Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas on the Farm

We were all up before the sun on Christmas morning...

... ready to take part in the gift-opening festivities - gifts from us as well as from Granny & Grandpa Harder were waiting to be unwrapped!

Time to start opening...

Silas was so pumped about the dollar store cell phone in his stocking that he had to try it out while it was still in the box...

A new book left him a little less impressed.

New slippers!

A pretty new skirt from Granny :)

Silas getting his first glimpse of his big gift - a rock n' roll Elmo...

Even Mommy got some gifts :)

One of Micah's favourites - the magnifying glass in his stocking (once again, from the dollar store...)

A little chocolate for breakfast - a la Kinder Surprise. (Thanks Granny!)

Mmmm. Chocolate.

Daddy helping with toy assembly.

Then it was time for Mommy to help the kids set up the Marbleworks set we got for Micah. This was a big hit with all the kids.

Another popular gift has been Elmo.
He is pretty cute.

But not as cute as this little "rocker" who sure knows how to get down while Elmo is singing.

Yay for Christmas!

We hope you all had a good one too!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Teacher Gifts

This year I opted to make homemade teacher gifts after finding a recipe for homemade vanilla brown sugar body scrub, which contained 4 simple ingredients.

So after school last week I solicited the help of the kids to make our sugary concoction.

Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub (www.bystephanielynn.com):

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sunflower oil (this oil doesn't have a strong scent like olive oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

I doubled-and-a-halved this recipe since I had to fill 5 small jars (which I found at the dollar store).

Not only did it smell delicious, it was also quite edible! I had to keep telling the kids to stop eating their teacher's body scrub!

Then it was time to make the Christmas cards...

While the kids worked on that, I created some labels out of cardstock & scrapbooking paper.

I tied on a spoon with some wire ribbon (all from the dollar store) and our teacher gifts were complete!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Seven years ago, I became a Mama for the first time when Micah Josiah Erik was born into the world!

Micah's life has changed significantly in this past year, from going to half-day kindergarten last year to full-day grade one at a whole new school this year. This transition was not easy for him but I'm proud to report that we are finally managing the morning drop-off without any complaining, tears or clinging to Mom.

His teacher tells us that Micah is very detailed - something that we've discovered as well, especially with his drawings. Micah's also excelling in reading and seems to be able to read everything in sight!

Micah is still very snuggly and affectionate (though he doesn't realize his own strength and often jumps at me when I least expect it... and believe me, I can be tackled to the ground quite easily). I've noticed that he is getting better at being a respectful and kind big brother, quick to tell me how much he really felt like punching Keziah but stopped himself ;)

At our church, someone put together a video of the elementary-aged kids talking about what "joy" is and showed it this past Sunday during the service. Micah's definition of joy was "that my sister asked Jesus into her heart a few weeks ago."

So sweet.

Micah's present this year was Super Mario Brothers for the Wii.
He was pretty pumped.

Opening his birthday card from Granny & Grandpa Harder (and wearing his new watch from Grandma & Grandpa Toews):

The kids were all dressed up this morning for their school Christmas concert and they even let me take a picture of all three of them...

Happy 7th birthday Micah... We love you!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

In Love

With this little bit of mint-chocolatey goodness...

I found this recipe for Mint Oreo Truffles a few weeks ago and it immediately got my attention. So, when I was thinking of something to bring for our Life Group Christmas party this week I decided to give them a try.

And they did not disappoint.

Unfortunately I could not find any Mint Oreos. I did my shopping in Aldergrove that day, and after Safeway came up empty, I decided to head to the (very shady) Extra Foods downtown. My expectations were pretty low and as I scanned the cookie aisle for the minty oreos, I was feeling defeated.

But then I spotted something different and I figured that it just might work:
President's Choice Candy Cane cookies.

I had to try one at home of course to make sure they tasted at least somewhat similar to a mint oreo, and it was actually really good!

So, I gathered all the rest of my ingredients:

- 1 box of mint-flavoured oreo-type cookies
- 1 block of cream cheese
- 1 bag of white chocolate chips (any white chocolate will work, but I realized later that I should've bought a bit more)
- 1 tsp peppermint extract
- green food colouring

Also - vegetable oil (or in my case, canola oil) may come in handy to help your chocolate melting phase (more on that in a minute).

First, crush a few of the cookies and set it aside for your topping. I crushed 4, but I probably could've gotten away with just 3.

Then crush the rest of the cookies. I used my handy dandy food processor:

Add the block of cream cheese and combine until there are no more chunks. The recipe suggested adding a few extra oreo crumbs (if you have them around) because the consistency is really soft and creamy. I was planning to do this, but totally forgot. My truffle filling was really soft, but the truffles were also insanely delicious, so the extra crumbs weren't missed at all.

Next, roll the filling into nice little balls.

And next comes the tricky part. Maybe not tricky for others who are more experienced in the art of chocolate melting, but it turned out to be tricky for me.

This step involves melting the white chocolate. I used a bowl inside of a pot as a double-boiler. My chocolate was melting beautifully and then all of a sudden it turned into a thick and chunky mess - definitely not fit for dipping my very soft truffles.

(At this point I had already added the peppermint extract and green food colouring, still hoping the chocolate could be salvaged somehow.)

So, I googled something like "save my chocolate!" and found this link, which gave me a quick education about what I did wrong. I didn't realize that the teensiest bit of water (including steam) coming into contact with chocolate can cause it to seize or that melting the chocolate over boiling water is actually too hot and can over-heat it... So, I had obviously done at least one of these things wrong. The website suggested adding vegetable oil to try to salvage the chocolate. I had some canola oil in the cabinet, so I figured I had nothing to lose at this point.

And lo and behold, it actually worked! It turned the chunkified mess into a texture that actually was dip-able. It wasn't quite as smooth and silky as the chocolate should've been, but it did the trick.

In the meantime, I had also decided to put my truffles in the freezer so they could harden. I would actually recommend this step whether your chocolate gets ruined or not since it made them much easier to dip.

After dipping each one, I put them back on the baking sheet and sprinkled them with the extra crushed cookies right away before the chocolate hardened. (It was at this point that I realized I didn't have enough melted chocolate for all of them, so I have some extra filling balls waiting in the freezer for another occasion).

And let me tell you, these little babies are d-i-v-i-n-e.

Monday, December 05, 2011

O Christmas Tree

Our family experienced a first on Saturday. We went to a local farm to cut down our own Christmas tree. This, after the last few years of heading to Home Depot and picking up whatever they had left on their parking lot... A better experience and cheaper too! All trees were $25.

The only thing that would've made it a little better was some freshly falling snow.
That would be the ideal tree-cutting-down weather, don't you think?

But according to Keziah, it was already TOO cold.

When we finally found our perfect tree (a Douglas Fir, I think it is), Erik and Micah worked together to chop it down.

Then we tried to figure out how old it was - and we figured about seven years.
Same as Micah :)

Then it was time to get it set up at home...

We put on some Christmas music and pulled out some Christmas treats.

And we got down to business doing some decorating.

Micah is getting tall enough to help with the upper half of the tree this year.
Standing on furniture helps.

The finished product.

Now I guess all I have to do is wrap up some presents to put underneath!