What Ya Gonna Do with a New Year?

Snowy morning - looks cold and quiet out there. Inside my house? Not so quiet...

I'm prepping for the annual Hill Family Fete. What's on my food list this year? Russian teacakes, stuffed mushrooms, habanero jelly w/ cream cheese & crackers, and pizza of course! I'm in charge of making dough for 6 pizzas and then taking whatever other munchies I'm dying for. So I'm going for sweet, savory, and spicy. Sounds like a fabulous mix to me!

Russian Tea Cakes / Mexican Wedding Cookies / Italian Wedding Cookies / Butterballs
1 1/2 c unsalted butter (or use salted butter and omit salt)
3/4 c powdered sugar
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 c chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pecans are my favorite)
4 1/2 t vanilla
3 c sifted, all purpose flour
~1/3 c powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 325.
Cream butter & sugar. Beat until light & fluffy. Add nuts and vanilla. Blend in flour gradually. 
Shape dough into balls (about 1 teaspoon in size) and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 15-20 min. Don't brown.
Cool slightly on wire rack then roll in powdered sugar.
Sounds good eh?
Here's my stuffed mushroom recipe. I use my handy mini food processor when chopping  these ingredients.

Stuffed Mushrooms
Large fresh mushrooms, stems removed (the original recipe only called for 12 large mushrooms - the stuffing fills many more than 12)
1 pkg dry stuffing mix
1 8 oz cream cheese
1/2 pound imitation crab meat (the last package I bought was 12 oz. We used it all and it was just fine)
2 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
Salt & pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Shredded parmesan cheese (the real stuff)

Wash mushrooms. Remove stems (twist out) and reserve. Arrange mushroom tops in baking pan - bottoms up.
Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions.
Preheat oven to 350.
Place cream cheese in large bowl. When stuffing is finished immediately add it to bowl on top of cheese - this will soften/melt the cream cheese with little effort on your part.
Melt butter over medium heat and add garlic. Cook until soft (about 5 min).
Chop crab meat and mushroom stems.
Mix stuffing mix, cream cheese, crab meat, and mushroom stems.
Liberally stuff mushrooms (or if you've completely filled your baking pan with mushroom tops, you can spread the mix over the top and push it down so that it fills the mushrooms. It'll be more difficult to get individual mushrooms, but it'll still be ooey goodness.)
Drizzle with garlic butter.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Top with shredded parmesan.
Bake for 15 min (until stuffing is browned).
I've still got to go to the grocery store and get things cooking, so I'd better be headed out the door.

I hope you all have a safe, enjoyable celebration this evening. See you in 2011!


Post Holiday Wrap Up

This morning I awoke to sun streaming through my bedroom blinds and realized that Jon had slipped off to work without waking anyone. So I called him a couple of hours later and was surprised to hear how happy he was that I'd called. I played with his phone a bit over the weekend and linked my photo with my name so it pops up when I call. He said he'd love it even more if I flashed a bit more cleavage (but don't tell him I told you...).

I sat down at my computer with the last of my mom's delicious cream cheese, lime jello, marshmallow, banana and pineapple salad (probably NOT the one you're thinking of. The cream cheese is in little chunks and mixed with partially jelled jello so that's chunky too) Yum Yum Yum. I've now spent a couple of hours catching up on all of the blog posts from the past week or so, and I discovered a fireplace that I am in LOVE with...

I'm not in love with the pink couch and chair, but the blue of that fireplace took my breath away. So I spent the next hour reading about her $7500 treasure (bit more than my budget can handle right now) and looking for tile books at my county library. Let's just see what design ideas I can come up with this week...

Shortly after I figured out that the holiday came and went, and my camera never left its spot on the kitchen counter. Seriously - not a single holiday photo. Gack...

I got to talk to my stepdad about the quilt I made him for Christmas (I was thinking that perhaps I love it more than he did, but that's not necessarily the case...) and to my dear friend, April. I've let too much time pass since I had a good conversation with April, and now I'm missing her so much more. Never fear - I get to spend a weekend with her and all our boys in January!

My home office is a bit of a disaster area - wrapping flotsam here and there. Stuff piled on the dresser, couch, and corner that I don't know where else to put. The broken bunk bed ladder from a wrestling match gone awry is leaning against the closet door, and under that are some vacuum attachments, more wrapping scraps, and the crud that got dumped out of the boys' backpacks the day they came home from school last week.

I'm now officially a teleworker, and I need to box up my cubicle and bring all of that home. I'm dreading trying to find a spot for it in here! Jonny - those shelves would be very helpful right about now. If I do the more cleavage photo will you get it done soon???

Good thing I've got a few days to get things whipped into shape.


Christmas Breakfast

We have a lovely tradition with our next door neighbors where we eat Christmas breakfast together. It's something I did when I grew up. We traded hosting with the Harrises for years, and I love that Jon and I have been able to renew this.

My dear neighbor, Debbie, has the exact same Christmas dishes that I do - and Target sold them YEARS ago. I love that we both fell in love with those silly plates the same year and then didn't discover our similar taste until we moved in next door to each other.

Last year we had pancakes at Deb's house, so this year it's my turn. I usually make a bread casserole that I put together on Christmas Eve day and plop in the oven when we wake up to open presents. Oila! Presents are open, and breakfast is ready. A couple of years ago I found a recipe similar to mine that you do in a crockpot. Yah - won't be trying that again. The eggs just can't take overnight heat plus the time it takes to open gifts. It was a little over done.

This year I'm hoping to make some kind of french toast. I know there's a recipe for pre-assembly that you bake while you open, but can I find it now? NO! I'm craving buttermilk syrup, and it doesn't go so well with egg casserole. I don't want to be standing in front of a griddle. I just want to play and enjoy company. Is that such a bad thing?

How about you - what do you eat for Christmas breakfast?


Home for Christmas

You know I'm the sentimental type, and I'm particularly nostalgic about growing up in Provo (please note that I'm completely proud of myself for not attending university there...) Two of my favorite things about Provo are there no more.

This morning the Provo Tabernacle burned. The roof collapsed at about 6:00 am.

Such a magnificent structure! We used to attend stake conference there, and my seminary graduation was there. In fact, one of my most embarassing moments EVER happened during my seminary graduation.
Back when I graduated from seminary, the entire seminary graduated in the same ceremony. (Apparently stakes in the Salt Lake Valley hold individual graduations for seminary seniors now - is that how it is everywhere?) There were probably about 250 of us graduating. Graduates were presented alphabetically by stake and by ward. My stake was the very last stake, and my ward was the last ward. I was the only graduate from my ward, so that made me the very last graduate. I was wearing a navy blue dress with a cinched waist and large white polka dots (very Princess Di).

The tabernacle had stairs leading up to the pulpit, and we had to climb those stairs, walk across the stand, and then walk down the other side. Our stake president and bishop were supposed to be standing on the downward side, but I remember my bishop running up the stairs to get to his place. See how there are 3 or 4 steps and then a landing? Well I figured I'd just meet him further down, and in my haste I slipped off a landing and tripped down a few steps. My bishop caught me so I don't remember landing on the floor, but all of that grace I'd built in my mind flew right out the window...
I loved that the mother's lounge had a great big window so that the moms could still see who was speaking. I thought that room was where people took their crying children (I wasn't around many nursing moms).  If I remember correctly it was beneath the balcony on the south side of the structure (that's too the left in the photo above).

The other Provo landmark? His name is Jesse Marrott. In my mind he was the bishop when my dad passed away, but that may not have been the case. Regardless, he was my bishop for a long time. He was also my home teacher, and by the time I was in high school he had been ordained the stake patriarch and gave me my blessing. 

For a long time our bus stop was next to the Marrott's home, and I remember walking up the street, past the orchard, and waiting in line on the sidewalk. Jesse would be outside many mornings in his overalls doing something near his truck (I think it was a Dodge). He'd always smile and wave.

I remember his hands being pudgy and rough, but they had softness in them too. I never once doubted that that man loved me. Maybe that's why I loved him right back.
Tomorrow I'll be attending Jesse's funeral, which is being held in the church house that was built in that orchard. The church was built after I left home, but there are so many people who still live in that nieghborhood that I'm fond of. Can't think of a better place to spend a few hours remembering an incredible man.


Are We There Yet?

So - have you reached the point that you realize that if you don't get everything done, the holiday will still happen without it all?

I'm quickly arriving. Just this morning I realized that the big day is two weeks away, and my village still isn't up. My very favorite nativity is still boxed up on the floor in front of the dry sink where I love to set it up most years. You know what? I just may not mess with it.

All 3 trees are out. The garland and wreaths are in place. There are already 5 nativities in my front room. Does it really need more?

I think it might be all right if the china cabinet that I bought specifically to display my village sits empty until 2011. (I took out all the usual display stuff when I boxed up Thanksgiving decor).

I have all of the components of my Christmas cards ready to go, but the surge to get them put together just isn't happening.

I also realized that all of the adorable items I was going to assemble for gifts for my book club are still unassembled. Nice. Book club meets in 39 minutes. Dang.

But really? I'm so ready to just sit back and watch holiday movies, drive around looking at holiday lights, and drink hot cocoa with my guys. I may still find it in me to make some toffee and peanut brittle. Oh and some Mexican wedding cookies (aka Russian tea cakes) and cinnamon rolls - got a couple of weeks to fit all that in.

Yep - I'm thinking I'm ready to just ssssssssssssllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllooooooooowwwwwwwww down. A couple of really cool quilt books showed up in my "hold" cache at the library yesterday. They're about modern quilts, which is something I haven't bought into until recently. So I'm very anxious to look through those books.




Have you seen all the hubbub about advent calendars in the blogosphere? Well,  I'm adding my own to that.

Last night while reading bedtime stories to Griff he asked about our Advent calendar. He wanted to know why we added an ornament to the tree every night. How does that help count down to Christmas? Seriously, dear reader. He has a point. No worries though. He made a paper chain at school and will be removing a link every day. Oh the anticipation!

Boy oh boy did I go overboard on my advent a few years ago - not the number of calendars but the type of things I stuffed in the drawers. Took me a couple month's worth of planning and I ended up hating it and not putting it out the next year.

My boys noticed. OH MAN DID THEY NOTICE, and I had to make some changes to my advent philosophy.
Let's back up a bit. I have a chest advent. It has doors that swing open to reveal 24 drawers of varying sizes. My SIL, Chris, gave this to me one year when she & Mike had me & Jon. As if the chest wasn't a gift in itself, they filled the drawers with miscellaneous items such as candy, small additions to my Christmas Village (I still include that tricycle every year), and numbers that corresponded to larger packages in a separate box. Some of the larger gifts included cake mix, frosting and candles (Jon's b-day is in December), a 12x12 paper keeper, movie passes, a duck call etc. They completely spoiled us!
I wanted to continue this fine feature, but it stressed me out more than any other part of my holiday festivities. So after not getting it out that one year, I picked up a set of small ornaments at Big Lots and placed one in each drawer. The boys get to put an ornament on a small tree every day.
Last year we figured out that the location of the chest was not good for anxious little boys who pull it over and drop all the drawers on the floor, shattering those ornaments on the tile. But don't worry - it was just what we needed to help us all jump out of bed that morning... So - I've picked up some even cheaper ornaments from Dollar Tree (not a glass one in the bunch!).
The advent chest and tree weren't out when the boys left for school this morning, but guess what they're coming home to this afternoon!
I just discovered another reason that I <3 <3 <3 quilting.... See how that shelf is kind of bowed under the weight of the chest? Well, I took the shelf out and couldn't open the doors because of the lip at the bottom of the bookshelf. So I grabbed one of those small phone books that show up on my front step every other month or so (I have a stack of them in my hall closet because they come in handy for cases such as this), topped it with a fabric scrap (I'm SO in love with the project that it's a scrap from) and oila!

Much better. It looks cozier. I didn't think that fabric was Christmasy - more Indian blanketish. But it's perfect!



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