Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Maggie is 13 weeks old!

Hard to believe my little princess is 3 months old already. We had a wonderful Christmas with the boys, even if Maggie slept through most of it. She has rolled over several times now so if she had more uninterrupted floor time my guess is she would be rolling all over the place. She and daddy both have survived my first night back at work so that is a relief to all of us. We'll be working on finding new routines with the new year with Grandma and Grandpa heading home tomorrow and mommy back at work full time.  I'm really glad that Maggie did well her first nigth without me because it makes going back to work much less stressful.

I finished Lynn's Christmas shawl in time for Christmas and I think it came out nicely even if it wasn't that much of a surprise for her. The compromise of getting it done in time for Christmass meant that I had to knit it while she was around.  I was hoping to keep the final result a bit of a secret so when I blocked it out I did it in the basement but then she went down there to do a load of laundry- dope! Oh well I think she likes it! I also made a Little Pearl Vest for a baby gift for a friend who is due in January. It came really pretty and I just have to find a button and block it.  I think I might have to make on of these for Maggie but in a much bigger size! Since I got floated at work last night I was also able to finish a matching hat and I am going to try to eek out a pair of booties.  Here's hoping I have enough yarn!

With all the goings on of Christmas I haven't had much time to read. I'm still reading The Catholic Home but somehow it has gotten misplaced under piles of Christmas gifts so I will have to find it back this week. I did pick up All Wound Up by Stephanie Pearl McPhee. I love that book and it is easy to pick up and read just a little bit at a time. It's a great mood lifter, especially if you are a knitter!

Hope to have some Christmas pictures to come in the next few days as we clean and organize and get everything put away. But in the meantime I will leave you with picture of James and Maggie sharing a little bot of Christmas joy, i.e. Maggie fending off James as he shoved one of his presents into her face trying to show it to her. Once he got it out of her face though he was so cute holding his lacing card in her lap showing her how it worked.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maggie is 12 weeks old!

My little princess is 12 weeks old today!  I don't know why this feels like such a milestone for me but it does. It probably has something to do with the fact that at 12 weeks my maternity leave is over and I will be going back to work next week. That is going to be a change for sure.  Somehow with the boys returning to work felt like a bigger challenge than actually bringing baby home. It'll be a little different this time since I am going back to work over the holidays (the joys of being a nurse) so Frank will be home much of the time and his parents are here visiting as well.  The beginning of January will find us trying to learn our new routines.  Maggie is doing awesome.  She is really a lovely and content little girl.  She rolled over last week one time but just the once so hopefully she isn't going to be too precocious. She keeps trying to pull herself up into a sitting position though so I don't imagine it will be long before she is sitting.

I've been working hard on Lynn's shawl for Christmas.  I've almost gotten it done.  I'm finishing up the edge ruffle right now.  It's about 400 stitches long though so it is going really slowly.  I think we may do family gifts Sunday evening since I have to work Monday and Tuesday so I really need to get cracking to get it finished, blocked, and dried by then- ack! Tomorrow night is knitting group so here's hoping I can get it finished with the some dedicated knitting time.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Minty Christmas Goodness

I've had several requests for my peppermint bark recipe so I thought I would go ahead and write a whole post about it. First to give credit where credit is due: this is not my recipe... I came upon it though a rather circuitous blogger route several years ago. Call it a recipe passed from friend to friend in blogland! So thank you to Soulemama (check out her peppermint lip balm recipe and you will find her post on peppermint bark) and Molly and Molly's sister Lisa and finally Bon Appetit- where the recipe originated. 
My Ingredients
I have to preface this with the disclaimer that I am a mint lover. I pretty much adore anything mint.  Add mint to chocolate and I am in heaven.  That all being said this is the best peppermint bark I have ever had and absolutely dead easy to make, so all the better. I've introduced some "cheater" options to make it even easier to make. First a few notes:
The first layer ready to be chilled
When buying your white chocolate, make sure that the words “cocoa butter” appear in the list of ingredients. This entire recipe is chocolate so go ahead and splurge- if you try to cheap out on the chocolate you will get an inferior result. This year I used Baker's but I have also used Ghiradelli or Lindt with good success. Molly and Soulemama used callebaut but I haven't been able to get it locally. I highly recommend NOT using candy melts because it just doesn't work well. I have had good luck finding appropriate chocolate in the baking aisle of any local grocery store.
Melting the bittersweet chocolate and mixing in the cream
To crush the peppermints Bon Appétit advises tapping the wrapped candies firmly with the bottom edge of an unopened 15- to 16-ounce can. In the past I used a glass canning jar and that worked too. This year I cut a few more corners and bought a 4.2 oz jar of peppermint crunch from Wal Mart. It was slightly more expensive than just buying the candies but well worth the time saved and way less mess than crushing 60+ mints.
The second layer spread and ready to be chilled
The Recipe:
Three-Layer Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 1998

17 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
30 red-and-white-striped crushed hard peppermint candies (or a 4.2 oz jar peppermint crunch)
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, > 60% cocoa, finely chopped
6 Tbsp. heavy cream or whipping cream (I like heavy cream better)
¾ tsp. peppermint extract

Turn a large baking sheet upside down, and cover it securely with aluminum foil. Measure out and mark a 9- by 12-inch rectangle on the foil.

Put the white chocolate in a metal (or other heatproof) bowl, and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. (Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.) Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth; if you take its temperature with a candy thermometer, it should register 110°F. Remove the chocolate from the heat. Pour 2/3 cup of it onto the rectangle on the foil. Using an icing spatula, spread the chocolate to fill the rectangle. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the bittersweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract in a heavy medium saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Then remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator, and pour the bittersweet chocolate mixture over the white chocolate rectangle. Using an icing spatula – make sure you cleaned it after using it for the white chocolate, above! – spread the bittersweet chocolate in an even layer. Chill until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm the remaining white chocolate over barely simmering water to 110°F. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the firm bittersweet layer, using your (again, clean) icing spatula to spread it to cover. Sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. If you used peppermint crunch then use all of the remaining crunch in the jar. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Carefully lift the foil from the baking sheet onto a large cutting board. Trim away any ragged edges of the rectangle. (These are yours to nibble at, a little prize for your efforts.) Cut the bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slip the bark off of the foil and onto the cutting board. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections, and then cut each section diagonally into 2 triangles. Or, alternatively, just cut each strip into smaller pieces of whatever size you like. That’s what I did.

Pack into an airtight container, with sheets of wax paper between layers of bark to prevent them from sticking to one another. Store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or, to emphasize the slight softness of the bittersweet layer, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This bark will keep for up to 2 weeks, if not more. If you plan to pack it in a tin or baggie with other holiday sweets, be sure to wrap it separately in plastic wrap. Or maybe wax paper and then plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t sweat. If you left it naked, so to speak, to mix and mingle with other cookies or candies, everything might wind up tasting and smelling like peppermint. Also peppermints will melt if they sweat too much so keep that in mind.

Yield: about 36 pieces, or more, if you cut them smaller
The final layer on and ready to be chilled
So a little time consuming but easy peasy!  A few things that I have found to be helpful include:
1. Use a double boiler.  I personally have not had good luck with microwaving the chocolate- I get much better, smoother results on the stove top and it's not that much more time consuming. 
2. Be patient. Make sure your layers are really well chilled before adding the next layer and allowing the bittersweet layer really to cool until almost needing to be melted again prevents blending of the chocolates.
3. Once you start spreading work quickly.  It doesn't have to be perfect because each layer gets covered.
4. Use an icing spatula. I didn't have one the first year and I tried to use a knife- not a good idea.  If you don't have an icing spatula buy or borrow one.
5. Use good quality chocolate.  I know I said it already but it really does matter.  Don't use nestle chocolate chips or try to cheap out on the chocolate because it won't be worth eating in the end.
6. Wash everything right away.  And I mean immediately, go from spreading to rinsing in the sink because washing dried chocolate out of your doubler boiler is a pain.
Ready to be gifted- yum!
Eat and Enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Maggie is 11 weeks old!

Aren't they precious when they sleep!
Time flies when you are having fun!  I can't believe my baby girl is almost 12 weeks old! She will be baptized this Sunday which I am excited for.  Hopefully the Christening gown will fit- both of the boys were bapized much younger than this but it took us awhile to make arrangements for her Godparents to both be there for this. My return to work is looming and I am alternately looking forward to it and dreading it. It will be nice to use my brain a little more but I will miss all the quality time with he kids. It will be nice to have a paycheck again though.
So after multiple yarn snafus- one of the less exciting parts of ordering yarn online- I finally got yarn to make Lynn's Christmas shawl.  She requested a large, cozy, warm shawl in an off-white for Christmas this year. My initial plan was to use Malabrigo worsted so I ordered it online.  Of course then the place that I ordered it from was out of malabrigo so we switched it to Manos del Uruguay Maxima, which I find it a pretty comparable yarn. Well when the package arrived in the mail it contained 4 skeins of Manos Lace.  Needless to say that wasn't going to work for the project I had in mind.  So I decided to chuck it all and went to my LYS and got some very nice Cascade Lana d'Oro there.  It won't be quite as fuzzy as I had intended but it will be soft and very warm! I making her a Far Away, So Close Shawl by Carina Spencer because I love, love the pattern and it knits ups fairly quickly for a large shawl.  I was on a pretty tough time constraint seeing as she just told me what she wanted at the beginning of the month so I needed to get going on this.

I'm still reading the Catholic Home.  I've gotten through the section on advent which is good since it is applicable now.  The boys have been enjoying putting figures in the nativity scene but they only seem to like putting animals in the barn! Right now I have skipped ahead to the section on Baptism since Maggie's Baptism is this upcoming Sunday.  It will be so nice to welcome her into our Parish community.

Come yarn along with us at Ginny's place.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Naked Chefs...

So the boys and I started on our Christmas baking this week. Tonight we made sugar cookies (star cookies as Xander calls them). I wanted to get everything ready for them before we started so they took their shower first and then planned to help me.  I figured rather than get a whole new set of clothes dirty we'd just have them wear their aprons for baking.  Then they decided they needed to wear their chef's hats and my two naked chefs were born! Tonight we just made the cookies- we'll save the decorating for tomorrow once the cookies have cooled properly. Otherwise the boys try to decorate the cookies fresh out of the oven! So the plan is to decorate sugar cookies tomorrow and then we'll make peppermint bark (my favorite) and peanut butter blossoms (Frank's request).  If I get really ambitious we might make some chocolate chip cookies or some other kind of goody.  Then we'll pack everything up in boxes and deliver it to the boys' teachers and our neighbors. What are your favorite Christmas goodies?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gotta love those chubby cheeks!

Isn't she precious?  Ok , ok I know I am bias but I could just eat her up!  She has the most kissable cheeks ever.  I've been trying to get a video of her cooing and talking but she always seems to quiet down the minute I turn the camera on! Anyway she talks a tiny bit in this video and has some nice smiles.
Apparently overnight she needed her nails trimmed becasue she scratched the heck out of her face in like 2 minutes flat.  She looked a bit like she had been in a bar brawl but they have calmed down some.  I did trim her nails though...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Maggie is 10 weeks old!

Maggie ten weeks old today.  We have had a nice week just getting used to being back at home.  Maggie's nose seems to have cleared up and with the decrease of green boogers we have seen a significant decrease in vomiting.  I really think that her stuffy nose was making her tummy upset. She is back to normal spitting up which is much easier to handle. Last night she even slept through the night!  So far that seems to be a one time occurrence but she has been sleeping for 5 hour stretches so I'm encouraged.  James was such a terrible sleeper that it would be nice to have a baby that sleeps. 
Xander loving on his sister
All in all Maggie is a really good baby.  She does get fussy in the evenings and gets gassy occasionally but really she only cries when she is hungry. She also cries when her brothers try to maul her but I think she is justified in that regard! They love her but sometimes we struggle with understanding that she isn't a doll or that we need to be gentle to her.  They are so used to wrestling with each other that they think they can wrestle with her too. She is getting so much more interactive as the days go on and the boys really enjoy the fact that they can talk to her and she will smile and coo back.  Hopefully that will last once she is big enough to steal their toys!

I'm reading The Catholic Home as recommended by Ginny. We attended a lecture at Frank's parent's church when we were there about Strong Catholic Families/Strong Catholic Youth. This is something that Frank and I have talked a lot about recently.  Being Catholic (or Christian) is more than attending Mass every Sunday and we want to model our faith for our children in a way that they can enjoy and engage in it rather than just being dragged to church every Sunday morning. So this advent season we are celebrating with a Jesse tree and the children each have their own advent calendars as well as a family calendar. It is really nice to sit around the table every night after dinner and listen to Frank read a story and then talk with the kids about the story.  I like having these very short daily conversations with them.  I'm a little behind because we haven't gotten the nativity out yet and we still have some (ok all) of our decorating to do but we are spending time as a family to do it and that it what is really important to us. I'd like to add in little celebrations throughout the year so we'll see what I learn from this book.

On the knitting front I continue to plug away at Maggie's blanket.  It was supposed to be a coming home blanket and then it morphed into a Christmas blanket but at this point I am hoping I finish it before she goes to school and doesn't need a blankie anymore. I go through sections quickly and then I don't seem to be able to find time to work on it for long periods of time so it is coming alone slowly.  It will be further delayed because my mother-in-law has requested a shawl for Christmas so as soon as I get the yarn (on it's way from Webs) I will start working on that. I also have this lovely sweater kit for Maggie that keeps calling my name so I may succumb to some knitting ADD.  I decided pretty much not to knit any gifts for Christmas this year with the baby and all so I'm happy not to be feeling the crunch!

Come yarn along with us over at Ginny's place.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My silly boys

2 boys, a cow, and a laundry basket- who would have though it?