Saturday, December 23, 2006
Let the festivities commence!
We're off to Noni and Popi's shortly. My brother's family is already there. Tonight we'll be celebrating with Aunt Patty and her family. Tomorrow there is church and then we'll be celebrating with the rest of Popi's family. For a little change of pace we'll be doing it in the afternoon instead of the evening. That way we can be assured of getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour Christmas Eve. Christmas morning we'll celebrate with Noni and Popi and Uncle B. and Aunt K. and the kids. In the afternoon we'll head back home to Grandma G's to celebrate with M's family. Finally, on Christmas night we'll have our own Christmas.
Ornament of the Day
This little cluster of red bells came with a gift basket from Noni last year. The basket had Bath & Body products and a candle and it was really cute and well put together. I loved that little basket.

Friday, December 22, 2006
A tiny taste of what's to come
When Emma and I got home from Mary's today I let her open the presents she was given there. I figure there's no sense in waiting until Christmas, when they'll be lost in the giant pile. She got a baby doll from her little friend Caleb. Mary gave her a coloring book and crayons and a flashlight she can wear around her neck. You can see the string and the flashlight in the picture.

Lookee! Lookee!
This is a Christmas card I received from Nat or Nat-Bear. She blogs at A Mother's Journey and is a frequent commenter here. While her home is in Britain, right now she's visiting her family in Moldova. Since most of you are probably saying "Where?," I encourage you to take a minute and look it up here. It is a former Soviet state and achieved it's independence in 1991, a few years after the fall of the Berlin wall.

I love this card. The picture doesn't do it justice because it doesn't portray the three-dimensionality of the card very well. I love the colors and the style, very ornate. Thank you so much, Nat! Now please tell me what it says ;)

I've spoken to Nat a bit about her homeland. I'm very interested because I went into college thinking I was going to be an International Relations major. I took Russian language and several government classes specializing in Soviet studies. I was actually in college when the wall came down and was fascinated as we watched the Soviet communist system collapse.

We're trying to get Nat to tell us stories of her youth in Moldova on her blog. She thinks she's boring, but to us she'd have fascinating stories to tell. Come on, Nat, tell us some stories!

Ornament of the Day
He was probably a gift from Noni. All I know is that I've had him for what seems like forever.

Thursday, December 21, 2006
I'm late, I'm late...
This morning I woke up at 7:42 a.m. My alarm should have gone off at 7:00 a.m. Hell, Emma should have woken me up at 7:00 a.m. I suppose my alarm would have gone off if I'd set the darned thing the night before. I scrambled to get ready, knowing that if I didn't make it on time I had someone else to man the fort and open on time. So the situation was hurried, but not desperate. M pitched in to help me by packing the lunches. I had to wash my hair this morning so I didn't catch a break on that. But after starting 42 minutes late I ended up actually being two minutes early to work. And I even dropped Emma off too.

Through the whole crisis I learned something interesting about my husband. He can't peel an orange worth a damn.
Half a day of work left...
We're on the home stretch. Tonight I'll finish the last bit of baking and put some bows on packages. M is going to wrap all of his gifts tonight. Tomorrow I work until noon and then pick up Emma. We'll come home and I'll start on my giant pile of laundry. I'll also finish packing the presents.

Today at work I received a few gifts, mostly chocolate. Who can complain, right? Except it's feast or famine, man. All this great food comes at you at one time of the year and you can't possibly eat it all. You sure can try like hell, I know I do.

I got my Christmas bonus too. I feel like I should get myself something nice as a Christmas present to me, but I don't know what. I'll certainly wait until after Christmas is over so I don't mess up anyones Christmas present plans. What I'd really like to get is the couch for the living room, but I'd hate to see such a large chunk of the bonus disappear so quickly. I'll have to contemplate it for a while. Couch, couch, couch...

I've really been enjoying all the Christmas cards I've received. My favorites are the ones with pictures. My entertainment center is filling with lots of smiling faces. I'll take a picture of it after mail-call tomorrow, just in case I have any more pictures to add. Then I'll share it with you. I love getting Christmas cards and this has been a good year for it.
Ornament of the Day
This was a gift last year. It'a about six inches across so it's a whopper. You can see the Heidelberg Castle and the bridge where we found the monkey balls.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Please, Noni, don't kick my butt
I know I put Chex Mix on my Christmas list, but it was just "me too" cause Uncle B did it. I hadn't planned on making Chex Mix myself, but well...M loves it when I do. If you've already made us some you can take that portion and share it with the whole family when we're together. So today I made Chex Mix, Cocoons, M & M cookies and may still make one more batch of cookies tonight. M is teaching Emma to love Chex Mix. It's always fun when the pot is full and there's plenty.

In the video she is following her id and picking out all the nuts. You can see her discover a new nut, too.

About my Chex Mix...I despise what they've done to the recipe. Bagel bits? Are you kidding me? This is not what I grew up loving as a kid. A couple of years ago I searched online for historical information which would show the Chex Mix recipe from the '70s. I think between two recipes I found, and a few modifications to modernize the method, I've found the good stuff. Here's my recipe:

Highland Gal's Chex Mix

5 to 6 tbsp. of margarine
4 1/2 tsp. of Lea & Perrins Worchestershire sauce
1 1/4 tsp. of seasoned salt (for me it must be Lawry's, or forget it, I'm not making it)
2 c. Rice Chex
2 c. Corn Chex
2 c. Wheat Chex
1 c. pretzel sticks
1 c. mixed nuts

Melt margarine in a small bowl in the microwave. Mix in worchestershire sauce and seasoned salt. In a large bowl mix cereal, pretzels and nuts. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and stir well. Microwave in a microwave-safe bowl for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring every two minutes. Spread on absorbent paper to cool. Store in airtight container.

(In typing this I just noticed that I've been only doing 2 c. for each cereal and the recipe calls for 2 2/3 c. That might be why mine is extra flavorful and everyone loves it. Next year I may go back to 2 2/3 c., We'll see. The original recipe also calls for only 4 tbsp. of margarine and I bumped that up too. This is not health food, ya'll)


Which Care Bear are You?
Stolen from Leslie. Yes, I'm the Care Bear with food in its hands. But it's purple, so I've got that going for me...

You can find out which Care Bear you are here.
Baking Day
I was going to do industrial scale baking today, but I've decided to space things out and bake over the next few nights so things will be fresher. Today I'm making what we call Cocoons. This recipe was from Bea Bea. I don't have enough vanilla to complete it so I'm blogging while I wait for M to come home for lunch and bring me more vanilla. Here's the recipe:


2 sticks butter
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 c. pecans
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tbsp. vanilla

Cream sugar and butter. Add vanilla. Add sifted flour gradually. Add pinch of salt, add nuts. Roll into cocoon shaped cookies. Bake 20 minutes in 325 degree oven. Shake hot cookies in bag of powdered sugar.


Ornament of the Day (and Yesterday)
I'm not doing so swell at this, am I? Today's ornament was a gift from Sherri in our mommy board ornament exchange last year. I think it's pretty cute.

Yesterday's ornament. This was a gift from the little lady who was in charge of our guest register in our wedding. I guess she was maybe twelve years old when she made this and gave it to us. He's always been a favorite of mine.

Monday, December 18, 2006
The new stuff cracks me up. Apparently Emma's been tutored by a Minnesotan behind our backs...

M walked into the living room and she was playing with her building blocks. He said, "Emma, you're a good builder."

She replied "You betcha."

Later on she was talking about our names, Mommy, Daddy, Emma. Daddy pointed to himself and said "Emma, what's my name?"

She replied, "You."
More science at the Highlandgal homestead
M got an early Christmas gift today, some Omaha steaks. I think he was just as thrilled with the dry ice in the box as with the meat. After grilled burgers we had to go out on the front porch and make some fog.

Ornament of the Day
I used to be a big book reader. This ornament commemorates those days.

Sunday, December 17, 2006
Homemaker's Christmas luncheon
We were invited to the Homemaker's Christmas luncheon again this year. Not because we're exemplary homemakers, of course, but because M does most of the heavy lifting for their apple dumpling sale during the fair. Grandma belongs to the group and she volunteers him. To be fair, they buy their supplies from his store so he benefits too.
Emma brought along my Russian nesting dolls for entertainment.

Grandma, Mommy and Emma.

Trying to capture a good picture of the dress.

Lunch was at the Inn, where Mommy and Daddy had their wedding reception a long, long time ago, back when there were dinosaurs, I think.

Daddy and Emma walking on the porch.

Santa in the sky
Emma knows without a doubt that Santa comes down from the sky. She saw him with her own eyes. This Santa was circling the sky over Noni's neighborhood yesterday. Mom said there was a kid's party next door so he circled around several times because the kids were so excited. When he was done and went on his merry way, Emma said "Bye, Santa!"

Apparently she never did comment on the missing reindeer.

Shopping Day
Yesterday M took the day off from work to do his Christmas shopping. Emma and I came along, although she was napping at Noni's house for most of it. He was able to get the things on his list, unencumbered by wife and kid. Noni and Popi offered to watch Emma for us in the evening so we could go to a movie. We jumped on the chance; we even went out to dinner, just the two of us. It was the first time we'd been together like that since Heidelberg last April.

We went out to dinner at Texas Steakhouse. As we were being seated I saw my aunt and my grandmother, already seated at a table near us. I stopped to say hello, and explained to them that M and I were out on our first date in a long, long time. I then went back and enjoyed a lovely supper with my husband. When the meal was over and it was time to go the waitress came and told us our meal was taken care of. We were both stunned stupid for a second. We've never had anyone buy us a meal like that before. We stopped by my grandmother's table and thanked her profusely before we left. It was such a treat and made us feel special.

After our meal we walked it off at the Big K across the street. I think Emma is richer by three tops because we had time to kill. Then we made our way to the theater to see Casino Royale. We had to suffer through 25 minutes of commercials, followed by previews before the movie started. I can't believe they've found the nerve to stick commercials in there when you're paying $8.50 a ticket. Sheesh. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and a review follows.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Sitting on the story stool.

Fun with Popi on the floor.

The usual treatment for our delicate flower.

Bedtime story. The Night Before Christmas pop-up book.

Ornament of the Day
The Disco ball. Everyone needs one of these on their tree.

Casino Royale
I went to the movies last night. M announced a week or so ago that he wanted to go see Casino Royale. He NEVER asks to go see a movie. So I did everything I could to make sure we went.

The new James Bond? I loved it, loved it, loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and when it ended I was ready for more. Daniel Craig as James Bond is just fine with me. I'm a big James Bond fan, as I explained in this post. I've seen all of them, some of them dozens of times. So I'm used to fantastical plots, over-the-top set pieces and crappy dialogue. Still I love it. The James Bond theme music always gets my blood pumping.

I went into this new installment of my treasured series with much apprehension. I heard too many things that made me worry. Angie griped about the dialogue. Good thing for me I'm not a writer (obviously) or an editor. I'm used to ridiculous dialogue in James Bond movies. I know exactly which scene derailed her enjoyment of the film, and it certainly wasn't my favorite scene, but I found it fun. There was no impulse to eye poking in me.

My brother said it was story, action, story. This is because they were showing you the origins and motivations of James Bond. I didn't see it that way. I saw lots of action. The pacing was fine for me. The movie certainly seemed to go by fast enough. My SIL didn't care for it much at all. I'd just have to say that we have different tastes in movies.

M griped about the camera work afterward. He said he'd have directed it differently. Feh, everyone's a critic. It was fine to me.

The reviews made me paranoid because they spoke of an awful torture scene. "Particularly cruel" as one reviewer referred to it. I was prepared to take a bathroom break if it was that bad. As it turns out, it wasn't that bad. First of all, I think the people getting the vapors over that scene had to have been men. Women won't be able to fully comprehend his pain, if you get my drift. To help you get it, let me also point out that watching the awfulness of the torture is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Daniel Craig is buck naked. Yesssss, no clothes. Finally, the scene actually contains humor. So ladies, take your potty break before the torture scene; men, bring the smelling salts.

This James Bond movie was more gritty and realistic. There were no lasers from space or jet packs to make James fly. I think it was more similar to the Bourne movies than to previous James Bonds. Which is also a welcome change. James Bond movies should be thrillers. You shouldn't be asked to suspend disbelief but so much. This movie was easy on the disbelief-o-meter.

Finally, Daniel Craig can be my James Bond for a long time to come. I agree with most reviewers that his James Bond is most simliar to Sean Connery's. Connery always was my favorite James Bond so a return to the brutal and dangerous James is welcome too. I just hope that the studio keeps Daniel Craig happy so he keeps coming back for more. Casino Royale is for James Bond fans.