Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Update

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and are planning on a great New Year! I'm sorry I have been away for a while. After my last post, I was given the information that Granny's cancer doubled in size since October, despite 2 nasty chemo treatments. I basically shut down. Also having the 3rd Christmas in a row away from family, I just found it too emotional to write. We did have a wonderful Christmas though and I'm extremely grateful for all the friends who have taken us in over this holiday period. Last week included 4 days of Christmas eating, one just the two of us and the other 3 with friends...I may not be able to eat until Valentine's Day...

Tonight we are taking it easy and will be ringing in the New Year just the two of us. Our house has been empty for over a week, which has been fabulous, and I cleaned our kitchen the day the last housemate left. Now that all of the Christmas dinner cooking is over, I'm planning on tackling the fridge and cleaning the beast today. Our housemate from Botswana was wonderful enough to leave us his key to his room so we could use his big jacuzzi tub, as he's the only room with a tub, and it was fabulous to take a bath for the first time in over a year and a can imagine how smelly we were  ;)

2012 was a good year, and I really don't have anything to complain about. Yes, there are/were some not so fun things going on but there will always be bad and good times, that's just how life goes. I'm just happy that I'm doing just what I know I am supposed to be doing and in the place I'm supposed to be. I do miss my family but after over 2 years of being away from them, it looks like we will be going back to visit in late spring or early summer. And speaking of family, Branden and I made a video for our nephews for Christmas. Since you all like seeing us make fools of ourselves for our precious nephews, here's the video:

And for those of you who would like to hear some real singing and see some real talent, here's a long awaited music video from our friend Noelle back in the States. I shared this song and another music video of hers a long time ago and I'm excited that this music video turned out brilliantly as the song is incredible! Way to go Noelle!

Happy New Year's Eve and I hope to come around and visit all of your blogs soon...after I finish cleaning the house with a toothbrush!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sugar Cookie Baking Diary

Day 1

Armed with my "basic sugar cookie recipe",  I girded my loins with confidence and grabbed my ingredients. My butter was slightly less than room temperature, despite sitting on the counter for a few hours, but I cut it into cubes and hoped for the best. I read my first step, "Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes."

I don't own an electric mixer so I scratched that instruction and made it applicable to me:

"With all the hopes and dreams of a small child, mix your butter, which is way too cold, with your sugar using brute strength and a whisk. Let your whisk get completely clogged with hard butter chunks until it looks deformed and ready to break before realizing that you didn't think this through and you really should look into that whole 'patience' thing as your butter would have been much easier to work with had you actually waited until it was room temperature."

Onto Plan B, my amended first step:

"Put some hot water in the bottom of your sink and place your bowl of cold butter and sugar into it while beating the snot out of it with a wooden spoon to try and 'soften' it up Soprano style. Once the butter is soft, but not melted, take it out and put it on the counter where you laugh at the recipe stating "3 minutes with an electric mixer" and begin the long process of beating, knowing full well that you still have to look forward to doing this again to add your flour!"

Arms feeling the burn, I achieved my first step with minimal sweat and looked onto my next step which read, "Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated." I like the idea of turning my poor arms down to a lower mixing speed, but mentally knew it wouldn't quite work that way.

My next step actually went like this:

"Send a prayer for your arm muscles and throw in an extra hope that they don't fall off. Begin mixing bits of the flour at a time, trying all the while to not curse your lovely husband who wanted sugar cookies in the first place. Take a break halfway through, cry for a little while, think of ways to market 'non-electric baking prep' into a massive workout program, and pray some more for your arms. Continue the sadistic mixing process until the stuff you no longer want to make, resembles dough. You will know you are done when you are confident that your arms won't have the strength to pull up your pants tomorrow, creating a sufficient enough punishment of 'official pants puller-upper' for your lovely sugar cooking loving husband."

Feeling happy that the hard part was over, I read my next 'basic' step of, "Shape the dough into 4 disks and roll each between 2 sheets of wax paper to 1/8 in thick". Onto problem 2: I don't own a rolling pin. This required further amendments to my loathsome "basic sugar cookie recipe".

Give up NOW! That should have been my next step, but feeling at the point of no return, I started a small search for a left over cardboard tube from one of the hundreds of partially used cling film boxes all over our kitchen (US translation: Saran Wrap tubes). Tube found, I cracked on with the rolling but without much weight to my cardboard rolling pin, it took a bit of time to get it to 1/8 in thick. In the middle of this process, my lovely husband came home and I made sure to glower at him lovingly, to which he decided the best thing to ask was, "What's wrong?".

I verbally repeated all above steps, including the step of trying not to curse the person I was speaking to! I commanded allowed my lovely husband to clean up while I finished rolling, before moving onto the next step of, "Chill until firm, 30 mins in the refrigerator or 15 mins in the freezer". Of course I had to choose the quickest option as I just wanted to be done and also had to make dinner and leave in an hour but this just froze my loathsome dough and it ended up in the fridge anyway.

Waiting for the dough to become workable, I got to hear my lovely husband tell tales of his sugar cookie making memories: "I don't remember my mom and grandma having to do all this. Are you sure you need to put it in the fridge? I'm pretty sure the kind we made as kids was much easier." Holding back the urge to use my Soprano technique on him with the wooden spoon, I finally just informed him that since he had only been a child making sugar cookies, his mom and grandma would have been nice to him and not make him do the hard bits, thus he was speaking bollocks.

Taking my dough out of the fridge, I found it best to eat the dough while cutting out festive shapes, that way I wouldn't have to keep up this horrible mess of making sugar cookies!

I only completed 2 batches last night and still have a few more to go today. We shall see how it goes...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gangnam style Christmas

Yesterday our church held their carol services, which went really well. I attended the first carol service, which was at noon, and Branden played electric guitar in the band leading the carols. There were the usual adorable little kids singing on stage and there were also some of the younger girls who did a great dance as well. The youth put together a video to be played and it just so happened to be a dance to Gangnam Style! Even with this song being a massive global success, I wondered if we happened to be the only church who managed to have it in their carol service this year! This is the video!

Today I am hoping to make sugar cookies. I spent a good deal of time on Saturday trying to hunt down Christmas cookie cutters, which is no easy feat for someone with social anxiety to do by themselves, and finally found them after popping in to multiple other stores.

The volunteer group that I'm involved with on Saturday nights was featured in an Irish Christian magazine which you can see by clicking HERE. I was able to zoom in and read the article, which gives more of an idea of what we do, and also has some photos. It was a great article, despite the fact that my face looks massive in the top photo for some reason. I was out two Saturdays ago and it was a great, but crazy night. I absolutely love what we do and even though my knees are completely shot the next day from being out in the cold until 4am, I can't wait to go out and do it again the next month (we are on a rotation so I go out every 3-4 weeks). If you have any questions about it, or are curious as to other things that we do, feel free to email me at and I would be more than happy to speak more openly about things. We have 'official spokespeople' for public statements, but I am free to speak privately (while upholding the confidentiality of those people I have helped) to anyone about my experience.

Branden has a Latin exam today and we realized that this should be his last exam EVER! ...even though this class technically is not linked to how he is 'graded' on his PhD and it's basically a free course he can take as an aide to his studies... (and it is just pass or fail) But still, it will be great for him to be totally done with exams, although having to write a PhD isn't easier in the slightest!

One last thing in my ramble of a post, I thought I had shared this photo but I find it anywhere...although I've always been bad at looking for things! This was a banner that I bought in a Pound Store (British version of the Dollar Store) and after struggling to hang it high above the counter in the fireworks store that we worked at in Scotland, the men came in and pointed out a terrible detail that I hadn't paid attention to in my struggle to just hang the darn thing!

It wouldn't have been an easy fix either, so it stayed that way!

Monday, December 3, 2012

How long does your Advent calendar last?

Last week I received a wonderful phone call! My friend Jo had found the homeless man we had been looking for (remember the one that we almost embarrassed ourselves over bad Google Translate) and she could take him into McDonalds for some food to give me time to get into town and give him the coat! My housemate was kind enough to drive me so I didn't have to huff the 25 min walk and the man was very glad to have some food, the coat, and two women for company...even if we didn't speak the same language. We tried to arrange to meet him the next day at a certain time so we could trim his now longer nails but we weren't surprised when he wasn't actually there the next day. I should clarify that he doesn't beg on the streets so that is why he can be so hard to find as he tends to wander. We did some shopping in town and checked back around his usual areas but still didn't find him so his talons will continue to grown for now.

Jo got out her mini tree and set of white lights for me to borrow, and with the rest of the house onboard, we set it up in the living room window sill with a bunch of decorations I made and a string of colored lights as well. Branden's mom also has given us some things, including some mini vintage glass balls and mini vintage tinsel garland. I think our tree is adorable! We didn't check the tree before I left Jo's house so when I got home and found that only 1 of the 3 stand feet was in the box, I was able to improvise by putting it in a Christmas tin that my dad sent his Christmas candies in last year. It looks better that way I think anyway! Here, you can see for yourselves.

 My mom-in-law made the bottle brush trees at the bottom and gave me the little doe who has a light bulb in her mouth that lights up when you push her tail. I filled the little photo frames and the one on the left is an image out of a Christmas card and the one on the right is just some fun paper with a sticker of a snowflake and a sticker saying "Joy to the World". 

 I needle felted the gingerbread man, the penguin (who has pipe cleaner feet), the Santa hat, and multi colored balls. 

 Near the top is a needle felted reindeer with pipe cleaner antlers, a needle felted snowman head, a needle felted star with red stitching and a button, and mini pipe cleaner candy canes that I made. There is an adorable needle felted snowman in the bottom right of the corner that my mom-in-law made me. He's so cute!

 I twisted a pipe cleaner to spell out "Love" which is at the bottom, I also twisted some old sparkly pipe cleaners into curly loops and stuck them all over. I also needle felted the mitten near the bottom right. 

In our room, we don't have much space to decorate. On top of our dresser we usually have a display of photos from our wedding on top of our cake stand from our wedding. I needle felted a little nativity scene and made a mini Christmas display.

That's the Advent calendar Branden's mom sent us on the left. 

There is a tiny little wooden kitty that Branden bought me at the base of the little bottle brush tree. That tree is only about 3 inches tall so the kitty is so tiny and I love it!

This is on our desk. I replaced some of our normal photos with past Christmas cards and also put out some of our past Christmas cards. 

We have some festive window stickies in our room too that Branden's mom sent but I didn't get a shot of that. The Advent calendar is pretty tasty and I love the vintage image on it. However, having a 'box' of chocolates that has to last me 22 more days is not looking promising...especially since it's the time of the month where all chocolate is sniffed out and consumed within my living space in between the hours spent curled up with a heat pad and wishing death upon myself. Thinking of how menstrual women deal with Advent calendars through the month of December inspired me to create this:

All I want for Christmas is menopause...but I have a feeling that wouldn't be something fun to find in a stocking on Christmas morning!