Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Lose weight (given)
Be a better friend
Clean the house more (so Ryan doesn't have to...)
Write more physical letters
Walk dogs more
Learn Spanish before our big yearly trip (OK, enough to get by)
Drink less beer (yeah right!)
Finally put together that scrap book I have laying around
Decorate my house
Pick up more photo gigs (anyone needs family pics done?)
Here's to 2009
Thursday, December 25, 2008
A Very Merry
Because Ryan has worked the last 3 Christmases, we sort of have a little tradition. We got up at 5am, turned on some holiday music, open gifts, and I made french toast while Ryan got ready for work. I'm really not too sad about Ryan working today. We're not religious, and while I love the feeling of this time of year, it really is a whole lot of fun sharing it with his guys at the station. Every year I put together gift bags for those guys (Ryan included, and he doesn't get to peak in them until Christmas day). They always have candy, but they also have something that shoots, something that makes obnoxious noise, and some sort of car. They're like children, so the guns cause a little problem during the day. :-)
I also had my very own version of A Christmas Story today. I met my brother near the movie theater thinking for sure Chili's would be open. Not so. And the only thing that was open? A Chinese buffet! Omg, we had a good laugh over the two of us sitting in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas opening gifts at the table there. Ha!
And as if I haven't already gained 5lb more then the requisite holiday ten, I then went to Christmas dinner at the fire station. Those boys can cook!
Now, with my glass of wine and White Christmas (my fave!) on TV, I want to wish you all a very happy holiday, no matter what you celebrate.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Food, food and more food.
Right now I have pumpkin chocolate chip bread in the oven and tomato sauce for my Mom's lasagna stewing on the stove. No promises on recipes for those, but it does give me some time to put out the aforementioned promised recipes.
First up, I cooked two of my family's cookies recipes to send to my grandma a week ago. We used to have an ancient cookie tin that went from Florida to Arizona and back again every year filled with cookies. My grandma would send us Apricot/Cinnamon Squares (recipe below), and we'd send back spritz cookies pressed by mom and decorated by us kids. And both houses made Three Layer Party Squares (recipe below). That tin had "To/From" labels on it dating back to the 70s. We just kept slapping labels over labels. I wish I knew where that tin was....
(Three Layer Party Square left, Apricot/Cinnamon right)
2 1/4 C. flour 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C. sugar 3 eggs
3/4 C. margarine 1 C. dark brown sugar
2 Tb. cocoa (unsweetened) 2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon 1-8oz apricots (cut or chopped fine)
1/2 tsp backing powder 1 C. chopped walnuts
Combine 1 1/2 C. flour and sugar. Cut in margarine into course crumbs. Pack evenly into 13x9 baking pan. Bake 350deg about 25 minutes.
Combine 3/4 C. flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and cocoa.
Beat eggs with brown sugar. Blend in vanilla and flour mixture. Stir in apricots and walnuts.
Spread over baked layer. Bake 30 min till cake tester comes out dry.
Cool in pan then cut into squares.
Three Layer Party Squares (my favorite cookie ever!!)
1 C. butter
1 2/3 C. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 C. flour
1 C. chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Cream butter. Gradually add 1 C. sugar, mixing well. Blend in 2 unbeaten egg yolks (reserve whites), vanilla and salt. Mix well.
Add flour, blending thoroughly. Press into bottom of lightly greased 15"x10"x1" jelly roll pan Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
Sprinkle immediately with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes.
Beat 2 egg whites until soft mounts form. Gradually add 2/3 C. sugar, beating well after each addition.
Spread melted morsels over warm cookie base. Spread meringue over chocolate. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
Cool and cut into squares.
And last but not least, my mom's cranberry mold for Thanksgiving. I don't like cranberries that much, but I knew that Thanksgiving wouldn't have been right without her famous mold in the amazing crystal piece she got from her grandmother. Check out this well-used recipe card!
Holiday Cranberry Relish
1 9-oz. can crushed pineapple 1 Tb. lemon juice
1 3-oz. package red Jell-o 1 C. ground fresh cranberries
1/2 C. sugar 1 C. chopped celery
1 C. hot water 1 small orange (peel on, seeds removed, ground, 1/2 C.)
Drain the pineapple, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to the pineapple liquid to make 1/ 2 cup.
Dissolve Jell-o and sugar in the hot water. Add the reserved pineapple liquid and water and lemon juice. Chill until partially set (this will take a while).
Add pineapple and other ingredients. Pour into a mold or bowl. Chill until set.
So there ya go. Possible food entries to come: pumpkin chocolate chip bread, my mom's lasagna, holiday poke cake, and my family's famous Wassail (hot spiced cider).
Hope you all have your shopping done!
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
It's so magical to watch these kids with Santa. Autistic, Asperger's, late development... none of that matters when they see that Santa was really there! They RAN to him. They focused on him.
Santa even took time to take a picture or two with his helper elves:
Every year we also adopt a few children. We don't have many kids in our lives, so it's a special treat to pick out a little boy and a little girl and make sure they have a great holiday. This year we picked David and Jennifer, 4 and 2 respectively. They each got pants, a few tops, socks, a jacket, and the toys that their parents ask for. We look forward to this every year, and every year we end up teary in the children's clothing section.
Tonight I'm baking for my grandma. My grandma is one of the toughest ladies I know, but she has outlived 3 husbands, and two of her children left the world before her. She lives in Florida and I don't see her nearly as much as I should. I also don't write as much as I should. But this Christmas, as hard as I know it is for me with my mom gone, it's got to be so hard for her. To lose another child... I can't imagine. So I've made her favorite Christmas cookie (she doesn't bake anymore) and my mom's favorite Christmas cookie.
My mom, me, my grandma. The month before
my mom's first chemo treatment in 2006
Next post I'll be putting up both of those recipes, along with my mom's Thanksgiving cranberry relish, but I was wondering, what food makes you think of the holidays?
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
I've done quite a few photo jobs lately, and boy am I ever blessed with gorgeous people to photograph. Wanna see a few?
Right? They make my job easy. :-) This weekend I have an amazing job coming up. I'm going to be doing Santa pictures at the Zoo (ZooLights!!) for a very special holiday party. Affinity Family Care is another amazing agency in my area. They help parents of disabled children find the services they need. This party? It's for the kids. And oh boy, we've got 445 people RSVP'd for this thing. Too bad you can't have two Santas at the same party! I'm afraid some people aren't going to get a picture, but my little helper elf (Ryan) will be moving people through quickly, so we'll do our best. It's gonna be a zoo though. Ha! A zoo!
I've started my holiday shopping, but I'm floundering a bit this year. With the economy, and my mom passing away, it's just hard to know how to celebrate. Big celebration to over-compensate? No celebration at all? I'm sure we'll figure it out, but it's getting harder, if anything, to put on a brave face.
Ok, ok, really quick: I am thankful for my husband (is it OK if I brag that he's pretty darn close to perfect?), my brother (one of my bestest friends!), my Florida relatives, my girlfriends, my mom's friends (who feel the need to adopt us, and heck if I'm going to say 'no' to free food!), my job, my pups, my life... I have a really good life, and so much to be thankful for. Guess I'll try a little harder to remember that when all this other stuff happens.
I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.