Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 please

I wish you all a very happy, and healthy, New Year.  2009 has to be better, right?  Thank goodness we have so many things to be thankful for in the New Year, right?  

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

The holiday was actually, dare I say... pleasant?  My dad is in California, but we did dinner and presents on Monday.  I was with my in-laws all day yesterday.  And today I did a ton of running around!  Overall, a very nice week.

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.

I should know that it's not a good idea to promise certain things on my blog.  I think to myself "this way, I KNOW I'll blog because I owe it to the blog to deliver what I've promised".  Take my last post.  I said I'd post certain recipes.  Then every time I had a second to blog, it was too overwhelming because I knew I had THREE recipes to come up with pictures for, and to type into the little bloggy window thingy here.  

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)

Apricot/Cinnamon Squares
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
4 eggs
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

Holiday Spirit

This weekend Santa and I headed out to the Phoenix Zoo to take pictures for some very important kids. The party went off without a hitch, and I left there once again amazed that I didn't feel nervous about how I'd do with them, or if they'd respond to me. They just do. It helps that I work with the best Santa in the whole world. Not that there is more than one Santa... I choose to think I've got the real deal. If there really were a Santa I'd like to think he'd take time away from toy building to visit kids like these.

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

Beautiful people

Yeah, yeah.  I neglected my Thanksgiving post.  It was pretty much the worst Thanksgiving ever.   It involved too much food (ok, that's not a bad thing), two run-away dogs (one was mine), one family feud, and lots of uncomfortableness.  Ah well,  I guess then, I'm thankful that it's now the week AFTER Thanksgiving.  

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.  


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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    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.

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