Archive for the 'Holiday' Category


Posted by laura on May 24 2010 | Awesome, Fun, Holiday, Travel

As it turns out, things are looking up for me, too! Months ago, I was invited to join a group of friends (all fellow mothers from our elementary school) for a Tahoe overnight. One of my friends has a house up near Donner Lake, and I was lucky enough to go up this past weekend for a visit. We got up there Friday afternoon, and here’s what we found:

Yee haw! What an awesome house. It was beautiful, laid back and cozy all at the same time. Here’s something else we found:

Snow! I guess nobody told the Sierras that Memorial Day is only a weekend away. It sure was beautiful though.

We took some nice long walks and appreciated the landscape around us.

It kept alternating between grey skies with snow blowing horizontally by, and bright spots with long views.

Here are the friends contemplating Donner Lake. They’re probably also contemplating their numb toes, but it still felt wonderful to be hiking around. It was simply amazing ¬†- no agenda, no worries. We did some of this:

And some of this:

(That’s homemade tortillas – yum.) And some of this:

And, frankly, some of this:

Although not all at the same time, mind you. We were simply well prepared.

When I got home Honey asked me, “So what did you do? Did you go anywhere?”

I replied, “Well, ahh, let’s see – we went hiking, and we cooked, and we worked on a puzzle, and we talked…” She gave me a concerned look and said, “I’m sorry. It sounds like you didn’t have very much fun.”

Little does she realize. I keep replaying moments in my mind – doubling over with laughter, fresh cold air, delicious flavors, DJing for each other from our iPhones, swapping ideas and stories. It was rejuvenating. We stretched time together and still got home in time to enjoy Sunday with our families. What a gift.

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Posted by laura on Apr 11 2010 | Awesome, Holiday, Tasty

We canceled our annual egg and beer hunt this Easter, due to rain and Tom’s impending 40th birthday party in a couple of months. (There are going to be two bouncy castles, people – we need to stay focused.) It ended up being a lovely, quiet, rainy day and we had a lovely brunch with our neighbors. We actually hit the jackpot there, because Joan and Hank had us over at the beginning of the week to celebrate their Passover Seder with them, and then at the end of the week to celebrate Easter. Perfect bookend events.

I’ve never shown you this unbelievable bowl that Joan gave me (ok, us) for Christmas. It’s simple and delicate and perfect. Filled with Cadbury eggs, this one goes to eleven.

This photo actually cracks me up, because the eggs are these gorgeous pale blue eggs from Finn and Susie’s chickens, and the nest was abandoned in our back yard – I like them together, even though the nest is woefully small for the eggs. What would happen if they were real? It would be like swaddling a baby in a washcloth. I still love looking at them together though.

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Posted by laura on Feb 15 2010 | Awesome, Holiday

Love is

Valentines on the fridge, and talking to Nana in the driveway

Tulips from friends

Treats from neighbors

New lavendar

A sunny day bike ride to the beach with best friends.

Honey’s best friend gave her a valentine poem yesterday afternoon. The last line of the poem is:

“We have power, that power is love.”

What a score in the best friend department. We all rode together to Sausalito to the best little cafe you can imagine. We bought root beers and sat outside for a bit. As we crossed the street to the cafe, our friend Amy asked Hot Wheels if he’d be her valentine. He paused and answered, “Wellll, I’m not sure if I can live with you…” She had to explain that living together wasn’t necessarily in the valentine contract.

Then we hit this tiny scrap of beach where the kayakers go out into the bay. There was a sea lion lolling around in the shallow water checking out all the boats and even one crazy swimmer. What a day.

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Friends and Food

Posted by laura on Jan 12 2010 | Holiday, Tasty

I took a few photos of our refrigerator yesterday. I’m not normally compelled to document the major appliances in my life, but here’s a quick look at what came over me:


We love all the holiday cards and photos that we get from our family and our friends, and they usually end up stuck all over the house in a happy jumble. This year I decided that I wanted to have that happy jumble right where I’d see it all the time, so as the cards arrived we popped them up on the fridge. Of course, we still ended up with other cards on our bulletin board and on the desk, but I just love seeing as many as possible all grouped together. It reminds me of the wall of photos that Mum always kept over the desk in our kitchen. It was a magnet and a talking point. It’s wonderful to have all these friends looking out at us as we go about the day.

Here’s something else I’m excited about. I finally got a new beater for my trusty kitchenaid mixer! The original one was just a bit tired.newbeaters

I haven’t put the new one to work yet, but it won’t be long. In other cooking news, I tried out a new method for baking dinner rolls.


This one’s from the King Arthur cookbook – it’s the basic hearth bread (although I made a honey wheat version for a bit more nutritional punch), which you let rise a couple of times and then bake in muffin tins. I used a tray of ice cubes on the bottom oven rack for steam to give a nice crunchy shell to the rolls. Everybody liked them, but I still think I like the traditional roll shape more – I think I’ll go back to that next time. I also tried a cheese cracker recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Are you reading that blog? If not, just go – get out of here! Terrific writing, beautiful recipes, and gorgeous photos. What are you still doing here?


Now I’m embarrassed to even show you this photo of my crackers, because just wait till you see the ones over at Smitten Kitchen. Well, you might laugh at these just a little bit, then. It’s ok, I’m laughing too. I’m laughing with my mouth full of these amazing, insanely delicious crackers. You should make them too.

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Random Holiday Notes

Posted by laura on Jan 07 2010 | Holiday, Making, Uncategorized


Christmas Eve gingerbread house construction at Sherri and Rik’s house

There’s something about all those small bowls filled with twisted red vines, ruby red hots, sparkling sugar gumdrops… it’s a story, a fairy tale. We had such a beautiful Christmas Eve, warm and bright, with amazing friends.


Holiday boats

Every December, we make sure we take a night drive to look at the holiday lights. It’s particularly fun when you live near water.



Don’t believe me?


Yup, homemade! Right until about a month ago, I never even imagined that you could just up and make marshmallows. Here’s a confession – I don’t even like marshmallows all that much. The taste, that is. I’m nuts about their shape and powdery softness – they’re gorgeous. But the only way I can eat them is perfectly toasted and squashed between graham crackers and chocolate. (You could probably make just about anything taste good with that method.) These were really fun to make, though, and the kids ate them for me so that was a win-win.


Santa Bags

It wouldn’t be a proper Christmas without one crazy 11th hour project on my part. This year, it was making bags to leave out for Santa (we’re all about saving Santa some time on a busy night). So there I was, two nights before Christmas, whipping up random bags out of old shirts, pajamas, dresses, you name it. The good news? They’re super fast to make, they work, and Christmas morning cleanup is a snap!


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Happy New Year!

Posted by laura on Jan 06 2010 | Holiday, Tasty, Uncategorized

Resolution #1: Stop ignoring blog.

Holidays are the best and worst times to have a blog. They’re overflowing with all the kinds of activities I like most, which means I have plenty to talk about but no time in which to say it. We were a whirlwind of seasonal festivities. My lists had lists.

Now that the wrapping paper has settled a bit, I’ll put up a few posts with highlights and nonsense from the past couple of weeks.


Say no more, right?


Double chocolates (some with sea salt for an extra bit of happiness).




Ginger trees (Hot Wheels helped me ice these with white icing and sparkling sugar to look like they had snow on them, and then we stood them all over a chocolate cake with white frosting sprinkled with coconut to make a woodsy scene. Lesson learned: ginger and chocolate? YUM.)


Christmas cookies in process.


Christmas cookies in action. And upside down. And on a plate. And in a house. This is fast becoming the Dr Seuss cookie edition.

Absent on photo day:

- massive chocolate chips

- meringues

Let me tell you a quick story about those meringues, actually. They were my Christmas Miracle Cookies. (You’d think if they were that significant, I’d have gotten a photo of them, but no.) I’ve been having bad meringue karma around here. For years, I made them without a thought. Just whipped them up when necessary and never had a problem. Lately, I haven’t been able to make them work; I’ve been cursed by the sticky meringue gods and every attempt has been a flop. Or a glop, if you were to try them.

So when I found myself the night before Christmas Eve with three egg whites and no plan for them, I thought, “Don’t do it, Laura. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.” But it was Christmas, by gum, and I was armed with my new Baker’s Illustrated cookbook. I followed the instructions to a T. The meringues actually held their form while I attempted to shape them into little trees (for the aforementioned cake tableau). I baked them super slow, and didn’t open the oven until it had been off for about 5 hours. I tasted them… sticky. Rrrgh. I went to bed Scroogily.

The next morning I complained to Tom that yet again, I messed up the meringue and didn’t know how. “Where are they?” he asked. “In the oven. I’m not talking to them.” Tom pulled them out. “They look good!” he said hopefully. “That’s what they want you to think.” I grumbled. He snapped one in half.

He snapped one in half. It snapped!! It was dry, and light, and just right – cue the choir, people, we have liftoff! What’s Christmas without a (albeit very very small) miracle?

Here’s a shot of the table from our Christmas Day open house:


Holy potato chips, Batman! That’s a big bowl. I didn’t realize how huge it looked. Of course, they were gone in a heartbeat, leaving that poor glass jar of celery and carrots to wonder if they’d every be asked to dance. Seriously, though, I don’t know why I ever bother with celery. Does anyone eat it? We put it out just to feel noble, I think.

What you can’t see, on the very edge of the table, is the ricotta pie. Oh yes, I did it, and it isn’t even Easter! (For those of you who’ve never heard about Lena’s Ricotta Pie, you can check it out here.) We never used to get this treat on a non-Easter day, but I broke that tradition wide open, I tell ya. A couple of our guests asked me what was in “the giant pop tart,” which momentarily offended my childhood sensibilities, but then I was forced to admit the resemblance. Poor pie.

I hope you also had a wonderful holiday filled with sweets and relaxation. Hmmm, that said, it looks like celery might just have its day, after all!

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Think Back

Posted by laura on Dec 07 2009 | Fun, Holiday

Well kids, it looks like we have some catching up to do. All the way back to Thanksgiving, if you can believe that. Do you remember Thanksgiving? I know it’s hard to think with all the carols of the bells ringing in your ears from every store you entered this week, but see what you can come up with. My favorite line from this Thanksgiving came from our neighbor, who is eight. That Wednesday, he strolled over to us outside our house with his hands in his pockets and casually asked, “Where are you guys going for Disneyland?” It’s difficult to describe the “aw shoot!” moment when he realized he’d blown the reveal. We just glossed over it, though, and focused on how excited we were for him.

Turns out we went to Burlingame for Disneyland this year. We’d made plans with our friends from LA to meet along the coast for Thanksgiving, but then it turned out we were all hoping to head to the snow this year, and in the end we decided to meet after Christmas instead. So on a whim, we searched the prices of every Embassy Suites in the Bay Area, and came up with a scorcher of a deal down by the airport, and we decided to just go there for the night. We didn’t tell the kids because we really love watching their faces when they get surprised.

Thanksgiving morning, Tom and Honey did a Turkey Trot – about four miles through the valley to the beach and back. While they were gone, I surreptitiously packed the necessities – a board game, some movies, snacks, and a changes of clothes. We stopped in San Francisco to have lunch at a diner and walk around a bit, and then we headed down to the hotel. When we pulled up and Tom said, “What do you say we stay here tonight?” the kids went bazonkers. And rightly so – it was awesome.


Yep, there were these mammoth trees filling the atrium of the building. There were glass elevators. There was a pool and two jacuzzis. There were koi swimming around in these little ponds and streams that you could walk along to watch them.


Check that out – do you see the little tables and bridges? Can you find the waterfall? Any second now, Snow White will appear.

This is what I’m here to tell you – hotels rock. So do overnights when the kids can basically do all the things they love best in the world. We were right next to the airport, for crying out loud – we just sat on the bed and watched the planes come in. Most of all we were hugely, happily thankful to be together. I hope you all had a wonderful time as well – I’d love to hear what your favorite Thanksgiving foods are. Hands down, mine is apple pie. Although I made Mum’s sweet dinner rolls that week as well just because it’s plain wrong to have a major holiday without them. What makes Thanksgiving for you?

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Someone is Six

Posted by laura on Nov 14 2009 | Fun, Holiday, Tasty


That’s right – there he is, with his ‘worker pajamas’ and birthday toast. He’s six. Crazy. (Let me add that I’m fully aware that toast looks pretty dodgy. It’s vegemite. He loves it – what can I say?)

Never have I seen anyone relish a birthday like Hot Wheels. First there were the weeks of counting down. Then on Monday he started singing songs about the wondrous day. On Thursday, as we left school he informed his sister and me that he wanted his birthday to be perfect. “I want it to be perkect,” he said, and suggested that Honey finish all her homework and that I “do the dishes.” I informed him that it was in fact a birthday, not a coronation, but he ignored me.

Friday morning, I heard his feet hit the floor at exactly 6:15, and we were off. What a great day. He loved his presents, he loved his birthday crown at school, he told me incredulously that people kept wishing him a happy birthday! It was awesome!

As I’ve mentioned before, our elementary school has suspended edible treats for birthdays, so put away the cupcake tins, people. However, instead of just stopping there, they tell parents that “most” people bring in a non-edible treat for their children to hand out to classmates. And they do. That means no child wants to be the one killjoy not to bring something in. With Honey, we got around it by handing out daffodil bulbs. Hot Wheels had other ideas. He wanted to give out, well, Hot Wheels.


Shocking, isn’t it? We found a great deal on one of those big packs, so they were inexpensive, and I’m hoping that the other families will like them, despite the fact that they’re not biodegradable. We have these sheets with photos of the students in the class, and Hot Wheels spent a lonnnng time matching kids to cars. (That will probably be the next facebook quiz – “What Hot Wheels car are you?”)


The great thing about having leftover fish-costume fleece is that it’s super easy to whip up into gift bags, and now I have less leftover fleece!

So today we had a small party with six friends. It was a – brace yourselves – Color-Changing Hot Wheels party. Surprised?


Here he is, waiting for his friends to arrive. (At this point, the party was still over an hour away.)

We kept it casual with a bunch of track set up in the driveway, and a lot of just playing around the house. It was really fun, and although he didn’t quite explode with happiness, it was darn close.


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Something Wicked

Posted by laura on Nov 08 2009 | Holiday, Making, Sewing

Sorry to leave you all hanging there with the Halloween business. What happened with the fish? Was it†finished? (Ouch. That was for you, Kevin.) Well yes. We made it. Of course I don’t have very good photos, but here they are:


I messed up the proportions a bit in the back and made it a tad too long, but frankly it’s a bit of a miracle that it has any resemblance to a fish at all, so I shouldn’t pick at it. You know those test questions where you had to look at a 2D image and pick which 3D shape it would make? Those weren’t exactly my strong suit. So pattern making is a bit of a stretch for me. I’ve been attempting to sew for years now, and every time I take pattern pieces and stitch them together correctly, I get a thrill. (WOW! Look what that made!! I can’t believe it!) The fish was cozy and comfortable and Hot Wheels was happy with it, so it’s all good. Here’s our wood fairy:


Fortunately this was a very basic setup – we bought two fallish sprays of fake plants from the fabric store and hot glued them to a pair of old brown pants and a tunic stitched up from a curtain remnant. My kind of sewing! She wanted an acorn bag and elfy shoes, so I used scraps from the American Indian princess outfit from the second grade. Hands down, my favorite part of any fairy/princess outfit is the headgear. This one was made from a ring of brown fuzzy pussy-willow-like stuff, twirled with this super thin bronze colored wire. The wire had the quality of a line drawing in her hair – I love that. If I were a jewelry designer, I think I’d just make crowns and tiaras all day.

On Halloween night we had an amazing chili dinner with our lovely neighbors. The girls were a cupcake and a queen.


I don’t do kids’ faces here, so you’ll have to imagine how insanely lovely they were. Didn’t Joan do an incredible job with these costumes? That cupcake just turned out magnificently, from the felt flower decoration to the perfectly pleated wrapper. Fantastic. Too bad they had to walk around with these clowns…


Tom made himself into a cool jelly fish, using an old shower curtain, some balloons and a string of lights – he was a big hit. I decided to go with gothick this year – basically a goth outfit with a lot of bugs thrown in. Hard to see here, but I hot glued spiders and other plastic bugs onto hairpins and put them through my hair, and just used false eyelash glue for the ants. It was so much fun – I think my favorite part was cutting up the t shirt and stockings with patterns. Even Hot Wheels thought that was cool.

The whole goth look was a blast, but man! what a lot of work. I practically needed a brillo pad to get that lipstick off. Yoikes. And it had the unintended consequence of completely freaking one of my young neighbors out – when we went over for dinner she just had to leave me for a while because it was all so horribly wrong. Fortunately, she came around and we had a great night.

In other good news, after a loooonnnnngggg week, Honey is finally looking and feeling more like herself again. Turns out that when you take Motrin for a long time it does a serious number on your stomach. But it looks like we’re out of the (knock on) woods – her mouth is back to mild discomfort and she’s much, much happier. It’s fantastic!!! Here’s to a great weekend, everybody!

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Something Fishy

Posted by laura on Oct 27 2009 | Holiday, Making, Sewing

This is the post in which we attempt to return to our usual programming. Honey was back at school today, although she called to have us bring her medicine at lunchtime. Hot Wheels stayed home but is feeling much better. Tom is starting to look sideways at me, which for once is actually a good thing. With everyone attempting normalcy, it was time for me to start panicking about Halloween.

Halloween is technically four days away, but in reality it’s only three, since the school costume parade is on Friday. Honey wants to be a wood sprite, which I’m not particularly worried about since I have bags of green and brown fabrics and sprites are not known for their tailoring. We could throw that one together the day before. In fact, I’m sure we will. Now Hot Wheels is a different story. He wants to be “a fissy.” Not just any fissy, mind you. THIS fissy:


Say hello to Bubbles. I’m actually very fond of this guy.


Yeah, I’m talkin about you.

Anyway… I’ve never made a fish costume before and I have to say I didn’t exactly excel at that portion of the SAT where you had to picture what 3 dimensional shape would be made from what 2 dimensional drawing, which regrettably goes for the reverse as well. I’ve been in deep denial on this costume – look how much I’d done up till this morning:


Pretty smart looking, eh?? So today I faced the music and started cutting and sewing. Please think positive thoughts towards this fish, and if you have detailed diagrams that’d be great too.


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