Saturday, December 31, 2011

Flower juice, silly hats (Celebration #31)

Happy new year internet!

I have no idea what the new year will bring for me with respect to blogging. A theme for January is forming in my mind, but we'll see how it pans out. The past few months have been a ton of fun though and I really appreciate everyone who's read and commented and made me feel like it's sort of awesome that I"m such a big dork, if you know what I mean.

Simple celebration for us tonight. No WAY are we keeping the Emperor up until midnight, not to mention that would be torture for me too. I sleep so badly right now that I have to hoard every moment of sleep I can get. Anyway, the Emperor and I made and decorated some crowns earlier in the day, and then after dinner we enjoyed glasses of flower juice-- sparkling apple cider with hibiscus flowers in syrup in it. Josh's idea. Greatly enjoyed by all. The Emperor thought toasting was the best thing ever so we probably said cheers about a hundred times.

Flower juice

The flower juice.

Not your hat

My party hat. His was very minimal... he did NOT want anything glued to it today. But as the evening wore on, he came to regret the lack of glitter on his own crown and took mine instead. Oh well.

Finally, our last daily Emperor for 2011! Here he is wearing my bike gear earlier. Those gloves are too big for me, so they're outlandish on him. I love it.

Set to cycle

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thank you notes & cranberry oat bars (Celebrations #29 and #30)

I had today off, and spent it getting a bunch of stuff crossed off on my pre-baby checklist and just hangin' out with the Emperor. Oh, and we started an attempt to do 3-day potty training. Due to that last item, we spent the whole day in the kitchen (easiest floors to clean; sorry non-kid people, I know that's gross, so just pretend I'm saying it about a dog or something) and while keeping him entertained in there all day was a bit arduous, it meant we more or less did nothing but things that he thinks are really fun.

And that is how we ended up having not one but TWO seasonal celebrations today!

Here's the total list of things we did: made pizza dough, drove cars and trucks on the floor for seriously an hour straight, assembled a train track (but then did not drive the train on it), told stories about what the guys in the cars and trucks were doing, read about six thousand books including four readings of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, wrote out thank you cards for Christmas presents & colored/decorated them, made cranberry oat bars out of half of the cranberry chutney/sauce we have leftover from Christmas dinner, took a bubble bath... that plus meals and nap time pretty much covered our day. Phew.

The Emperor really wanted to get out the art supplies but didn't actually end up doing that much decorating on the thank you cards. I think I'm going to offer them to him again tomorrow and see if he wants to do more. Picture pending after that...

The cranberry oat bars are wonderful, and a highly recommended use of leftover cranberry sauce. I used the recipe for raspberry oat bars from The Joy of Vegan Baking (here is the recipe as a PDF... not sure why this is floating around on but there you go) and just subbed in our cranberries for the jam, but I expect you could use any sort of fruit/oat bar recipe and do the same. I did have to use a bit more than the recipe called for to get the entire surface area of the oat bars covered-- perhaps because the chutney is thicker than jam would be. Freakin' delicious, though, and actually not terribly unhealthy when made with whole grain flour. (Which is good. I think all of our digestive systems need a break after the past week or two.)

Here's one up close and personal:

Cranberry oat bars

And here's your daily Emperor too. I know I have a lot of variants on this picture (him reading with Josh) but it's just one of my favorite images to capture... this is a new book from Christmas (Little Hoot) and it is great, wonderful art and a funny story to boot.

Reading Little Hoot

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Stars (Celebration #28)

Two points of business, people:

1. Today is my youngest brother's birthday. He doesn't read this blog, but that's okay: happy birthday anyway Mikey!

2. Today is also my second to last day of work before leave. I have to go back on January 3rd, but that's it. And I think I'm going to go in late and leave early on the 3rd so... this was basically my last real day. Is that not exciting? I am excited.

Both good things! While I am still feeling pretty mopey (Pingpong, life), I think both of these things merit some sort of celebratory action. Also, the Emperor told me flat out earlier today: "We need to DO a CRAFT, Mommy." Very pointedly. I think he thinks I've been slacking.

So we spent about an hour this evening crafting some little New Year Stars. I can't think of anything else that seems appropriate symbolism-wise for New Year's except champagne bottles and well, that would be a weird craft to make with a two year old. Stars are definitely more to his speed.

New year stars

Here are my stars, hung up on our holiday door. (The lovely card above is from Amey!) I just drew them out on cardboard, cut them out, wrapped the stars in tin foil, and stuck a couple of sequins on them. This seriously took me an hour because I had a lot of trouble cutting out the star shapes.

Grey's star

The Emperor's star. I *had* covered his in foil for him per his request, but then he decided to take the foil off. His isn't on the door yet because the glue's still drying. (He used a lot of glue.) In the time that it took me to make 3 little stars, he colored this star and covered another huge piece of scrap cardboard with marker scribblings, and he shredded a big piece of tin foil into tiny tiny bits. He works fast!

We had a really fun time and I'm glad I sucked it up and did something enjoyable with him.

Speaking of which, here's a picture I took while we were at the park earlier:

Mister Serious

Doesn't he look just super serious? Nice trick, kid.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Yearly Self-Review in Form of Internet Survey (Celebration #27)

Well, the celebration season is winding down around here. I have to tell you, I'm feeling a bit glum about the series of holidays (Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas) coming to an end this year. Usually I'm a bit relieved when they're over, and I guess I am this year too, but at the same time, I just feel like... boy. Such a long stretch of time now before we have anything big and fun to look forward to.

Of course, our baby's due in two weeks, so something interesting will probably happen in the next 0-4 weeks, but that's not really the same. I mean, what kind of decorations do you make for pending offspring?! I need inspiration to glue something onto something else people!

Anyway, anyway. I've been trying to think up a few fun New Year's celebrations to do this week but my heart hasn't been in it. So tonight I did something I do every year: fill out this internet survey someone posted on livejournal back in like 2006-2007. Every year I fill it out again, and then every now and again I go back and re-read my own answers. I'm not going to post my answers here because it's a personal thing for me... but I'll post a link to the survey in case you want to have a moment of self-reflection too.

Yearly survey

PS: Emperor photograph pending-- I got a good one today but my iphone is in the other room and seriously, I'm too weary to get up and get it right now. :P

ETA: Here he is, carefully considering a butter knife:

Consider the butter knife

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Singing Christmas songs (Celebration #26)

Thank you for all the kind thoughts regarding Pingpong yesterday. It really means a lot to me.

Today we had a busy day-- the Emperor doesn't have preschool this week, but Josh and I still have work, so we're sort of swapping off watching him during the day. Getting up at 4:30 - biking to work - working a full day - biking downtown - THEN picking up the Emperor and taking him with me to a doctor's appointment and walking home with him (literally carrying him for about a mile)... phew. Tiring.

So we had a very mellow celebration today. We just sang some of our favorite Christmas songs together. Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, We Wish You a Merry Christmas... all his favorites.

Here he is singing a little of Jingle Bells at the doctor's office:

Monday, December 26, 2011

No celebration today...

My dear sweet old guinea pig Pingpong died sometime between last night and this morning. My heart's too heavy to celebrate much of anything today.

He was a wonderful guinea pig and we'll miss him terribly. I don't want to type it all over, but you can read a little about him and his passing in this PPK thread and see some cute pictures.

Goodbye Pingpong.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best Christmas ever (Celebration #25)

Started with this:

Christmas breakfast

Ended with this:

New jammies

With so much wonderful in between. Maybe I'll expand on our day tomorrow but for now, I am celebrating by going to bed early! Happy holidays, internet!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cookies for Santa, and more (Celebration #24)

Oh my goodness! Christmas is tomorrow! How did that even happen? This month really just flew around here.

Today was a pretty epic day of tying up loose ends/prepping for Christmas. I don't know how we could possibly have had so much stuff left to do, but we did. Well, there were chores to be done (can anyone celebrate if their house is dirty? if the carpet crunches when you walk across it, that's not so festive!) mostly, some food stuff for tomorrow to be prepped (we are going to have a nice dinner even though it will just be the 3 of us, AND a special treat for breakfast... then we're all gonna fast til Easter), presents to be wrapped (most were already done), stockings to be hung, cookies to be baked for Santa, guinea pig house to be cleaned, etc.

Oh, and we took breaks in there to go for coffee date (Emperor and me) and to watch the Black Adder Christmas special (all three of us.)


Cooling gingerbread men

Our specific celebratory activity was making gingerbread cookies to leave out for Santa. And to eat ourselves. The Emperor may be a little kid but he's sharp enough to know that one should always save a couple of cookies to enjoy oneself, ahem.

We used the gingerbread cut-out cookies recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. They're good, but as you can see, they turned out very pasty for gingerbread. They're just not as molasses-y as some gingerbread, and I missed that in both the flavor and the color. They were very easy to roll out though, so maybe that's the tradeoff.

Here are the ones we left out for Santa:

Santa's leftovers

Well, there were a couple more initially, but you know how it goes...

The Christmas Door

Remember our Christmas Door? It's pretty much full now! The stockings are a sham, though-- I didn't get around to stitching the other halves on after the felt-glue debacle. That's okay, they're pretty anyhow.

Pingpong post-bath

For Christmas, our ancient gentleman guinea pig Pingpong got a bath. And I got guinea pig snuggles. He has become so peaceful and huggy in his old age... sweet enough for me to overcome the wet guinea pig smell. (Which is worse BY FAR than wet dog could ever be.) I cuddled him and fed him orange slices and we had a grand old time.

Last but not least, here's your Emperor picture! This was after he cut out his first two gingerbread men. He was saying "Can I EAT them?" while I took this picture:

"I made gingerbread boy!"

Merry Christmas! I hope that wherever you are and whatever you're doing tomorrow, you get some of the ideal parts of the holidays: some sweet time with family and/or friends, a nice present, something good to eat, something like that. And may you have very little of the tedious stuff (family drama, cranky people at the grocery store, stuff like that).

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas Toy & How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Celebration #23)

Today was a bit of a wash. It was nice to have the day off from work, but the rest of the day was not particularly wonderful. Josh woke up feeling pretty rough... as if we haven't had someone ill in the family for long enough!!... so we couldn't go visit our friends who have a new baby. Very sad for both the Emperor and me, but you just don't take risks with colds and other people's babies.

Then we were going to visit our old landlords-- but they weren't home. So that was our other big thing of the day that didn't up happening. Doh.

We DID get to go to the park twice though (once to the park next to our house, and once at a nice park up near where we used to live) and both times, the Emperor ran into some little boys about his age. Very fun for him. Not as much fun for me, but, that's life as a grownup sometimes.

Despite not getting to do what we set out to do, we spent a lot of the day out and about so when we got home, we wanted a low-energy celebration. We first set out to watch The Christmas Toy, another Jim Henson Christmas special. If you're familiar with the plot of Toy Story, this is very similar to that, just a few decades older. Basically, there's a toy who was last year's big Christmas present, and he's about to get replaced by this year's present, and it's hard for him to make the mental adjustment.

Watching "The Christmas Toy"

I thought it was actually pretty cute and sweet. I like the premise in Toy Story but it's kind of um, hm, how do I put this... I feel like some of the social stuff in it is just a little too mean for really little kid. That problem doesn't surface in The Christmas Toy. (Your tradeoff is that it's not particularly funny or anything, unlike TS.)

After that, dinner still wasn't ready (more on that in a sec) so we went ahead and rewatched How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Emperor and I watched it together at the tail end of November, but I asked him if he'd like to see it again and he answered with great enthusiasm, so we did it. I think he liked it even more this time. (Possibly because he's just more familiar with Christmas imagery now.) Ah, such a great movie. One of the few things where I actually think it's better than the book (which is great too). Excellent.

Dinner was delicious-- Josh made tofu buffalo wings in the style of the Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk tempeh wingz and some vegan bleu cheese dressing, and then we ate this big sloppy mess wrapped up in tortillas. Very reminiscent of a place we used to eat in Worcester. Mmmm. Junk food. So good.

The Emperor was not in to dinner at all, because we ate way too late and he was just exhausted and crabby. Oops. Sometimes it can be hard (for both him and for me) to remember how good of a day he's had when he has such a sour mood at the end. But here's a picture to remind us all:

Firetruck for two

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Looking at lights! (Celebration #22)

Tonight we did something I've been looking forward to for a while: the Emperor and I went out for a walk and looked at the lights/decorations on our street! It was cold and dark and my feet hurt like they always do now, but it was worth it for the look on his face and his general enthusiasm about the event. And I loved seeing the lights too.

Not much else to say today! Just pictures!

Across the street

Decorations across the street from us. Frosty 'Noman AND Santa! He loved these.

Grazing reindeer

Animatronic reindeer... these were by far his favorite decoration. We probably spent about 10 minutes (divided over two visits, one on the way out and one on the way back) just gazing at these. He was just so delighted: "Reindeer! The reindeer are EATING GRASS mommy!" Love it. They made a great mechanical squeaky noise when they moved too.

Looking at lights 3

Peering in at the reindeer.

Looking at lights 2

Looking at some lights.

Looking at lights 1

And even more.

I had coffee date with my friend Amey this afternoon and mentioned that my blog mostly hasn't been about food this month. The honest truth of the matter is that I just have no enthusiasm for cooking or really eating right now... same thing happened at the end of my last pregnancy. Weird, huh? But you can rest assured that eventually... this blog will be more food, less random photos of the Emperor doing things.

Just not any time SOON, people!

Okay, last picture of my kid for today. Smooch:

One kiss

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snowflakes! (Celebration #21)

Happy solstice guys! Hey, it's officially winter now!

In keeping with our official change of season, tonight we hung up snowflakes on our living room windows.

Snowflakes in SC

Almost no one is at my work right now-- many people seem to be using vacation days to stay out until January 3rd. (We have four, count them, four paid holidays between then and now so it's not really that many days that people are spending.) No people in the office = no work for me = verrrrrrry very boring days. So it was critical that I find something to occupy my afternoon today. I think the Emperor is a little young to cut out snowflakes himself (he can't use scissors yet!) but figured he'd like helping hang them on the windows.

I printed out a few designs from the internet, then cut the flakes out of old printer test pages. You would not believe how many printer test pages I regularly have stacked on my desk... I make little work notebooks out of them, use them for notes, etc, but boy do they pile up quickly. Nice to have yet another use for them.

The Emperor did like hanging them at first. I think he hung three total (out of maybe 30?). He got really frustrated because he kept trying to stick the side without the tape donut on the window, and he didn't want me to show him how to do it and he wasn't listening to verbal directions. He was actually pretty crabby tonight... we think he skipped his nap at preschool because he was just exhausted and grumpy when he got home. Oh well. He is snugly tucked into bed and the windows got decorated anyway, so it all works out.

Here he is looking deceptively charming during his tooth brushing session:

This is a trick...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Bells of Fraggle Rock (Celebration #20)

Today was a busy day of dashing about and biking hither and yon. I had a doctor's appointment after work, which meant I biked about half an hour more than I do most week days. Used to be this wouldn't bother me, but my body is really feeling it today. Owwww.

We went out to dinner for the first time in some time at Dharma's in Capitola. I was worried the Emperor would be kind of jerky, it being somewhat late for dinner for him, but he was quite well behaved. We ordered him a big pile of baked tofu (his request) and got some tapioca pudding (a favorite of his) to share... and hilariously... he had two bites of tapioca, pushed it away, and asked for more tofu. Sometimes I just don't know what to make of him.

Anyway, after dinner, we came home and had a very small celebration. We watched the Fraggle Rock Christmas Special, "The Bells of Fraggle Rock." Kind of a heavy handed metaphor for how Christmas is in your heart etc, but we enjoyed it. (It helps that it's only 24 minutes long, and thus does not overstay its welcome.) Would be better with more songs, like all things Fraggle. (And most things Christmas.)

Then we watched a couple of Christmas song videos on YouTube, and then the Emperor demanded his monkey pajamas, and then he brushed his teeth and laid down in bed and sang me "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and then had me sing him Rudolph and Jingle Bells and Baa Baa Black Sheep (a song for all seasons). We may be very lazy but we're still feeling preeeeeetty festive around here.

Okay, I'm about to fall over, so I'll leave you with this picture of the Emperor at Dharma's:

Dining at Dharma's

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stockings! (Celebration #19)

You know what is surprisingly difficult guys? Gluing things to felt! What! Don't you have memories of doing this like all the time as a little kid? I do. But I think they must be flawed because I couldn't get half of anything to stick to our felt today. Well, as you will see, we did eventually get SOME sequins to stick to them. But sheesh!

My big problem came in gluing the halves of our felt stockings together. It just did not work. I'm going to have to stitch them by hand I think... okay, well, whatever.

The Emperor had a blast with this craft, I think because he got to boss me extensively. He pulled sequins out, instructed me which ones needed glue, whose stocking they were to go on, and where. You'll notice that he only thought his stocking and Josh's needed "glitter" (his word):

Stockings by Grey

Mine needed "letters" but no glitter. Okay, fair enough...

I'm curious to see how well the sequins do or don't stick once the glue dries. I hope at least some of them will stay on... he really wanted to hang up his stocking tonight with the rest of our holiday crafts but I convinced him to wait til tomorrow when things are dry.

The Emperor had a rough night last night... he fell asleep early but then woke up an hour or two later after a nightmare (we think) and a coughing fit. Poor little guy. He was inconsolable for about half an hour, and then restless the rest of the night. He was obviously suuuuuuper tired tonight and after dinner and our craft, he heard some bedtime stories and then basically passed out. Here he is about to hear his second story:

Weary men

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wrapping presents (Celebration #18)

Can I tell you what is honestly one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season? Not just giving people presents (which everyone likes, including me!), but wrapping presents. And that's exactly what I did for my celebration today: got some wrapping paper and wrapped some stuff up!

Bag full of presents

I often helped my mom wrap presents for my younger siblings when I was a kid. I understood very early on that it was important to prioritize financially and get stuff for the littler kids for whom Christmas was still a magical present oriented holiday. That sounds like it ought to be sad or something, but wrapping presents for my siblings form some of the sweetest memories I have from childhood. There is such a joy in sharing what you do have, even if what you have isn't a lot.

Annnnyway, I am super excited about this being the first Christmas season where the Emperor really understands presents. (We are not planning on telling him that things came from Santa, by the way. Think we've settled on explaining Santa as a kind of cosmic postal worker-- the presents are from grandma and grandpa or whoever, but Santa brought them to the house.) Trying not to go nuts getting him things, and I think we're doing a good job so far. The presents in that first picture ARE all for him, but it's worth noting that four out of the five packages in there are um, socks and underwear.

I also packed up a package for my PPK swap partner, which made me really happy. I think she's going to like it! I hope she's going to like it! It was fun to put together. Her package came the other day and it's crazy, people... I want to post about it but haven't had the time to sit quietly and do it yet. Sneak preview: alder smoked salt and some crazy confection with pretzels and vegan marshmallows suspended in chocolate! OMG.

Okay, gotta cut this short, because I'm exhausted. You know who else was exhausted tonight? The Emperor. He didn't really nap today and he was just dragging by the time evening came around. Somewhere between 6:30 and 7, I noticed that his breathing was getting verrrrry noisy and sounding a little snore-y. Looked over and his eyes were about 90% closed. Josh asked him if he was sleepy and he mumbled "yeah" and just sort of slumped over, out cold. D'awww. Too cute. This doesn't happen much anymore but it's sweet when it does.

Don't believe me? Look how sweet:

Suddenly snoring

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Molly's Solstice Party (Celebration #17)

Isn't it funny that sometimes the things that are the most fun are the least interesting to blog about? For our celebration today, we went to our friend Molly's annual Solstice party. Most years we miss it because we're traveling to or from Oregon, but since we're home this year, we actually got to go. We don't get to see as much of Molly as we'd like to-- she lives up by San Francisco which is quite a long drive from here-- so it's always a treat.

Speaking of treats, I made oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries and chocolate chips to take the party. There were also these wonderful vegan gingersnaps that the hosts made for us:

Ginger snaps

This party was kind of nuts, I think at the peak there were something like six people under the age of 3 there. Needless to say, the Emperor had a really freakin' good time. I had a good time too but it seems to have provoked quite a headache in me, so I am going to wrap this up promptly and get into bed.

He really WAS having a good time though you can't tell it from the pictures I took of him at the party, which all involved this red watering can:

Giant hand

He really needs his bangs cut.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A work Christmas party (Celebration #16)

Oh man! December is half over!

Today's celebration was just not the most exciting thing ever. My workplace had its Christmas party, which consisted of a potluck and a white elephant swap. As any vegan who works with mostly non-vegans can tell you, work potlucks tend to be pretty sad affairs. I generally try to keep a good attitude about this sort of thing and make sure to bring stuff I like and not feel sorry for myself when no one else brings anything I can eat.

It was a little hard to keep my good attitude today, though, when the potluck tables were set up seriously 2 feet away from my cubicle entrance, and someone plopped a huge cooked ham down on it. For the next half hour before the potluck actually started, people drifted by commenting on how lovely the ham smelled/looked/whatevered and saying things to me like "you have the best spot! look at all this food that is here for you!" Oy vey. It was a little bit trying, to tell you the truth. I was so glad that a) we were actually eating in the conference room, and b) that the party was late enough in the day that I could leave right after and not have to wallow in my ham-reeking cubicle.

But!!!! As non-fun as the potluck part was, the white elephant swap was extremely entertaining. I ended up getting a napkin holder (?) with gingerbread men on it. The Emperor is going to be thrilled. He LOVES gingerbread men.

And I did get a full plate of lunch, even though I provided 75% of it-- hummus, bread, olives, chocolate peppermint biscotti (all me), grapes, grapefruit, and some really fantastic homemade mustard which I put on the bread. Can't complain about that.

The Emperor hasn't been feeling great... well, just at night. We think he may have croup, because he's fine in the day but all night long he is a coughing mess. He and I were up for probably close to 2 hours over the course of last night because of his coughing, which was upsetting for us both... and we're both a little crispy crunchy today... so we had a nice low key night after preschool. No additional celebration for him tonight. (Well, we did sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Jingle Bells" 3 times before bed.) He had a little cup of decaf chai and some snuggles and then I sent him to bed, like so:

Blanket boy

That's his own little bed, with my childhood blanket. (No, I don't know why he chews on it, he just does.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas treeeeeeeeee! (Celebration #15)

GUYS! We got our Christmas tree today!

He's as tall as a tree

We didn't get THAT one, though it was hard to resist when the Emperor was standing next to trees basically the same exact size as himself. He had a ridiculously large amount of fun running around the Christmas tree lot, examining trees, crawling through hay bales, petting the dog who belongs to the Christmas tree guy, and shouting random things about Christmas. ("Frosty 'noman! CANNY CANES! KISSMAS TREEEEEEEEEES!) It was worth waiting for him to get home from preschool to get the tree and braving the traffic to get to the tree lot...

Speaking of which, we bought our Christmas tree from Christmas Trees for Recovery, a non-profit thing run by a community service organization that does outreach for low income people and more specifically to addicts & their families. One can argue the merits of a real tree vs a plastic tree, but I think it's nice to have the option to give my money to a local organization that seems to actually improve our community.

We did some decoration tonight-- lights and our flour/salt ornaments. I don't think it's "done" yet but it's a start, and actually it looks pretty good.

Mostly bare tree

Just the lights...

2011 tree

Ornament closeup...

I don't seem to have gotten a picture yet of the tree with the ornaments and lights on. Oh well, there's still time.

Speaking of ornaments, the Emperor was CRAZY about putting them on. Really just thrilled by it. He had so much fun. It totally reminded me why I was so gung ho about getting a Christmas tree this year.

Dinner was really a non-event due to the fact that I've had terrible heartburn for oh, about 24 hours now... it's not responding to medication at all (huge doses of zantac followed by some prilosec on the advice of my OB) and so food is about the least appealing thing. Forget dinner. Go back and look at our tree again. Treeeee!

Finally, here's a nice picture of the Emperor at the tree lot:
Boy by night

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cara's Nog Cookies! (Celebration #14)

For today's celebration, I baked up a huge batch of gluten-free eggnog cookies based on the recipe that featured in Fork and Beans 12 days of Cookiemas. Since I didn't have the pre-mixed baking mix that she recommends, I ended up having to play around with the recipe quite a bit, but I'm really happy with the end result so I'm posting it here!

Cara's Nog Cookies

Cara's Nog Cookies
makes about 5 dozen

Gluten-free flour mix (based on one I saw on the PPK earlier):
1 1/2 c white rice flour
1/2 c coconut flour
1/2 c almond meal
1 c GF oat flour
3/4 c tapioca flour
2 tsps xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder

3/4 c Earth Balance
1/4 c coconut oil
2 c sugar
1 c non-dairy nog (I used Silk's soy nog)
1 tsp nutmeg, or to taste
1/2 tsp cardamom

For rolling:
powdered sugar
more nutmeg
more cardamom

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Mix together all of the flour mix ingredients and set aside.
3. Cream together Earth Balance, coconut oil, and sugar, adding a little of the nog if it does not seem to be creaming on its own.
4. Beat in the nog.
5. Mix in the nutmeg & cardamom; taste to make sure your cookies taste noggy enough.
6. When liquid ingredients are spiced to your liking, dump flour in and mix til just combined.
7. Fill wide shallow dish with powdered sugar & some more spices.
8. Drop cookies by the spoonful into powdered sugar, then use your fingertips to gently roll them into balls.
9. Place balls on prepared cookie sheets and press gently in the center of each one with your thumb to flatten slightly.
10. Bake at 350F for 16 minutes, then allow to cool on cookie sheets for at least 10 minutes before moving to wire cooling racks.

I have no idea what's in the Authentic Foods GF baking mix, but I think it must be very different than mine... I had to bake hotter AND longer to get these to a point where they'd ever be cooked all the way through. My first batch came out really bizarrely squidgy (fortunately it was only the first dozen... out of five) and I played from there til I got it right for this particular mix of flours. Oh gluten free baking! You are an exciting new adventure!

Flavorwise, I love these. They're really good. Super noggy and yummers. I am SO GLAD I didn't use quinoa flour because yeah, they don't have that quinoa flour bitterness that I hate so much.

The Emperor was not a super great helper with these (he mixed a little, but actually told me it was my turn to mix again... not something he usually ever does) but once they were baked, really, really, really loved these. He ate four... of the squidgy first batch. He probably would have begged for more but then it was bedtime.

Here he is idly mixing. You can see that his heart wasn't in it today! I wish I had gotten a picture of him enjoying the cookies instead but there you go...

Weary boy

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gingerbread man cut-outs and simple spaghetti (Celebration #13)

Let us agree not to talk about the majority of today. My week: it's not going great.

But we did get a good celebration in today. The Emperor and I decorated some paper cut-outs of gingerbread men! He loves gingerbread men almost as much as he loves Frosty 'noman.

My gingerbread man

He was very delighted with the one that I made and has been telling me since I finished it that it's his. Which is not factually speaking true, which I've told him, but you know, he's two so sometimes you have to cut him a little slack on the truth front. It's not his fault that I've already been to preschool and he's still working his way through it... developing his skills at gluing things to other things... he'll get there eventually. Here's his guy:

Grey's gingerbread man

Actually, I really like his. It's got a sort of um... terrified look on its face? It's good!

I finally hung up the crafts we've already made a couple of days ago, so as soon as we were done the gingerbread men, I added them to the Christmas wall. (Actually, it's a door, but that's neither here nor there.) Starting to look pretty fun, at least according to the Emperor and me.

Christmas wall so far

Christmas cards are going on the door too, along the edge-- you can just barely see one of our first two on the top left corner of the picture. (Hmm. Only two Christmas cards on Dec 13th? I think this is going to be a slow year...)

WW spaghetti, broc, chik'n strips

Simple dinner tonight: whole wheat spaghetti with broccoli and Trader Joe's chicken-less strips with lemon juice and garlic. Josh and I had a bit of olive oil & salt and pepper on our noodles; the Emperor had his plain (of course). He ate a huge bowl of broccoli while waiting for the rest of the stuff to cook, then ate noodles and chik'n strips. Success!

Is it just me or are there a lot more types of noodles at the average grocery store than there used to be? Sometimes I am just in the mood for a big bowl of plain-ish noodles and it seems like my options are a lot greater than they were even five or six years ago... I love that I can find brown rice noodles (my favorite!) basically anywhere I go now. Maybe it's a California thing though.

Here's the Emperor loving his noodles:

The savage dines

Monday, December 12, 2011

A simple glass of soy nog (Celebration #12)

Hey, remember last month when I locked myself out of the house and had to walk downtown and was like "this sucks"? Guess what? I did exactly the same thing today. And it sucked-- I was already feeling physically worn down and pained and adding another half hour walk on top of everything else I did today was just uncalled for. My uterus is mad at me, my back is mad at me, my body is overall like "you have had a series of bad ideas, you know that?"

So anyway, VERY low key celebration today and very brief post because I'm just going to post this and then lie down (at 8 p.m.).

For our celebration tonight, we... had some glasses of warm soy nog. Yup.

Nog for everyone

A little nog for everyone. The Emperor actually only had two sips (of mine) and not the little cup I poured for him. I cut some Silk soy nog with unsweetened soy milk, heated it on the stove, and added some extra freshly grated nutmeg on top. Definitely a nice treat. It didn't relax me as much I was hoping but hey, take what you can get...

We had hummus and stuff for dinner which was not very exciting. The Emperor was in a very silly mood which was more exciting. He kept going back and forth about whether or not he wanted to eat a carrot. I think this is the closest he got to actually ingesting anything:

Carrot time

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Flour-Salt Ornaments & Chickpea soup with rice (Celebration #11)

A sad truth about me is that I am not very emotionally flexible. Or mentally flexible? Um... I have a hard time with change, is what I'm saying. Any change. Even good change. I hate hate hate when plans change. Like even if they change to something better. Once I seriously burst into tears because we had been planning to stay at home and do nothing all day (pre-Emperor, when this really meant doing... nothing) and Josh was like "hey let's go to the beach and look at tiny lobsters in tide pools." That is a far superior plan but things changed and I have trouble with that!

(I think the Emperor has made me a lot better about this, though; when one's schedule is primarily dictated by a small human tyrant/madman, one becomes used to letting plans go.)

What I'm getting around to is: we were supposed to get our Christmas tree this weekend. But, fates conspired, stars aligned (misaligned?), I got paid half a paycheck, etc, and the tree just necessarily needed to wait until later in the week. It's not really a big deal to wait 4-5 more days for a Christmas tree (esp. after SEVEN YEARS of no tree!) but I was having a little meltdown about it on Friday until I realized... OH MAN!!! this is actually a GOOD thing because I don't have ornaments yet! And what is sadder than a naked Christmas tree?

Baked ornaments

So we made flour-salt ornaments this afternoon to guarantee that our tree will not be sad and bare. I looooove making flour-salt ornaments but again, it's something I haven't done in forever. (Since high school, when I made a couple more every year.) And so the Emperor and I sat down and cranked some out this afternoon. He had a great time and stayed occupied for almost an hour... pretty close to a record for anything holding his attention, heh.

He only actually produced one ornament-- he kept making interesting shapes that I tried to take from him and put on the cookie sheet, but he didn't want me to have them. He would make something cool and then look at it for a minute and then squish it back into a ball of dough. Oh well, whatever, he had fun!

We used this recipe for the dough and it worked quite nicely:

Flour-salt ornament dough

2c flour (I used a mix of AP and bread flour, because I only had about half that of plain AP)
1c salt
1c warm water
1 tbsp cardamom (for a slight amount of color & scent!)

Mix it all together, shape, bake at 250F for 1.5 hrs.

We got one pretty full cookie sheet worth of ornaments out of that much dough. I'm thinking these plus some plain colored bulbs and lights will probably be enough to cover our (intended to be smallish, but we'll see what we end up with) tree.

Chickpea soup with rice

For dinner we had chickpea soup with black rice. Basically, I halved the recipe for the Arabian Lentil-Rice Soup from Appetite for Reduction, used black rice rather than brown, and put chickpeas in instead of lentils. Delicious! And a half recipe was perfect for us. Josh & I had seconds and the Emperor had um, one bite? And aside from the three bites he didn't eat (I don't serve him much of anything to start with), nothing went to waste.

Here he is while making ornaments. I think you can tell he's having fun:

Making ornaments