't sure Ashley had any interest at all in her stocking until I knelt down beside her and asked questions about what Santa brought.

Austin was single-minded in his focus.  He turned his back to everyone and went to work.

Jake was quite enthused that Santa remembered he LOVES gum.  So was I.  Not.

Ellie and Riley were ready for their candy!

Katelyn was pretty focused on her new Barbie.  Kelly mentioned that Dan had already either played with or put together three new Barbie items.  We speak from experience...this is only the beginning for them.

You may wonder what Dan is wearing around his neck in this next photo.  When we were kids Dan was in Indian Guides with my dad and Tracy and I did Indian Princesses with him.  Each weekly meeting had us dressing in fake leather vests complete with patches as well as these necklaces that bore our Indian names on them.  I believe dad and Dan also had some headband they wore.  We might have too, but I've repressed that.  Apparently my parents found these necklaces while unpacking and thought they'd make lovely Christmas presents.

I can only hope we receive the matching vests next year!

Amidst the hubbub Maddie found a quiet spot and started in on the book she's been wanting all year: Miley Cyrus' Autobiography.

Mom was perhaps the most excited I've seen her any year...

She received a crock-pot, a three pan kitchen warmer, and a set of dishes.  Before anyone turns us in for buying her all kitchen gear, you should know these were the top rated items on her Christmas list.  And I mean literally they each had three stars by them. 

That's right, mom stars her list of items.  And it's an awesome list.  My mom is perhaps the easiest person to shop for because she'll tell  you straight up that she loves presents and doesn't hesitate to give you an itemized (and starred) list of what she wants.  She'll even tell you when it's on sale and what coupons to use.

Dad is not the easiest person to shop for.  His list often includes four items for his three children to choose from.  But he tries.

He also picks things that are hard to disguise.

The rest of the day was spent eating, eating and more eating.  We didn't all look like this though...

All that eating resulted in some sugar high crashes by everyone, though Maddie and Ellie looked the cutest...

Eventually we all headed home.  Completely full and with a load of memories.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eight is Great!

Happy Birthday to Jake!

Last night we gave Jake big good-night hugs because it was the last time we would be hugging him as a 7 year old. 

Here's his picture as he went to bed last night....

And here's his picture this morning!

You can see how the hours have aged him, can't you??

Actually, he doesn't officially turn 8 until 3:02pm. We tried to get him to make us breakfast, do the dishes and clean his room until that time, but he was having none of it.

I was looking through his old birthday pictures last night.  Only dating back to his 3rd birthday when we actually had a digital camera.  Here's one of my favorites:

He had quite the bruise on his forehead.  If I remember correctly he had walked into a wall.  There was also a good chance he was supposed to be having his picture taken that week and it was rescheduled.  That seemed to happen a lot with him.

For this 8th birthday he opted for breakfast at Panera because he loves the cinnamon rolls there.  We also treated ourselves to some Caribou.

Afterward "his" request was to head to Petland to play with the dogs.  Over breakfast we questioned whose idea this was and they finally admitted it was a co-conspiracy.  He went over the rules ("we will leave without a pet and spend no money in that store...") and headed out.

Dinner is pizza while watching the Vikings game tonight.  We'll have a little DQ in lieu of a birthday cake.  And as a special treat he gets to stay up for the whole Vikings game.  Whenever they've played late he's had to head to bed before it finished - they've lost each time.  Maybe he'll be their good luck charm.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Recap

Christmas Eve Day was one of the first days last week we got to sleep in.  We were pretty excited about this possibility; it's one of the perks of having kids that are older - they can fend for themselves in the morning.

When we woke up we realized that it had snowed a lot.  A LOT.  But then we realized that our neighbor was outside and had snowblowed half our driveway!  We raced getting dressed and headed out feeling really guilty (but incredibly grateful!).  Matt let us borrow his snowblower to finish off the job.  Afterward we headed to the Donut Connection to celebrate Christmas Eve and get it started right!

We spent the rest of the day relaxing and goofing around the house.  I had two church services to play for that night.  We chose to go together to the later service at 10pm.  My parents decided to go with and stopped by early so we could make a quick pass through Bloomington to see an amazing tree lit up:

Please excuse the big white dots...it was the beginning of our second round of snow for Christmas.

But this tree is quite beautiful.  It's made the national news and is listed in the paper as to what times the owner keeps the lights turned on.  When we arrived there were at least five cars parked around and lots of people out admiring this view and taking pictures. 

It was a late night getting back home and Jake was really worried we wouldn't get home before midnight when Santa arrived.  We finally managed to convince him that Santa began his rounds at midnight, but we weren't the first stop.

Once we were home though, we wasted no time in setting out Santa's goodies and making sure the stockings were ready.

Jake had written an note earlier in the day to Santa that he left...

He had knitted about eight small hats in school and left one for one of Santa's elves.

The large picture of a battleship was because on a website earlier Jake had written to Santa and Santa wrote back how he liked model boats and planes.  Jake thought Santa would like to see the model he has in his room.  Jake left instructions that Santa could take the hat, but that the picture needed to stay.

Christmas morning, per Maddie's request, we opened our door and cranked the Christmas music up really loud to wake everyone up. 

No one moved.

So we cranked it up louder and suddenly Jake came shooting out of his room and beelined down the stairs without a passing "good morning" or "Merry Christmas".  We yelled for him to stop, and he went back to Maddie's room to wake her up - though I'm pretty sure she was faking sleeping.

Downstairs for a first round of gift opening - stockings!

After that the kids were sent up to get dressed for church and Mike headed outside to shovel.  Again.

But he sure looked festive...

I actually changed out of my pajamas and we managed to get just enough of the driveway shoveled to get the truck out.  It was Christmas Day and neither of us wanted to be on work duty.

Soon we were heading out the door for church with two good looking kids!  Jake was very excited because this wasn't a clip-on tie (he's too old for that, he informed us) and it wasn't a zip tie.  This was the real deal.  Mike had to tie it for him and Jake has already mentioned that he thinks he needs a couple more ties to wear to church.  Maddie was excited because she found another great twirling dress this year without even trying.

I'll follow up with the rest of the story tomorrow...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Peak Under the Tree

A few years ago my mom said that she was going to make a quilted tree skirt for each of her kids.  We happened to be getting a new tree and skirt so we opted to purchase one of those cheap white ones that we would only be using for one year.

The next year my mom hadn't gotten to finish the tree skirt, so we used the white one again.  I'm not sure how long this went on, but it's been awhile.  Mike had gotten to the point of dropping large hints to my mom throughout the year that were so subtle.  "So...how's the tree skirt coming?"  or "We'll be putting up our tree soon..."  I'm sure she wanted to smack him.  But, he hated that white tree skirt.

This year my mom answered that she would definitely have our tree skirt finished by Christmas.  She had a lot of it sewn, but she had gotten to a point where she didn't know how to finish it.  She attended a weekly sewing group with a friend and those ladies helped her figure out how to finish it. 

Right after Thanksgiving mom arrived at our house bringing a brand new tree skirt and coffee to celebrate this accomplishment.  Mike wasted no time in tossing the white tree skirt.  It's so much prettier under our tree than the dollar one we had before! 

A very cool heirloom to have from my mom!  She said she's going to start on Dan and Tracy's too.  No rest for the weary.

In a related story...Mike figured out how to keep the little monsters from shaking their presents.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lefse 2009

Every few years my mom, sister and I try to make a batch of Lefse.  Here is an explanation of what Lefse is.  Basically it's a Norwegian tortilla, except it's more thin than a tortilla and it's made from potatoes not corn.  But it is round like a tortilla.  Except when we make it.  Then you never really know what shape you'll get, but we try for a general circle.

In our family, Lefse is like Norwegian crack.  My grandma used to make batches and batches of it.  How she did it alone is beyond us, but she would have piles of it wrapped in wax paper in her freezer and would take it out as needed. 

First mom and Maddie prepared the dough.  This involved a lot of kneading.  This is actually one of the more physical aspects of making lefse and I'm very happy it isn't my job.

You need your basic lefse griddle...


or two as the case may be.  My mom called me in late October bursting with excitement to tell me she had purchased a second lefse griddle.  She said, "Now when I die, you and Tracy will each get one!"  I told her I was happy for her, but could probably wait for it.  Today she gave us strict instructions that these griddles are not to be used for pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches.  They are only lefse griddles.  I'm afraid she might come and haunt us if we decide to try otherwise.

My mom recently made lefse with a group of women at work and learned a few new tricks.  One was the use of this board:

Notice it's round.  It also gives measurements if you want to be crazy and aim for cohesiveness in size.  Maybe 10 years down the road we can try for that.

These are the balls of dough waiting to be rolled out.  That doesn't look too daunting.  However, mom just kept pulling batches of dough out of the fridge.  By the end of her cutting things out, this bowl was filled with these little balls.  It got overwhelming when after 30 minutes of rolling and cooking we hadn't made a dent in the bowl.

You take the ball, place it on the special board which you've buried in flour.  If you don't have enough flour and the board gets any moisture it's all over for your rolling days.  Just ask Tracy.  She tried and tried to recover but had to finally get a new cover. 

The rolling pin is special too.  It has little ridges on it.  Then you cover it with a lefse sleeve.  I'm not sure what it all does to make the lefse roll better, but it works awesome - when you have enough flour.  Flour is key we discovered.

See how thin that is?  My dad informed us that we were making it too thin.  Everyone's a critic.  But, we prefer them this way.  Personally, I think most lefse sold in stores is way too thick.

Once you've rolled it out on the board, you have to roll it onto a lefse stick.  I have no idea what they are called but they are like long wooden swords.  You have to keep them away from small children or they might get mistaken for lightsabers.

Next you bring it over to the griddle and unroll it.  This can be tricky if you don't start far enough over on the side.  It can also be painful if you didn't do it right and go to move the lefse with your fingers.  I can tell you from personal experience that those griddles are hot.  So can Maddie.  And my mom.  Possibly Tracy too.  You'd think the rest of us would have learned from the first one or two persons' mistakes.

Tracy was a bit of a show-off by the time she finally got her board working and managed to produce an actual round piece of lefse.  That's not realistic at all.  Our first couple pieces looked like this:

Note:  There aren't supposed to be holes in lefse.

After it has cooked on one side, which doesn't take long (the griddles are very hot, remember), you take your lefse stick and slide it under the lefse in the middle and flip and unroll the lefse back so the other side cooks.

One should not wear black when making lefse.

Look...it looks like Mike stopped by to help...

By this time we'd finally figured out our plan of attack.  Tracy and I rolled out the dough and transferred it to the griddles.  From here, Madison took over and flipped the lefse and after it fully cooked she transferred it to whatever pile my mom instructed her to use.  Mom then was in charge of cutting and bagging the pieces.  Mom also had made the dough the night before and did all the kneading and crummy preparation part.  Thanks, mom!

In the meantime, small children were starving.  Mom whipped up some PB&J sandwiches and found some cookies and doughnuts for everyone to enjoy.    Some more than others.

Jake and Austin found my parent's reindeer and proceeded to try and ride them.

Then they turned back into boys and things turned vicious for Blitzen and Rudolph.  I heard it can get like that in the North Pole.  That lead position is where the big bucks are. 

Get it!  Big bucks...reindeer...
Next show's at 10, folks.

Anyway...Tracy's little munchkins were getting restless and she was bound and determined that it was a nap day for all so she headed out with her crew.  Mom, Maddie and I finished up in about 20 minutes and we called it a day! 

Mom and I decided Maddie was too clean after this morning's process so we fixed that...

I believe we ended up with 26 or 27 bags of lefse.

We took our cut of seven bags and skee-daddled leaving my mom and dad to deal with this:

Before anyone sends me coal for Christmas, I did offer to help clean.  However, my mom refused and I know from past family parties that she really hates when people try to clean her kitchen.  She can never find anything afterward. 

So we granted her Christmas wish and left.  When we got home I immediately ate three pieces of lefse and about went into a coma from happiness.  Jake said, "Mom...it's not lefse.  It's heaven."