Friday, December 31, 2010

End of Year Newsletter

I decided against doing Christmas cards this year.  For the amount of work involved, and the excessive amount of time I was spending thinking about how/when/where to capture the perfect picture, it just didn't seem worth it.  

So for the two people who really appreciate cards from us, I'm sorry.  

And for the other two who are still reading, I give you the Huff Family Newsletter.  I'm posting this on New Year's Eve, so I feel I can still call it a Holiday Newsletter AND a 2010 recap.  Click twice to enlarge into readability.  And you're welcome.    

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Day, Part I

It started snowing on Sunday morning.  A wet, heavy snow that I knew would turn to ice that night.  I shovelled at about 10 am, wanting to get a jump on it & make sure we would have a clear path out for church.  In the end it was a wasted effort because it just kept coming & coming.  

Monday morning, I woke up at 6am to begin again.  I shovelled for 75 minutes (5" of snow over an inch+ of ice), then frantically got the kids up & going for school.  Silly Mama - forgot to check the school closures... because why would school be closed from a few inches of snow???  There was blue sky for Pete's Sake!  We re-routed to the grocery store to stock up on ice melt & turkey burgers, then headed home to warm up.  

Enter Snow Day, Part I

They "played" in the snow, but it didn't last long.  -9 degrees is not conducive to play or snowman building.  We learned the hard way.  

After hot chocolate and grilled cheeses sandwiches, the crafting & Mario Kart competitions began.  

I finally finished my door snakes, just in time for the frigid weather.  Know what they are filled with?  Kitty Litter!  It's a little dusty, but much cheaper than buying beans or rice.

We also caught up on some Advent Activities such as making a "Gingerbread" House.  Both the kids pitched in to decorate, and of course we had to add a mascot - a glittered triceratops to guard our precious abode.  Every home should have one.  Big Sis started her sibling gift for J, and we'll finish that up during Snow Day, Part II (today!).  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Attack of the Christmas Mice

They look simple, but making 25 of them was a little ambitious for early December (much cutting of felt).  Thankfully, I started a few weeks in advance & did one step each day.... and enlisting the forced labor of my 1st grader didn't hurt either.

I think the end result is totally worth the effort.  I hope her classmates love them as much as she does!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Remains

Remember this from yesterday's baking disasters?  

Well, after I finished sobbing quietly into gently cupped hands, I wiped away my salty remorse & bagged up the remains.  

Today was filled with errands and I was finally able to sit down at 1 pm for a hasty lunch.  Chili consumed, I opened the bag of cake crumbles & popped a piece in my mouth.  It was chocolatey, cinnamony goodness.  It was delicious, delightful, delectable.  I wanted more, and probably could have consumed every crumb if decorum and my jeans would have allowed.  It made me want to go out and buy a proper Bundt pan.  If I eat this for breakfast, I may do just that.

In the meantime, here is the recipe.  Make this tonight, then give it to someone you love.  Because if you don't get it out of the house you may eat the whole thing in 24 hours.  This recipe is from The Food Librarian, and I can see why it's her favorite Bundt recipe.

Cinnamon Chocolate Bundt Cake
Recipe from The Food Librarian.  

1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/4 cup + 1T (or 5T) cocoa powder

2 cups AP flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 t baking soda

2 eggs
1 t vanilla

  1. Bring to a boil in a pot: water, oil, butter, cocoa powder.
  2. In a large bowl, with a whisk, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon.
  3. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour and mix until combined.
  4. Add the buttermilk and baking soda and mix. 
  5. In a small bowl, mix the eggs and the vanilla.  Add to the batter and combine.  
  6. Pour batter into a greased 10 or 12-cup Bundt pan.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes (start checking it at 25 minutes).  
  7. Cool in pan. 
  8. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar or a simple glaze of powdered sugar mixed with milk or water.    

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cooking Disasters

In the last 24 hours, I have burnt 2 batches of toffee (4 pounds of butter & 4 cups of sugar GONE) and I destroyed a DELICIOUS cake.

The first batch of toffee was my fault - heat too high.  The second batch... I don't know.  It was going well, then it separated & burnt.  I stirred for an hour before I finally gave up.  I really think that a big part of my problem is the electric stove.  The temperature gauges are inconsistent & attempting to make minor adjustments either turn the heat too high or too low.   

I DID manage to make a half batch that turned out well.  Not fantastic, but good.  I changed pots, burners & recipes... and when I began to heat the sugar & butter, I walked away from it.  When I came back it was bubbling & I checked the temperature then immediately poured it over the nuts.  Easy-peasy, and put my previous hours of stirring to shame.  

And then there was the cake.  

The recipe was amazing - a Cinnamon Chocolate Bundt Cake.  My pan was inferior.  I attempted to use a silicone mini bundt pan & despite a profuse application of sprayed lubrication, everything just stuck & fell apart.  

I may be done with Christmas baking for this year.

(And yes, that is mint green ceramic tile you see under my cake.  This is one Klassy Kitchen I'm cooking in!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Visit to Santa

Saturday morning's Advent activity was a Visit to Santa.

Back story: After talking it over, we decided this was the only decent weekend to make it happen, so I did a quick envelope switcheroo, and began to mentally prepare myself for the havoc of a Saturday with Santa.   This preparation apparently included the following delusion: "Santa opens 2 hours before the mall does.  If we get there a little before everything opens and put our name on the list right away, we should be able to get in and out pretty quickly."

Apparently arriving at 9:30 was also the idea of at least 50 other families, and signing in immediately gave us an 11:30 return time to see Santa.  Le sigh.

Here's what we did to kill the time:
  • Dropped off letters to be mailed to the North Pole.  
  • Waited in line for hot chocolate. 
  • Waited in line for snacks. 
  • Took pictures of kids running. 
  • Took pictures of kids next to trees. 
  • Took pictures of kids next to poinsettias. 
  • Took pictures of kids next to garland. 
  • Found a locker to dump our outerwear.  
  • Visited the bathroom 3 times. 
  • Visited Lego store. 
  • Watched Big J run - FOR AN HOUR. 

Mailing a Letter to Santa.  They had a really neat setup where the kids can post a letter & it gets sucked up a long tube to the top of the mall (3 stories up) & "sent" to Santa.  The Postmaster was really great & made each child feel special as they handed over their precious lists.   

In the inner sanctum, waiting to see Santa.  

The Big Man himself.  J has been SO EXCITED to see Santa, but we weren't sure what would happen when he saw him up close.  Sis went first, then J joined her & he did great!  Spoke up loud & clear, and there was no apprehension at all.  
I really liked that we had the option to take our own pictures (as many as we wanted) for just a few dollars (as opposed to the package deal for almost $40!).  

A successful day.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Well, here it is.  It's hung a little crooked, and I had a heck of a time hiding the Command hooks I used to mount it (hence the ornament clusters & bows).  But I think it's really cute, and Big Sis is SO excited to open up an envelope each day.  I chose to go with activity based ideas, so I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time scrambling for stuff to put in the envelopes or plan anything too elaborate.  So for the next 24 days, we will (in no particular order):
  • Make gingerbread houses.
  • Write out Santa Wish Lists.
  • Read a Christmas story.
  • Watch a Christmas movie.
  • Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows from our Christmas mugs.
  • Make a Christmas card for someone special.
  • Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.
  • Visit Santa!
  • Attend the Ward Christmas Party.
  • Call Grandma & Grandpa and sing Silent Night or Jingle Bells.
  • Make paper snowflakes.
  • Color a picture using only red and green crayons.
  • Write a Christmas letter to someone who lives far away.
  • Bake Christmas cookies.
  • Make a present for your brother or sister.
  • Make and decorate a Christmas stocking.
  • Check out a Christmas book from the library.
  • Help make gifts to give our friends.  
  • Help make presents for Malaina’s class.
  • Make peppermint ornaments for the tree.
  • Make chocolate covered pretzels.
  • Choose and donate a toy to someone less fortunate.
  • Wrap your Christmas presents!
  • Make glittered animals for decoration.
  • Put on your Christmas PJ’s and go to bed early! 
The making of the calendar took far less brainpower than the planning of the activities. Between Daddy being gone, school, extracurriculars, and strategic planning (no WAY am I taking them to see Santa on a weekend), it took a lot of thought to match the days and the activities.  I think we're in good shape, and Big Sis is already looking forward to coloring a picture with just red & green crayons tonight.