Archive for December, 2008

Teacher Gifts

Posted by laura on Dec 23 2008 | Holiday, Making, Tasty

In our schools, the parents all contribute to one main gift for the teachers at holiday time, but I love to have a little something to go with the notes the kids write to the teachers, aides and librarians. This year my friend Barb and I made chocolate bark with assorted toppings. We melted blocks of semi-sweet chocolate in bowls over boiling water, then poured the chocolate out onto cookie sheets lined with foil. While the chocolate was warm, we scattered the top with dried fruits and chopped nuts.

Our favorite combinations turned out to be dark chocolate sprinkled with hazelnuts and drizzled with stripes of white chocolate, and white chocolate topped with cranberries and pistachios. These looked particularly festive and tasted great. We also made a peppermint bark that was delicious, but we liked that the other two were just a little more unusual.

Barb put hers on these beautiful little cocktail plates to hand out, and I put mine into brown waxed paper bags. At home, I made some gingersnaps and put them into small brown bags as well.


Then I took brown paper lunch bags and drew on them with white markers so that they looked a bit like gingerbread houses. One of each of the small treat bags went into each of the larger paper bags. Tie it with a bow and call it happy holidays.

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Posted by laura on Dec 23 2008 | Making

We don’t get a lot of the real kind of snowflakes here in Mill Valley, so we make them out of paper. This year we started using a new technique to build out our snowflake portfolio! It’s a slightly less geometric, more illustrative style.

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Rainy Day

Posted by laura on Dec 16 2008 | Making, Uncategorized

This is the morning I woke up to a cold, rainy, grey day and thought – I’ll just have to wear my cheery socks that Mum gave me.


This is also the day that I forgot my ballet slippers when I went to class.

I’ll leave the rest of that scenario to your imaginations… well, I’ll throw in that my teacher did say she was pretty sure my socks were ‘illegal for ballet.’

Moving on to slightly more competent news, we’re having Christmas dinner with our friends across the street, and this year I thought it would be fun to make Christmas crackers. I ordered the tubes and the snaps from Olde English Crackers, which was a pleasure because they shipped everything ridiculously fast. 

Inside each cracker are 5 essential components: snap, hat, joke, treat, toy. I had to order up the snaps, but the hats were a cinch to make with tissue paper.


The beauty of cutting your own hats is that you can make them all just a little bit different. 

Next up is the joke – these are meant to be real groaners. I found a whole bunch online and they include gems like, “An Englishman, and Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, ‘What is this, a joke?’” and “What happened to the guy who fell into the upholstery factory? He’s fully recovered.” The blessing is that the crackers happen before the meal, so no one gets queasy.

Then comes the treat – I opted for fun-sized candies since I think the wrapped hard candies don’t get eaten. The kids were excited about that.

Last up is the toy, and this year I got tiny gifts for each person that I thought she or he would like. They’re surprises, though, so no pictures.

Here they are, halfway finished. I’ll try to remember to get a shot of them once they’re done.

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Posted by laura on Dec 09 2008 | Holiday, Making

Some shots from our Thanksgiving holiday with Lino and Claudia, down in Venice Beach. We were on the highway at 4:30am on Thanksgiving morning. It’s actually a great way to go – the kids sleep for a couple of hours of the trip and there’s hardly any traffic. It took us a bit less than 6 hours, while a friend who did the drive on Wednesday night told me it took her 10 hours. Yikes.

We brought pie, rolls, Tom’s wild rice dish, pumpkin bread, a present for the baby (to be) and some baby pumpkin tea lights.


Lino and Claudia’s home is modern, beautiful and welcoming. They had some lovely friends over for dinner and we all had such a terrific night.

Here’s their gorgeous table:


Lino made the most fantastic chocolate cake for dessert. (He also made a puff pastry with asparagus inside and mushroom sauce that I could eat Every Day.)


I had to throw in this photo of Honey sitting on their front step.

The dress she wore for the holiday is a dress of mine. It’s vintage, dahling, don’t you know. I’m trying not to take that too hard. Somehow it’s not as insulting as when the American Girl Company unveiled their latest historical doll – from the seventies. I was like, gag me with a spoon!

We had such an amazing visit. Here are the kids playing in the ocean, Thanksgiving weekend. Now that’s just not right. But it’s wonderful.


And how’s that for a mountain of sand? This photo was taken mere moments before Hot Wheels did a compete face plant in the sand. I’ve never seen anyone so insulted. 

I’ll leave you with this shot of our gorgeous hosts, high above Santa Monica pier, in the Ferris Wheel. Does it get better than this? I think not.

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And We’re Back

Posted by laura on Dec 02 2008 | Tasty

Wow it’s been a while. When I logged in tonight, Wordpress was all, “Wait – who is this? Oh, it’s you. I didn’t know you were still in town.” So I said, “Yeah, well you’re the one who wouldn’t let me upload any images. You’re lucky I came back.” Snap!

Seriously, though – it’s been an eventful couple of weeks.

First, as many of you know already, Honey had a bit of an unpleasant surprise the Friday before last. She’d been complaining of a sore jaw for a couple of days – thought she’d clonked it in her sleep. It didn’t get better so we called her dentist, who saw her despite the fact that her office was closed that day. Amazing. And fortunate, because as it turned out she had two raging infections, and we were hustled off to an oral surgeon who took one look at the x-rays and said he’d take care of her right then, despite the fact that his office was crazy that day. They took out a couple of teeth and a real bully of a cyst. Thank you for good medicine and great healthcare providers. 

It wasn’t pleasant, to say the least, but it’s over. For about 4 days Honey looked like she played for the Bruins, and then she started to feel like herself again. She was flooded with kindness, though. Phone calls from her family around the world. Movies from our neighbors. One friend called to see if she was ok, since she didn’t go to school that day, and about 20 minutes after we hung up, another friend from her class appeared on our doorstep with 2 pints of Haagen Dazs. In the early evening, our neighbor Michael called to see how she was doing, and when I asked Tom how Michael knew what had happened, he replied, “Oh, Mary told him.” Mary is one of our favorite cashiers at Safeway.

I was reminded of two important truths: we are truly surrounded and buoyed by our community, and we’d better not do anything unseemly, because it will be all over town in a heartbeat.

On to a nicer, tastier surprise. One night as I was trying to figure out a new soup to vary up the soft-food diet, I experimented with a potato soup that ended up tasting great!


I wish I’d written it down straight away – it was so simple I was positive I’d remember. Duh. 

But, it went something like this:

Saute a little garlic, half an onion and a chopped up leek in some olive oil until soft. Add 4 good sized potatoes, peeled and cubed. Add a carton (4 cups) of vegetable broth) and a can of small white beans. Cook until everything is soft. Puree it in the blender. Add a dash of pepper. Some of us had bacon (smoked, not crispy, finely chopped) and some of us had toasted pumpkin seeds on top. (I happened to have both.) 


Here’s what I’m telling you. It was AWESOME. Maybe we were all just super hungry, but everyone loved this soup. Even Hot Wheels, and he’s not a major soup lover.

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