Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wow. 2009, where did you go?

Christmas was awesome this year; my husband spoiled me and my kids are amazing... all the typical blog gushing. We had an amazing season- a great end to a great year, with the exception of the very untimely and unexpected passing of my wonderful sister in law, Shelby's, mom this last week. My heart goes out to Shelby, my brother, Sam, and all the the Ratto family.

This next year promises to bring lots of excitement. Aside from the everyday miracles in watching my own children grow, the coming year has blessings around every turn. Gabe and Gigi are expecting their first AND second cousin this April. Two of Mike's sisters, Cassi (expecting a boy) and Kelsie (expecting a girl) are due within two days of each other. It's an exciting and emotional time for the whole family. There are also the weddings of my TWO best friends this year. Mariah and Travis are getting hitched in May, and Jen is eagerly awaiting the return home of her husband, Justin, so they can have their wedding ceremony in November.

On the down side, I'm fat. I need to get my chubby butt in good shape for all these weddings I'm in. I hate being out of shape. I feel better when I exercise and my clothes fit... but I REALLY HATE making new years resolutions. They never mean anything to people... most people quit the first day and the rest within the first month. Regardless, I WILL start exercising. My wonderful husband bought me the most wonderful gift ever: a new stroller! I've needed and wanted one since Gigi was born, 18 months ago! But, I'm not doing this because it's a New Years Resolution, instead, because I've always loved to walk and run... I just took a 6 month break, now I'm back, and, hopefully, my back will be back.... or something like that...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Goodness

I'm not a very big drinker, and I'm definitely not a RUM drinker, so when Mike asked me to make Hot Buttered Rums for our Christmas party, I figured I wouldn't even taste them. I found a recipe online and it got great reviews, so what do I do? I change it. I did try it as it was called for, but I REALLY liked how mine turned out. (You make a mix that goes in the fridge or freezer then you mix it with the alcohol later.) They were the hit of the party and then Mike asked me to make a ginormous batch for the bar and I had people who had sworn their recipe was the best ever ask for MINE. They said it was their new favorite! So, since I've taken to putting different recipes to my blog, I thought I'd add this one, too! I forgot to mention, I ALSO made this drink with vanilla vodka and that was more my style, but I don't know what you'd call that... Hot Buttered Vanilla Vodka...??? It doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Anyway.

AMAZING HOT BUTTERED RUM

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp molasses
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp (plus a pinch!) of ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream (softened)

Dark Rum (or Vanilla Vodka)
Hot water
Whipped cream or Cool Whip (optional)

Cream together softened butter, sugars an molasses. Add in Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Vanilla and Salt. Beat until well mixed. Add softened ice cream (too cold and it hardens your butter!) Beat well and then store in fridge until set.

In an 8 oz glass:

Put one heaping ice cream scoop worth of mix into glass. Add 2 oz of rum. Boil your water and remove from heat to slightly cool. Pour very hot water into glass and fill. Stir until melted. Top with whipped cream or Cool Whip and a sprinkle of nutmeg. You could also garnish with cinnamon sticks!

yield approx 6-8 drinks



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monkey and Banana Cookies

A great and inexpensive party favor, I've done sugar cookie treat bags for the past two years on Gabe's birthday. This year, I had a little left over dough, so I thought I'd share how I did it.

Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (for easter cookies, I use 1 tsp lemon extract!)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour

Thoroughly mix shortening, sugar, eggs and flavoring. Blend in baking powder, salt and flour.

Cover and chill for at least one hour... or overnight.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

roll dough 3/8" thick (1/4 " if using cookie cutters) I just started using powdered sugar in the place of flour to powder my work surface. It doesn't keep things as "sticky-free" but it does keep the dough from getting that pasty taste it can get after multiple rolls with flour.

I DO NOT have any fancy baking equipment. To make both cookies, I used a large glass (which doubled as my rolling pin), a medium glass and the top to a sprinkles container.
Cut your face shape out with medium sized glass. After cutting my medium circles and placing them on my ungreased cookie sheet, I used the perimeter of a circle as my guide for cutting the ears out. Using the round top to my sprinkles, I cut two 3/4 circles for each head.

F
it them onto the head. 10 and 2 works well, higher and you get mickey mouse...
This picture doesn't do much justice, but you then "score" the pieces together. To do that, using a toothpick or another fine, sharp impliment, scratch fine lines from one piece to the other. I will usually pat down the area and then score again.

To make the banana shape, I made a full circle with the large glass then cut into that with the medium to make a crescent moon shape. Consider making your "moon" slightly more narrow than your desired final result because you cookie will grow :)
When I transfer onto the cookie sheet, I bend the shape into a more obtuse angle and then cut the points off either end.
Icing for sugar cookies is all about consistancy. Too thin and it becomes transparent and then crunchy when dry, too thick and it gets dry and powdery looking and doesn't stick well (especially important when you are putting as many sprinkles on as these cookies have)

I like to use:
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup) softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-6 Tbs milk

mix together with beaters adding sugar gradually and one Tbs. of milk at a time. This seems anal, but consistency is so big to me, I alway will take the time. Your icing should be light and fluffy but have a slight satiny look to it.


To make the flesh color, I tint the white frosting with cocoa powder. It does give it a slight chocolate flavor, but it is very light. Frost the whole cookie with this color.

Using construction paper, draw a circle close to the size of the head and then draw the shape of the face. Also, cut two gum drop shaped pieces of equal size to fit in either ear. Cut these out and poke a hole in them with a tooth pick.
Fit these pieces onto the cookie being careful not to push the toothpicks too deep into the ears. If they happen to crack, use some of your icing to "glue" them back together. It really does work (trust me, it happened a few times!)


Sprinkle generously, lightly pressing into the exposed frosting. Remove the patterns and use a toothpick to cover the toothpick holes and move any loose sprinkles.

Use more sprinkles for the nose and two white chocolate chips for the eyes- upside down and pushed in.

I used more frosting, darkened to a rich brown with lots of cocoa powder and additional help from red, blue and green food coloring. It should end up being about the color of Hershey's chocolate. Put into a baggie with a tiny bit cut off the corner, I used this for the piping... dots on the eyes, the mouth and the outlining on the banana.
Allow to dry for 24 hours (preferably out of the eyesight of 3 year olds.) The less handling the better as the sprinkles can become loose.

Vanilla Mini Cupcakes...

I LOVE CUPCAKES and am constantly trying new recipes...I really like how these turned out, light, but not too crumbly, sweet but subtle and the tops have a nice, light crisp to them. I, also, really liked these in the mini size for the party. They tiny size totally justified having two...or three...

Vanilla Mini Cupcakes


Here is the yummy cupcake recipe I used...

Makes approx. 4 dozen mini (about 2 dozen regular)

1½ sticks butter (softened)
1¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2
1/2 tsps vanilla
½ tsp salt
2½ tsps baking powder
2½ cups flour
1¼ cups milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line mini-muffin tins with paper liner

In a large bowl: cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs, vanilla, salt and baking powder- beat well. Add in flour in three batches alternating with milk. Mix until very smooth.

Fill paper liners to the top, but not overflowing for the best size. Bake for 13-16 min until the edge of the tops are light golden brown and toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool on rack completely, at least 30 min to an hour. (If they are still warm, your frosting can melt!)


Delicious Cream Cheese Frosting:
This is my favorite frosting... more flavor than buttercream and subtler than most cream cheese...

1 stick butter
4 oz cream cheese (half package)
1 1/2 tsps vanilla
4-6cups powdered sugar
approx. 1/4 cup milk


Cream together softened but not warm butter and cream cheese. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and one tablespoon of milk at a time until desired sweetness and consistency. Frosting should be very thick but smooth. For this particular cupcake, I prefer a sweeter flavor to a strong cream cheese, so I tend to add more sugar. It's easier to thin the frosting while keeping your desired flavor than to thicken it up without making it too sweet so I ALWAYS add milk in slowly and sparingly.

(For a more "crystally" finish to your frosting, you can add Bakers Sugar which is a VERY fine granulated sugar. There is a bit more of a texture, but it's not grainy like regular sugar. You will still need to use powdered sugar.)


Cupcake decorating for the cheap... I put my frosting (typically colored with food coloring) into a plastic baggie and trim off a corner. I start on the outer rim and swirl my way to the inside.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Count To Three


Yesterday, we celebrated Gabe's birthday. We had friends and family over for a pasta feed. I LOVE when I get an excuse to cook for people, because otherwise, I rarely do it.

Gabe was well behaved and Gigi stole the spotlight, like normal. He got some great presents: clothes, a few toys (including a new Woody, RC from Toy Story, a drawing board, and some books), some movies and even a sled! And, Gabe, the master of enthusiasm, said things like, "Oh my gooooodness! Thank You!" and "So cool!" for every gift.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to celebrate!

I took a few pictures before the party started, but didn't pick my camera up again the rest of the time.... ooops.



(watching the snow fall.... "come make 'snose'man, daddy!")
(treat table)
(monkey and banana cookie party favors)
(the mini cupcakes were a hit! I tried a new recipe and loved how they turned out... they were moist and soft in the middle with a slight crisp to the tops! YUM!)

We've been working on teaching Gabe how to answer basic questions... What's your name? How old are you? etc... He's doing so well! He sticks out his hand and says "My name is Gabey!" (we are working on, "it's nice to meet you"). When we ask how old he is, he says, "count to three!" It's too cute to correct.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Keeping the season alive...

I've never really seen Christmas through the eyes of a child... until now... and, wow, how amazing it really is. I have never enjoyed the season as much as I do right now.

For the first time, Gabe is really into Christmas. I mean, REALLY INTO CHRISTMAS. It has been such a joy. We watch Christmas movies on a loop. "The doggy movie" ("The Grinch" (he loves Max)), "The Choo Choo Movie" ("Polar Express"), "Frosty," "Santa"....the list goes on.

(They NEEDED "tickets" for the "Choo Choo Movie")

Gabe also LOVES our trees. He takes EVERY SINGLE PERSON who comes in to see them. "Come see Christmas! Come on! Christmas, this way..." He is so awesome.

(We came upstairs to find Gabe asleep here...)
(looking facing through the railings....)
(...right at our Christmas tree)
Mike and I have started taking the kids "Christmas Lighting," as well. We bundle the kids up, grab some cocoa, drive around town and point at houses. The kids' enthusiasm levels NEVER drop. 30 minutes later, Gigi is still exclaiming, "WOOOOW! PRETTY! COOL! YELLOW! BLUE!" And, Gabe is squealing, "LOOK, MOM! CHRISTMAS! SEE CHRISTMAS?! SEE SANTA?! MORE CHRISTMAS, MOM!" It's an absolute blast.

I hope every year is this exciting.


This is just an audio clip, but you get the idea.
video

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas preview!

It's safe to guess, my parents don't know about this blog. So, with that, I am so excited to post part of their Christmas presents! Last weekend, the absolutely fabulous Stacy Jacobsen met up with us to take some pics of the kids! Mike and I even snuck in for a few- the first time since we got married 4 and a half years ago! As always, I am in awe of her amazing work! Thanks, Stace!







Sunday, November 29, 2009

Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

It'a the MOST wonderful time of the year....

Christmas has hit at the Crossley house! We made our annual trip to the tree farm this year the day after Thanksgiving. The drive to Belfair is SO worth the selection. Mike took the usual hour to find the first tree. And, yes, I said first... "We" decided that we needed TWO trees this year.
(dancing to the Christmas music piped around the farm)
(Sweet babies, Gabe almost 3- Gigi almost 18mo)
(pretty girl)
(mountain man)
(carring tree #1 back)
(G Helping with my turn on tree #2)

(as my dad (classy man) would say, our Fam Damnly)
(Yeah, that's a big tree)
(The "small" tree in the living room)

(The big tree fills our dining room.... it's over 13ft if you were wondering.)
The absolute best part of the trees? Each morning since we've put them up, when Gabe and I go to get Gigi in the morning, he tells her, Come see Christmas, Gigi!!" We are SOOO STOKED about how excited the kids are this year!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Things that make me smile.







video

Thanksgiving

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving; I know we did. This year was a new experience for us. Now that we live with Cassi and Jamie, Cassi and I often try to find ways to host guests. Being that this is the first year they've been home for the holidays in 6 or 7 years, their families were eager to spend the time with them. She and I had this grand idea to host Thanksgiving for all our moms (Mike and Cassi's, Jamie's, and mine).

Making the guest list, we watched it grow quickly as spouses, siblings, and even a few aunts and uncles joined the group, but we were up to the task. Cassi is the ultimate delegator- so much better than I- and had her little spreadsheet that matched guests with things to bring. When Thanksgiving arrived, it was really very stress free (even with a table set for 23!)

Everything went great and we are already planning the next social event here... probably my sweet baby Gabey's 3RD BIRTHDAY next month.



(even my kids were good! They helped out with the cleaning before everyone arrived!) ((sorry it's sideways, my iMovie hates me today))
video

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I love you, Christia!

And, I miss you already! Thank you so much for wanting to spend the weekend with us! I'm lucky to call you my friend! There's no one I would rather have watched New Moon with than you! I hope your flight was fast and safe and that your boys are happy to see you! I love you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New frickin' Moon

I have been bottling up my excitement for going on three months now, but this Friday is going to be an amazing day! I can't wait for some great memory-making time! Seriously, pee your pants excited.

Friday, November 6, 2009

So grown up.

Every Thursday, I have an adorable little guy by the name of Jett come hang out with the kids and I. He is four years old with the energy to match Gabe. The kids have a blast and I love that they are completely WORN out by the end of the afternoon, however, so am I!

This week, after he left. I was antsy to get out of the house. Mike works Thursdays so I'm usually bored/free to do something...anything. We made a quick stop to say "HI" to Mike at work then swung by my mom's. Now-a-days, with it being SOO dark out SOO early, I was almost bummed to realize it was only 6pm after all was done.

I wasn't quite ready to head home for the night so I decided to take the kids to McDonalds to play on the toys. It wasn't too crowed and eventually cleared out completely. The crazy part was my BABY GIRL!

Now, I know Gabe was getting regular play dates at the park at her age, but he's always seemed more.... physically advanced. Gigi has always been my klutzy, scaredy cat baby; NOT YESTERDAY! My little girl climbed through the play place all by herself- numerous times! She didn't cry or get stuck once (which is a good thing, because I DON'T climb in play toys) She did, however, figure out the way through the toy to the slide and she did that a dozen times!

I was also proud of G. Ever the big brother, I could hear him saying, "This way, Gigi.... Good boy, Gigi.... I wuv you, Gigi." the whole time they were playing.

My kids are all grown up. It's a sad day for a mom.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spokane, Teriyaki and Pee.

There aren't three things with less in common...

Except in my life.

Mike and I were very lucky to be able to go to Spokane last Sunday for a day trip. I know, "Spokane" and "day trip" don't really belong in the same sentance, however, it was well worth the hours and miles put on the road.

We've been blessed with an amazing couple that is both friend and mentor to us. They were so generous as to open their home to us and a few others for a couple hours of amazing fellowship, inspiration and dream building.

(Mikal, Brad and Hakeem)
(Me, Cassi, Julie and Angela)
(my favorite, $900 Loubs)
(this is only SOME of Julie's shoe collection. If you can't tell, there's a second row behind all of those. Take THAT, Mariah Carey.)

The heart and the word that were shared with us, along with the tough love and motivation is worth more than enough to drive 10 hrs everyday for.

Thank you, Brad and Julie and Steve and Ang!


Teriyaki...

Mike and I have always enjoyed going out to eat. Our love for food is matched by my laziness in the kitchen. When G was little, we ate out probably 3-4 nights a week... then he turned 1. He suddenly was no longer as interested by the food in front of him as he was the the salt and pepper shakers or the whatever-it-was across the room.

We quickly ended family dinners out.

By the time Gigi was born, we were in the routine of being home for dinners. Our time out was only when we had babysitters for the kids. With the exception of lunch when Gigi was 3 or 4 WEEKS old, we have never had both kids in a restaurant at the same time.

We decide to try for the first time, last night, with a quick trip out for Teriyaki. We, literally, sat in the car outside and debated whether we should carry out or dine in.

25 minutes later and with full bellies, we happily finished our first family dinner out. The kids were reasonably well behaved; Gabe only crawled onto the table once and Gigi only yelled for a few minutes until her food came.

We both considered it a success.

Pee...

In the very recent past, when Gabe was asked if he wanted to use the potty, his reply was, "no way!". I was SURE that Gianna would be the first to potty train given that she has gone numerous times and the ONLY time Gabe had ever gone was ONCE when Lindsey was babysitting.

Yesterday, during one of his attempts to change the subject whilst getting in trouble, he said, "go potty on the potty, mommy!"

I almost didn't fall for it because his deception tactic is commonly used during punishment or things he doesn't want to do.

Thank GOD I took him in!

Gabe went 3 times yesterday and 4 times already today! I feel like we've FINALLY crossed over the threshold and we can start the official training. Even better, I think Gigi will be there right along with him! Fingers crossed, I could have two potty trained babies in the early New Year.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In this town we call home, everyone hail to the pumpkin song

This is Halloween. This is Halloween. Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

Holidays are amazing with my husband. He is suck a big kid; there is no detail spared. This Halloween was no exception.

This year, we made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. After a few years, we returned to Maris Farms (the first time with the kids) and we really had a blast! What a HUGE event! Monster truck rides, corn mazes, pony rides, bouncy toys, canons that shoot pumpkins! There was so much to do! Unfortunately, we got there a little late so we didn't get to do EVERYTHING, but the kids had a really great time and were SO good.

For Mike, holiday spirit is helped along by great themed movies. In the past, we've looked for them on TV, but this year we decided to add a few to our movie collection. The Nightmare Before Christmas and Monster House are two of our favorites, so I was stoked to find them!

The movies were on full blast while we had our Pumpkin Carving Party. Hot apple cider, roasted pumpkin seeds and hours of carving really got us in the mood.




We were worried that Gabe might be afraid of the scariness that is The Nightmare... creepy things, red eyes, severed heads. What were we thinking? ... Gabe's not scared of anything. ;) To the contrary! HE LOVED IT; watching it over and over again, memorizing the songs, reciting the whole movie. He's such a fun kid.

video

We were SO ready for Halloween to get here. We practiced saying "trick or treat" and they wore their costumes for the 2 days before just to add to the excitement. With all that, Halloween night was no disappointment!

We kept with the tradition of the last few years, driving to grandma and grandpa's house as our first stop.
(mommy taking a picture of Gigi taking her own picture...she's SUCH a diva)

(My own personal Space Ranger)

(I guess you could call her a "leopard ballerina", but "Cute" works, too)

We also made a surprise stop by my dad's house, which he seemed to appreciate. He doesn't get to see them very often.

Keeping with our tradition of the last few years (even before babies of our own), we met up with Mike's parents and his little brother and sister (now 9 and 7!) and went trick or treating around Tapps Island.

The kids were SO good, the weather was a PERFECT Halloween night, and the candy gettin' was good!

Gabe quickly got into the groove; knocking, "trick or treat"ing, and, most importantly to mom, "thank you"ing!



What I didn't expect, which -in hind sight- I CLEARLY should have, was Gigi's love for all things trick or treating. She walked up to almost as many houses as Gabe and said "thank you" (or, her version anyway) almost everytime... but my little piggy, Gigi, was only satisfied if she had candy in her mouth- at all times. Literally. She ate through wrappers, stole, whatever it took.

Sugar high-ing
Trying to eat a Reeses wrapper off... (and, Yes, Mike has black contacts in)

We had such a great time this year; I can't wait for next! But, first up... THANKSGIVING! YAY for HOLIDAYS!