Saturday, December 31, 2011

Recipe - Monkey Bread

I made monkey bread for our dessert on Christmas day. We all love this scrumptious bread. Greg, Sariah, Nancy, Palmer, Brody and I ate the whole thing in one evening. It's a bit addicting, being so easily accessible. There's no need to dish up or cut yourself another piece. Simply place the bread in the middle of the table and everyone just pulls and eats to their hearts' content. It also serves as a great breakfast.

Monkey Bread

4 small tubes refrigerated biscuit dough
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9 or 10 inch tube/Bundt pan. Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue until all biscuits are coated and placed in pan. If using nuts and raisins, arrange them in and among the biscuit pieces as you go along. (I only like raisins and I arrange them in a single layer through the middle of the monkey bread.) In a small saucepan, melt the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the biscuits. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Do not cut; the bread just pulls apart.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Christmas Eve:We started our Christmas celebration with a Hess family party at Grandma Nancy's house. We ate lunchmeat & roll sandwiches, vegetables, chips and dip and apples with Skor dip. We had a white elephant exchange, and then exchanged real gifts to each other.
Then we headed to the Riding's home for a Nichols family party. We munched on a variety of appetizers (we brought clubhouse squares and more apples and Skor dip). The little boys (Braedon, Trevor, Davis, Palmer and Brody) all dressed in matching pajamas that Grandma Betty had made and then we had our gift exchange.

Christmas Day:Greg and I sang in the choir and in a double quartet during sacrament meeting. Sariah came to church with us and sat with the boys in the pews, she also spent the rest of Christmas Day with us at our home. We opened gifts after church since church was early, at 9:00 am, and our boys are young and didn't know better. It was good that we waited because they took a long time to open gifts. Each gift they opened they wanted to play with instead of moving on to another gift. Santa really spoiled us this year! Palmer's favorite gift this year was a Leapster. Brody's favorite gift was a golf caddy. Rie's favorite gift from Santa (I'm guessing from her reaction) was a Roald Dahl book set. My favorite gift was a Sillhouette Cameo (yay!) and Greg's favorite gift (which slightly pains me to say) was the complete Star Trek movie collection on Blu-ray. Rie and I made steak pie for dinner, a longtime going Nichols' family tradition. Sariah and Nancy joined us for dinner and then we ended the evening playing Xbox Kinect: Kinect Adventures and Dance Central 2 (another favorite gift of mine!).

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pajama Eaters

These little monsters found their way under our Christmas tree this year. They look cute, and soft, but beware, they will eat your pajamas right up! I think these are the most complicated sewing project I have taken on to date. And it was a bit crazy getting them done during the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, but when I saw the boys' excitement, I was glad I had found the time and spent a few very late nights pinning and sewing away. You can find the tutorial for the pajama eaters here.

Palmer and Brody think the pajama eaters are just great! Palmer was a bit nervous this morning when I fed his slightly worn pajamas to his monster. But after some reassurance that the monster would give them back this evening, he thought it was hilarious.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe - Five Cup Cream Cheese Frosting

For cake group this month, I made red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I used a mix for the cake since I have yet to find a good from scratch recipe for red velvet (please let me know if you have one). The frosting is another one of my sister's winning recipes (I've also posted her milk chocolate buttercream frosting and her strawberry buttercream frosting). This cream cheese frosting, like the other two, is delicious! And how could it not be, having two packages of cream cheese in it? I really do love cream cheese. It's pretty much a guarantee that if a recipe has cream cheese in it, I will like it.

Five Cup Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (32 ounce) package powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

Monday, December 19, 2011

CCNA Certified

Greg is now CCNA certified. He passed the second part of the exam this past Thursday with a very high score. He's been working towards getting this certification for a long time (no classes or seminars, he studied, learned and prepped on his own), and we are very happy that all his hard work paid off. We are so proud of him!

Everyone in Greg's department has the goal to be CCNA certified by 2012. He was the first in his company to get the certification. And as a reward for being the first, he was given an Xbox 360 with Kinect. We haven't had a whole lot of time to experiment with our new toy, getting ready for Christmas and all, but the couple times we've been able to play it, it's been really fun. Palmer especially gets a kick out of it. Since he's so hyper and moves around so quickly and easily; he gets a lot of coverage on the screen and is pretty good at it. Below is a video of our crazy, hyper three year old playing the Xbox Kinect. Honestly, I feel exhausted just watching him!

If you're wondering what Palmer keep saying in the video, it's, "I got a tick tock!" or in other words he picked up a clock icon in the game giving him more time to play.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dear Santa

Last year Palmer wrote in his letter to Santa that he wanted a snowman and a new friend. Awww.... cutest request ever, right? This year when I asked him what he wanted he said, "Money." What? Where did that come from? The kid has never even had, let alone used a single dollar bill in his life. How did our little man go from adorable, sweet innocence to the no-frills/no-magic teenage take on Christmas gift giving in just one year?

Thankfully, his request has changed a few times, mostly depending on what he is currently focused on at any given store, i.e. a marshmallow gun, or a popcorn tin. And when the actual big moment came, as Palmer found himself on Santa's lap, and Santa asked, "And what would you like for Christmas, little boy?" Palmer replied... "A candy cane." Santa replied, "Well, that's easy," and the wish was instantly granted by jolly Kris Kringle. Brody, seeing Palmer's success, followed with the same request. The boys were very happy with their candy canes that evening.

Hopefully when Christmas Day comes, they will be just as happy with all the gifts Santa brings. I have a suspicion that we might even find some "money," a.k.a. chocolate coins then as well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Activities

It's only the 9th of December and we are in full holiday swing at the Hess home. We started preparing and celebrating Christmas right after our Thanksgiving meal. I love this time of year. I love the music, the lights, the overall feeling of good will; I love Christmas spirit. It has been so very fun to take the boys on little Christmas adventures. Nothing tops living the excitement of Christmas through a little one's eyes. It's crazy to me to think that many of the activities are firsts for my children. Yes, I know they have only been on this earth for two and three years, but it's hard for me to fathom never having seen The Grinch's heart grow three sizes, or telling Santa what you want for Christmas for the first time, or realizing that you can make an entire house out of cookies, frosting and candy. Christmas truly is a magical time of the year!

So far we have happily participated in the following holiday activities:

  • Lights at Temple Square - We went to Temple Square early this year, remembering how bitterly cold it has been in the past. It was a bit chilly, but much milder than it is late December. As always the lights around the temple were beautiful. I especially love the nativity that sits upon the water in front of the temple.

  • Festival of Trees - We are big fans of the Festival of Trees. I haven't missed attending the festival in years. It is always on the top of my list of places to go in December. This year we were able to go on a Thursday morning, which was much less busy and better with two toddlers in tow. Greg's favorite tree was a Lego themed tree, my favorite tree was a tree based on the movie A Christmas Story, Palmer's favorite tree was a snowman tree, Brody's favorite tree was a firetruck tree. The boys had so much fun playing in the kids' corner. They especially enjoyed being inside a big bubble. We also made sure to check out the amazing gingerbread houses.

  • Elves at Gardener Village - This was a new outing for all of us. We've gone to see the witches at Gardener Village for the past three years, but I didn't even know they displayed elves until this year. The boys got excited about each elf we found, and we made sure to drop into the candy store and the toy store for even more fun.

  • Gingerbread House - Another new adventure for our family was making a gingerbread house. Greg impulsively put it in our cart at Costco, and we are so glad he did. It was great fun putting it together with the boys. They had a great time decorating and a great time eating the extra candy. It currently sits on our bookshelf; we have debated if we should display it all month or rip into it and enjoy its sweetness.

  • Walk with Santa - The local fitness center does an annual Walk with Santa. Santa comes riding in on a firetruck (to Brody's utter delight! Brody is all about firetrucks lately) counts down to the lighting of the trees outside the building, and then leads those in attendance on a walk around the park to look at blow up holiday characters. Then everyone goes inside to sit on Santa's lap, get their faces painted and go on a candy cane hunt. It's makes for a fun, and free night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trimming the Tree

We got our tree up nice and early this year, just after Black Friday. While Greg and I were fanning out the branches, the boys took it upon themselves to start trimming the tree.
They decorated the tree with gloves, utensils, game pieces and small toys. And they were very proud to show off their work to Mom and Dad. Silly kids! They sure do know how to make the holidays fun.

We eventually took down their makeshift ornaments and decorated the tree properly. I love our Christmas tree; all the ornaments on the tree are from Greg's and my winter wedding. Not only do I find it beautiful to look at, I get to relive the winteresk fantasy of our lovely January wedding that occurred almost seven years ago. It makes our holiday season even more special and memorable.

Jump, Climb and Roll

During Greg's week off, we took the kids to Classic Fun Center for the first time. The place lived up to it's name, and we had a lot of fun. And thanks to a coupon it only cost $5 for the family. We were able to bounce around in the bounce houses (mostly Greg did this with the boys, after the first bounce house I was feeling pretty sick - ended up having the stomach flu that evening). And I went through the jungle (a huge soft play maze) with the boys. Palmer and Brody had their first experience with skating and thought that was really cool. And we ended the fun with a few arcade games and redeeming tickets for prizes. Good times!