Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!! (+6 years and counting!)

Happy New Year!!!
Tonight we celebrated the memories of 2011, rung in 2012, and rejoiced over 6 years that hubby and I have been married. 6 years ago today we walked down the aisle in my hometown church to say "I do." 6 years later we are in Minnesota with 2 kids. Precious memories and time is flying.
Some friends of ours, Mike and Susie, had us over for a Ring in the New Year's Party. This was the first time since we have been in Minnesota that we have gone out for New Year's with our kiddos. At 4:30pm we loaded up the car with the pack n play, diaper bag, pjs, lovee's and blankets, etc. etc. etc (you get the picture) and headed to Outback for a yummy steak dinner (one of our favs). We thought we would be the first ones there at 5pm but the place was packed with parents who apparantly had the same idea as us...arrive early. Cooper was quite content eating lemons and taking the nice waitress' pens out of her pocket each time she'd come by to see us. The rest of us inhaled our steak, potato, bread and salad. :)

Does anyone know what is in the picture below? Well, I did not when I first saw it but it kinda scared me when Gooch and his buddy walked in with it. Introducing the handmade water balloon blaster...and for tonight...the super duper confetti blaster "guaranteed to turn your house into a huge mess." I backed WAY away from this thing as they were loading it...ha ha!

I will say though that this thing make quite the entertaining time. Within seconds, bright colored paper strips and morsels were everywhere (handcut, I might add, by Mr. Gooch and his buddy themselves. Impressed? I kind of was. And then I wondered how on earth they had hours of time to sit and chop up little bits of paper...and then I realized they did not have kids! ha! That answered that question!)

 Thank you Susie and Mike for letting us wreck your beautiful home with confetti. Thank you for helping us celebrate 6 years of marriage. We had a wonderful time and are thankful to have friends like you to ring in the New Year with!

Friday, December 30, 2011

it's ski time!

"Crested Butte, Colorado here we come!"
This month we were blessed to be able to meet up for some family time in the mountains. (Clay has only been "packing" and getting his ski gear ready since late fall! ha ha! Have I mentioned that dear hubby wants to move us to Colorado...begs me actually, at least once a week!)

The boys did amazingly well considering we left the house for the airport at 3:45am. Neither one of them needed to sleep at all on the 6am flight. ;) Bags loaded down; we were off!

Cooper wanted to help with the carry-on bags when we got to our gate. He felt like such a big boy. Parker was very content to wish everyone a Merry Christmas over the loudspeaker at our terminal (thanks again to the nice and extremely patient gate agent!) and to watch out the floor to ceiling windows at the workers and activity outside.

We had a lay-over in Denver, so while there, we grabbed breakfast at this nice little restaurant. It was just what we needed. We showed up 4 tired and hungry travelers. These entertained us while we waited on our bacon, eggs, fruit, pancakes and biscuits....did I mention how hungry we all were? Mmmm...much better when we have full tummy's.
I personally think that all restaurants need to adapt Wikki Stix to their table-time activity for kids and adults. :) Hubby agrees.

We arrived in Gunnison, Colorado (the second smallest airport I have ever been to) in the early afternoon, pooped, but excited to see family and hit the slopes. Parker patiently waited first in line for the bags.

Here we are!

The 45 minute drive from Gunnison to Crested Butte did not seem like more than 10 minutes with the breathtaking sights we took in along the way. Though Colorado (like Minnesota) has had a record-breaking year with such little amounts of snow, it was just enough to make for great skiing and sights!

When we arrived at the mountain and got our bags to the room, we headed to meet the others for a late lunch. Hello Nana and Poppie! We are here!

Hmmm...what slopes shall we hit first?
Clay: scariest and steepest black on the mountain
Carrie: greens please...I'll advance to the blues later in the week ;)

I cannot say enough great things about the lodge we stayed at for the time we were in Crested Butte. The Nordic Inn is owned by Allen and Judy, who put their heart and soul into each little detail of their family-owned lodge. They are known, and have been known, in the area for years for their personal, old-fashioned hospitality. Planning a trip to the Crested Butte area anytime soon? Give them a call. They would welcome you with a huge grin and open, being veterans of the area, they can give you a number of ideas of fun things to do while in the area and a listing of all the local events.
Each morning, we would go to the lobby area where Allen and Judy served a delicious breakfast complete with fruit, danishes, cereal, boiled eggs, (gotta get that protein in for a day of skiing!) juice and other scrumptious items.

This was Parker's first go at ski school; to say he was a little excited would be an understatement. Clay and I both dropped him off each day. On Day 1, we stayed around for a bit to make sure he was all settled in and ok for us to leave. On Day 2, as soon as his little ski's were strapped on, he headed straight for the magic carpet as his instructor called out for him to please wait for the others. Day 3, when Clay and I wished him off and said bye, he did not even turn around on the Magic Carpet he was on...he simply lifted his arm to say bye and off he went. Sniff. My little boy is so independent. Sniff sniff. Parker was so close to the cut off for the 4 year old ski school that they let us go ahead and put him in the older group. The difference between the 3 year old and 4 year old class is that in the 3 year old sessions, they only ski for about 1 1/2 hours in the morning and 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon. In between that, they have what's considered a daycare. The four year olds ski from 9:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon. It was the right choice for Parker. He did not want to take his ski's off when we picked him up in the afternoon and couldn't wait to put them on again the next morning.

That a way to make a pizza pie Parker!!! Whoohoo! (Day 1)
I have some great pictures that the photographer took on the slopes of Parker, our whole family, etc. but I do not have them back yet to share.

One of the only pictures Clay and I took together on the trip. ha ha! Like you could tell! I realized the other night after reviewing my photos from skiing that almost all of them are of fully bundled and masked people...

4 generations: Great-grandfather, grandfather, father and sons
December 2011

A view of Crested Butte.

On Day 2 of skiing, I left the group early for a few minutes of r&r before picking up Parker from ski school (my legs were killing me after 1/4 of a run and I was having to stop it seemed like every 30 seconds for a short break...definately not in ski shape!) Anyway, I skied down to the center square area and bought a hot chocolate. I found the perfect seat in an adirondack chair right next to a cozy fire....and I sat. As I lounged in my ski gear sipping my hot cocoa, my mind drifted off to a fairytale place. Wish I had had a pen and paper. Words would have come to life on that blank page. :)
A different view of my surroundings.
Ice sculptures that decorated the center square.
Time went by far too quickly and it was 3 p.m....time to head over to ski school to see the little man. :)

One of the traditions that Crested Butte continues each year, is Santa visiting the village. He starts at the top of the mountain on his sleigh and makes his way down to the bottom of the hill. The snowcat   pulls from the front, which makes it even more fun!

After the children have had a chance to see Santa, the Festival of Lights begins. Hundreds of skiiers start at the top of the mountain and work their way down in the dark night holding red lights high above their heads to decorate the sky. It is beautiful! (Personally, I do not know how they do it in the dark because I actually did that run...not by personal preference... ;) and I could barely do it in the daytime with help! ha! Kuddos to the ski dudes who can!)

Clay and his sisters: Ashee, Parker, KK, Clay, Cooper and CiCi
This picture makes me sooo happy!

A couple of snapshots from the trip...not great photo quality but fun memories.

Cooper intently watching Mr. Michael (the soon to be newest official addition to our family!!!) We love you Michael!!! Please do just remember that payback can come in the future; one day you too will have little munchkins all over your house to which we might choose to send something noisy, fast, and wild for them to play with. ha ha! (Parker is LOVING his car!)

A 6am view of our room...all 4 of us sleeping in the same room each night...interesting...and not something I would choose to repeat very often. ;)

2am: Parker gets up to go to bathroom.
2:03am: Cooper wakes up from the noise crying and frustrated because he was woken up.
2:06am: Cooper crying louder...Bah bah, Bah bah, Ma ma Bah Bah (for Bottle! Bottle! Mama Bottle!!!!!)
2:07am: Parker: "Cooper, hush! I'm trying to go to sleep!"
2:10am: Carrie giving Cooper a bottle and changing his diaper
2:26am: Carrie puts Cooper back down in his crib settled
2:31am: Parker gets up and opens curtains at window (he sees the streetlamps outside and the moon reflecting off the white mountains) "Mom! Dad! Look it's daytime! It's time to get ready to ski!"
Carrie: "Parker, it is the middle of the night. Those lights are just from from the moon and outside lamps."
Parker: "No it's not! It's time to get up! It's morning!"
Cooper: Waaaaahhh! waaahhh! mmmmaaaa mmmaaaaa! Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!
Clay: "Parker! Get back in the bed and go to sleep. You are keeping Cooper awake!"
Parker: "Well, I can't sleep like that with him crying so loud."
Carrie: "If you wouldn't wake Cooper up in the first place, he would not be crying."
Cooper: Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

Around 3:56 am the cycle ceased and we finally got some sleep....only to repeat it the next night.
Who wants to bunk with us next trip?! :)

Most of the pictures I took on this trip were either when we were all dressed up in our ski garb or when we were hanging out in the evenings in Nana and Poppie's suite (and the majority of those pictures were blurry), so I did not have a large selection of pictures to choose from, but here are a few more:

Family on trip:
Nana, Poppie, Ashleigh, KK, CiCi, Granddaddy, Marilyn, Aunt Kathi, Uncle Sam, Alex, Allysa, Clay, Carrie, Parker and Cooper
Total days on trip: 5
Where: Crested Butte, Colorado at the Nordic Inn
Flights to get there and back: 4
Hours of sleep we got while there: minimal
Days of skiing: 3
How much fun we had: More than we could measure

Special Memories: Parker's first chance at ski school (he loved it; his teacher said he was the most enthusiastic in the class! imagine that! ha!)
Me skiing a black this trip...unknowingly. Dear family thought that I would have no problem doing one as long as I did not know I was going down one...they decided to keep that one a secret from me :) ...and I did it. I took it like the tortoise though..slow and steady, steady and slow (and shaking for dear life! ha! The whole way down I was praying that I would not fall and break anything kids need me!!!)
Poppie and Uncle Sam giving me ski lessons. Everyone hanging out in Nana and Poppie's suite in the evenings. The cozy feeling I got each time I walked into the Nordic lobby. Watching Parker ski. The time that Cooper got to spend with Granddaddy, Marilyn, Nana and Aunt Kathi. All of the family getting stuck in New Mexico (except the 4 of us) during the big blizzard and not arriving till the day we did. Hot chocolate on the mountain with Poppie. Seeing how amazing hubby is on the slopes. Being with Ashee, CiCi, and KK. Celebrating CiCi's graduation of Nursing School and Ashee's and Michael's engagement. The fairytale feeling of the town of Crested Butte.

And to wrap it up...
Parker dancing around the Gunnison airport exclaiming, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

The End.
...oh and Merry Christmas! :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

I love a good gingerbread cookie. :)

For the last several years I have been wanting to find the perfect gingerbread recipe that I could add to my personal cookbook and share with others. My friend Tressa made the cutest, most delicious batch and shared them with her friends several years ago; since that Christmas, I have been determined to find a similar recipe to use and love. (Tressa keeps promising me hers, so I will have to compare the two recipes. I do believe that they are pretty similar.)

This Christmas Season, I picked up one of my favorite publications at Barnes N Noble: Cook's Illustrated. These issues never fail to deliver savory foods to the dinner table for whatever the occasion might be. I was thrilled to try the recommended Gingerbread Cookie Recipe! Not only did it offer instructions for thick and chewy cookies, but it also gave the thin and crisp version for additional preferences.

I was making multiple batches, which caused this start to finish process to last 3 evenings and 1 early Saturday other words, not something I would be able to take the time to do every holiday season. :) However, I was excited and determined to produce these yummy treats this year. (Although I will admit that by day 4 --the decorating portion of the process--my detailed attention to the beautiful, intricate details of the white icing was non-existent. As a matter of fact, my "extra several dozen" never even saw the pretty fluff. Luckily, this recipe satisfies without the added decor, so please know that if you are like me and your time is running shy and/or your baking interests have, by the end of this time-intensive project, dwindled by the waste-side...your cookies will still be share-worthy. :))

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
For about twenty 5 inch gingerbread people or thirty 3 inch cookies

3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 oz) dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
1 Tbs ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
12 Tbs unslated butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
3/4 cup molasses
2 Tbs milk

(By food processor)
1. In food processor, process flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds.
(By stand mixer)
1. Stir Together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix on medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.)

2. Scrape dough onto counter; divide in half. Wirjubg uwtg 1 portion of dough at a time, roll dough to even 1/2 in thickness between 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on baking sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough for 2 hours or overnight.)

3. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove 1 dough sheet from freezer; place on counter. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to prepared sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.

5. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used. Serve.

Thin and Crisp Gingerbread Cookies
For 2 1/2 to 3 Dozen gingerbread people or 4 to 5 dozen cookies

Note: If you wish to thread the cookies to make ornaments, snip wooden skewers to 1/2 in lengths and press them into the cookies just before they go into the oven; remove skewers immediately after baking.

To make ahead: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Follow recipe for Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies, quartering rather than halving dough, rolling each dough quarter 1/8 in thick, reducing oven temperature to 325 degrees, and baking cookies until slightly darkened and firm in center when pressed with finger, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Decorative Icing
Coats About 2 Dozen 2 inch cookies

Note: Transfer icing to a pastry bag to outline the cookies or make simple motifs, or use a soupspoon to drizzle the icing across the surface of the cookies. To coat the entire cookie, use a small metal spatula to spread the icing over the top surface. If the icing hardens while working with it, mix in a small amount of water.

1-2 Tbs milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Using a small whisk or fork, combine 1 Tbs milk and confectioners' sugar in small bowl and mix until smooth. If mixture is too stuff to work with, mix in additional milk in very tiny increments until proper consistency is reached.
2. Let icing dry to a dull shine, about 20 min, before serving or storing cookies.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

our Christmas Cards this year

Yeah, I was totally late with Christmas cards this year, but I still LOVE our cards and am happy that I finally got them out....(ahem, a few are still left to be given out but I totally have an excuse for those.) ;)
This year, I ordered our family's Christmas cards through Shutterfly. I have used them in the past and been pleased with the results. This year was no different. I am smiling. Thank you Shutterfly!!

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Santa came!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from our Family to Yours

Merry Christmas from us to YOU!
Thankful and rejoicing for the birth of our Saviour!

the Nolens

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reindeer Cookies

When I was a little girl, my mama used to make reindeer cookies with me during the Christmas season. This year, I decided I wanted to make them with our boys.
Since our guys are still a little young (and since I had already spent most of my free baking time on holiday breads and gingerbread cookies!) and for the sake of time, I had hubby pick up the pre-sliced Simply Peanut Butter Cookie dough at the grocery store for me. It worked like a charm! At our Cookie Swap, we had quite a few kids in attendance, but Parker at the age of 3 (almost 4), was the oldest one. Going with the pre-sliced cookie dough was the best choice by far. All I had to do was put two slices on the baking tray together and then pinch them together a little for the reindeer head and then the kids placed the little antlers, nose and eyes. Easy for me and for the children. This is such a simple and fun holiday treat for you to do with kids! 

Reindeer Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough (made from scratch or the store bought kind..either way is great!)
Red M&M's
Chocolate chip baking chips

Place dough 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Using thumb and forefinger, make a slight indentation one-third of the way down the sides of each slice. Press in pretzels for antlers, chocolate chips for eyes and a red m&m for the nose.
Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes or until light brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. 

Let your kids have fun with it! (Our little reindeer heads were quite missing its eyes and one with its antlers upside down...but who cares?! Parker was so proud of his special reindeer cookies and couldn't wait to chow down on them! Each of the kids at the Cookie Swap who participated got to take home their special cookie in a cute little fun!)
Happy Christmas Baking with your Kiddos!