Category Archives: Cake

October Surprises

This has been a cooking marathon.  Contests, a bake sale for charity, Halloween 1, 2 and 3. I’m exhausted. What’s that? I need to start planning Thanksgiving. After I nap.

First, Soup-A-Palooza. A refined competition between members of the Legal Department where each day, for THREE WEEKS, a person brings in a homemade soup for everyone to eat. And then we select a tribute for each soup and have them fight to the death. Well not exactly, we vote. My soup tied in my week. I will leave you in suspense as to whether I accept the results of the upcoming tie-breaking election.

I made Smitten Kitchen’s Cream of Tomato Soup.  The only thing I did differently is reduced brandy to 1 TBSP and used vegetable stock to make it vegetarian. Honestly, I’ve done it both ways and it was better with the vegetable stock.  Also, to make enough for the whole department, I had to make four batches. I don’t need no stinkin’ batches (name the movie).

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On the side were cheesy croutons and basil. Just toss bread cubes with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and bake at 375 until crispy (about 10-15 minutes) and then finely grate some white cheddar and gruyere cheese over the warm croutons.

Then we had the first Halloween outing for Al’s 8th birthday.  Here’s the crew

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I made S’mores Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from How Sweet Eats and Pumpkin Bread in the Williams & Sonoma Fall Cakelet Pan.

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Click the How Sweet Eats link for the s’mores cookies, but here’s my super secret pumpkin bread recipe. Ready?

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Yep. I’ve roasted and pureed and seasoned pumpkin to make bread. To which I get “yuck”. But Trader Joe’s mix – beloved. See, even I give up sometimes.

Next up was the charity bake sale at work for Bright Pink.  Made more pumpkin bread and these Browniest Cookies from Smitten Kitchen.

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We raised $2,700 for breast cancer research. Here’s the spread. This Legal department can bake!bakesale

Next up was Halloween 2 – Pizza Night (you thought I was going to say “the return of Michael Myers”. Nope, just pizza night).

Lt. Dan was a creepy clown before creepy clowns were cool.

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The Mother of Dragons stopped by as well as cats and sports fans.

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And Ron Swanson.

dsc_0274The quote on the cup is “You have accidentally given me the food my food eats”, one of our favorites. No disrespect Salad!   The gang was ready for some drinks and spooky treats from Mbork.

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And Jen from Pastries So Tasty made these awesome cakes.

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I made this smoked salmon terrine.

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Smoked Salmon Terrine
inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit

WHAT YOU NEED
8 oz nova lox
6 oz cream cheese
4 oz goat cheese
2 tsp lemon zest
1 TBSP horseradish
2 radishes finely minced
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

WHAT YOU DO
Line a six inch diameter ramekin (or any other flat sided dish or cake mold) with plastic wrap bringing it up the sides.  Blend the cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon zest and horeseradish with a hand mixer until smooth.  In another bowl mix the onions and radishes.   Flake the lox with a fork and make an even layer on the bottom of the ramekin, covering it completely using about a third of the salmon. Dollop half of the cream cheese mixture and spread it gently but evenly (an offset spatula works well here).  Sprinkle half the onion/radish mixture on top, pressing gently on them so they stick. Repeat the layers but then end with a salmon layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and press down gently on the whole thing.  Chill for at least an hour.  Serve by taking the plastic off the top and inverting on to a scary skeleton platter, then carefully peel the plastic off.  Top with the fresh dill.  Serve with bagel chips and party rye.

And then finally on to actual Halloween.  Where we never got a picture of the boys together because Guitar Boy had stage crew until 5 and then went trick or treating with his friends.  So please enjoy this picture of Drummer Boy as Bigfoot with his friend as…well, you be the judge.

 

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Oh, and one more thing.

CUBS WIN CUBS WIN CUBS WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you haven’t seen it, go watch this Budweiser commercial.  Grab a tissue before you do.

Working on practice Thanksgiving tomorrow. Didn’t everyone spend their Friday night dehydrating Craisins?  Yes, I do know how cool I am.

Have a great weekend everyone.

 

Trying to be Organized

Inspired by, but nowhere near as cool as Shutterbean’s Meal Prep, the last two Sundays I have tried to pre-prep a number of items so that I would be all “Weeknight dinner ready in 10 minutes boys!” during the week. Erp. Didn’t exactly go down that way. But, I did shave some time off my game.

As much as I like to cook, I have a confession. I can’t stand leftovers. There, it’s out there. Once it is cooked and eaten, I really don’t want that dish again for a long while. Thankfully Kevin likes leftovers, so there is no waste. But it also means I don’t tend to repeat the same meal within a month.  So I have also tried to use Sundays to make a big meal where I can freeze half for another time at least a month later. That should save some time during the winter blahs in terms of getting a decent dinner on the table.

Enough yakkity-yakking.

The first Sunday, I made Short Rib Pasta Sauce from How Sweet It Is.  Divine!

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Added bonus: Pizza Mike made The Pioneer Woman’s Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes. He did the batter and home and brought it here to cook and it worked just fine. An awesome treat with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (which I would have a picture of, but every time we topped one – swipe! it was gone).

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Froze half of the short rib pasta sauce for another day. While that cooked, I made garlic confit (garlic cloves roasted in 2/3 cup grape seed covered in a dish in a 250 oven for 1.5 hours – cool completely and store in airtight jar in fridge for a week), chopped parsley and cut up vegetables for salads.

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Next day, used oil and half the parsley in Garlic Walnut Pasta.

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Garlic Walnut Pasta

WHAT YOU NEED
4 TBSP garlic olive oil or just regular olive oil
1 cups walnut pieces
2 cloves minced garlic (one if you used garlic olive oil)
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan
kosher salt to taste
3/4 lb linguine

WHAT YOU DO
Prepare pasta to al dente, reseve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain. Heat oil in a frying or sauté pan.  Add walnuts and toast, stirring, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and basil and stir until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Add pasta to the pan and toss with tongs to coat.  Add cheese and stir and finish with the parsley.

Then two days later, I used the parsley and some chopped basil to make a salmon dish

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Parmesan Herb Crusted Salmon
adapted from Add a Pinch

1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp garlic oil (or olive oil plus a dash of garlic powder)
salt and pepper to taste
2 6 oz salmon filets

WHAT YOU DO
Heat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place salmon skin side down on the foil and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover loosely with either foil or parchment (preferred) and bake for 10 minutes. Combine first four ingredients in a bowl until they hold together. If too loose, add a dash more oil.

Remove salmon from oven and take cover off. Press the cheese mixture onto the top until it adheres. Put back in oven for about 10 minutes more or until fish is cooked through and top is all melted. If you would like the top to brown a little more, feel free to put it under the broiler for a few minutes. Me, I’m afraid of the broiler. I feel like if I take my eyes off of it for three seconds BAM!, burnt. But you do what you need to do.

Then the next Sunday I became all things tomato. I made Pioneer Woman’s Stuffed Shells and froze half. I cooked chicken breasts.

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Then I took the chicken off the bone and shredded it. Helpful hint from How Sweet It Is. If you ever need to shred a bunch of chicken, put it in a bowl and use your hand mixer. Yep, pinky-swear it works.

final1453638603261Used the shredded chicken to make tacos (mix with cumin and chili powder or just package of taco seasoning and a dash of chicken stock if your chicken is too dry).  Add some cotija cheese or queso fresco, lettuce or slaw of your choice and a squeeze of lime and wrap in a toasted corn or flour tortilla). final1453638824493Using many of the same ingredients, made a slow cooker batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Tortilla Soup and froze half (without the tortillas or cheese in it).

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And since the slow cooker was out anyway, and by now I had bronchitis and a sinus infection – I’m so pretty!!! – I only wanted more soup so I made Two Peas and Their Pod’s Creamy Tomato Soup with Orzo  with grilled gruyere cheese sandwiches. Freezer’s getting full!

final1453642002480Used the various precut vegetables in salads or as sides. Used orzo as a side to the salmon, froze the extra and then used in the soup. Froze a lot of rice too. So in February I’ll have some freezer meals ready to go.

Speaking of February, if your potted Christmas tree from the grocery store is still going strong, rewrap that baby, add some cookie cutters and make that poor shrub feel seasonal again!

final1453638727816Yep, those are cat paws to the right. Skunk the Cat – always helping.

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Have a great week everyone.

Well, That Went By Fast

People, I cannot believe it is December 29th. What happened? There was no snow before Christmas (note – hating on the snow now). There was a Wednesday night Pizza Night. There were holidays rendered in cheese.

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Ok. I promise, that’s it. No more cheese sculptures. Until it’s time for cheese hearts, cheese shamrocks….  Although I will say that after Cheese Snowman was mangled I made a joke on Instagram about zombies and Darryl Dixon/Norman Reedus’ body double liked my picture. Swoon.

Moving on, I made a lot of different food that wasn’t cheese based. I made these easy Apricot Glazed Chicken Thighs from Shutterbean on one busy weeknight. Super fast and super delicious. Didn’t take a picture because, well, we’ve been over how my brown food photography skills are. So you’ll just have to trust me and make it soon.

This Big Italian Salad from Once Upon a Chef:

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The dressing for this salad was really good. I think it would go well with any type of salad you want. And probably fantastic during summer with freshly grown herbs.

For Christmas Eve dinner, I did what I always do, Smitten Kitchen’s Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes. The crowd demands it. Plus you can make it the day before.

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In the treats category, How Sweet Eats Peppermint Pattie Brownies

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Smitten Kitchen’s Easy Roasted Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts.

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Smitten Kitchen’s Mom’s Apple Cake – Guitar Boy’s favorite.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Pan Cake from King Arthur Flour. With their Easy Chocolate Frosting. It was good. LIght and fluffy. I used milk and not water as we aren’t watching dairy.

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For both Neighbors Christmas and Mac Christmas I made everyone sprinkles mix using Avery design website again.

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My favorite one was “Bears on the Glen” mix with green sprinkles on the bottom and orange and blue on the top. Get it? Fun, right? I’ll understand if you want to leave and click back over to Facebook now.

As to presents, we had a very llama/narwhal-heavy Christmas. Want some salt or pepper?  No probllama!

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And of course, Star Wars figured prominently. Went to the movie too and it was great.

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One of my favorite gifts was this handmade artwork by Fake Sister.

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Or from my Nerd collection of gifts, maybe my very-hard-to-photograph Mother of Dragons wine glasses.

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Or maybe this?

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Ah yes, just like my childhood, when my mom would make 2001: A Space Odyssey pancakes every Sunday.

There were Christmas carols at GG’s.

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And we did some Christmas Crackers this year (the English party favor kind, not the snowflake-shaped Ritz kind). Then the kids put on a musical number with bells that were in the crackers, as expertly directed by me. Well, “expertly” might be a bit of a stretch. As is “musical number.” A clanging mess just might be slightly more accurate. At least they all cooperated for the picture.

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Mmmmmngh.

So I’ll take a one day breather, and then on to New Year’s Eve, Guitar Boy’s New Year’s Day family party brunch and then some classmates coming over to celebrate his birthday with Nerf and Halo–as one does as a tween–on Saturday. There will be some Avery projects and a significant amount of puff pastry goin’ on the next few days. I’ll report back as soon as I dig out.

Have a safe and happy New Year everyone. Peace out 2015.

The I’ll Do it Someday Someday is Now!

Sure, some people might have days off between jobs and go away for a weekend.  A spa day perhaps?  Maybe just lounge about on the porch and read some of those eleven books stacked up on one’s nightstand?  Sure, one COULD do that. Or, presented with 10 days of no kids at home and a husband who can reach things in high places, one COULD also embark on the biggest organizing and cleaning spree since one moved in here eight years ago.  And it was done. So say we all. #Nerdfoiles.

First up, the most significant change was Drummer Boy’s room losing its nursery motif. Because he’s 9.  Yep, 9. I never said I moved with lightning speed.

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And changing colors

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To a sports/Minecraft/Art theme more suited to a boy of his maturity.

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Next up, our closet.  Before:

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After

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Yes, I know the tag is still on it. I’m gonna wear it this fall, I swear.

But oh, it gets worse. Don’t worry, we’re getting there.  Laundry room before:

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After

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photoOh dear, now we go down to THE BASEMENT. Actually, it’s been more cluttered. We recently unloaded the baby toys (like play kitchens, small vehicles) so there are lot less large items. I remember buying this house thinking, “Now we have a finished basement, so all the toys will be down there and I won’t have to stare at a mess all day”.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, woo, woo, oh.  Whew!

Anyway, the basement before:

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And after

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Behind the bar, before

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Behind the bar, after.  Why yes, we do need more can koozies.  Thank you for asking.

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And finally, the utility room. Now, by way of background for those that are new here, at the old house we had a scary, spider-filled, space between the stairs where someone could easily grab you type of basement. Thus, whenever I would accidentally go to Homegoods, I would purchase a festive red platter, enjoy it, and then send that festive red platter down to said basement. Then the next time I accidentally went to Homegoods, I’d think “Hey, I don’t have a red platter” because, you know, object permanence issues. And down to the scary Hell-mouth basement that one would go too. Tablecloths would suffer the same fate. Resulting, as some  might say, in an excess of housewares. Now, however, there is no excuse as our basement is lovely. No excuse for THIS!

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Or this tablecloth tower of doooooom:

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But, finally all is in order.  With napkins in drawers labeled by season, kitchen and hand towels bagged by holiday:

IMG_1300Tablecloths loaded into a dresser by size of the table:

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Often used items put within handy reach:

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And platters and assorted dishes organized by color. As any normal person does. Right? Normal people do that, right?!!

IMG_1283Note the number of red dishes. It was a real problem.

Along the way a number of drawers were organized (nightstand, desk), supplies were created for the holiday gift I’m going to give the neighbors (SUSPENSE – it’s only September!) and Halloween Block Party planning/organizing has begun.

But for those who only come here for the food and not the OCD ramblings of a hoarder, what were some of the food highlights I made after seven days of seven straight hours of straight up straightening up?

Made this Shrimp with Spicy Garlic Sauce from Can You Stay for Dinner.  Didn’t have green beans so I used broccoli.  Also, only used half the chili garlic sauce and it was plenty spicy for me. Did I take a picture – no, because I was too tired from all the before and aftering.

Also grilled up some very simple chicken legs.  This is a very simple, fast way to grill chicken legs with lots of flavor.

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And, the never fail Ina Garten’s Baked Potato Wedges

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The leftovers of which became Two Peas and Their Pod’s Loaded Baked Potato Frittata (fri-ta-ta – that’s a fun word to say) for dinner the following night.

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And for dessert during my unemployment period?

Kentucky Butter Cake cookies from Cookies and Cups.

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Oh, I may have also watched two entire seasons of Orphan Black at City Cousin’s insistence. Which means I also didn’t sleep very much on certain evenings.

So, ultimately, over the last two weeks we donated/gave away/boxed up for Mom’s garage sale:

  • 13 Hefty bags total of clothing and shoes
  • 4 bags of toys
  • 3 boxes of books
  • 3 boxes of ancient financial records shredded
  • 3 boxes of housewares

Buuuuuuut, nonetheless, I accidentally went to Homegoods because I had something to return (it happens!), and may have bought a new fall pillow and blanket.

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Which Skunk the Cat is totally fine with.

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Now go get your weekend on. I know I will as I have to go to the new job on Monday. There may be pumpkin bread involved.  Just sayin’

Happy Fall y’all.

Happy First Day Without Negative Windchill

I hope everyone remembered to set their clocks forward an hour (after the kids woke up, of course).    

We took the opportunity of a moderately mild night yesterday to grill some steaks.

Simply salt and pepper the steaks, throw them on the grill.  While they grill, melt half a stick of butter.  Stir 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley and a dash or two of dried oregano into the butter.  Right when the steaks come off the grill, baste with the butter mixture and then let the steaks rest while you grill asparagus, because SPRING BABY!!! Continue reading

Welcome to Middle Christmas

So here we are midway through the festivities, with Neighborhood Pizza Night and McNamara Christmas behind us. Let’s review, shall we?

Neighborhood Pizza Night was a fine time with many food gifts made.  I made this Sriracha Salt, Middendorfs made all sorts of chocolate bark, Madly Pop’n sent Chicago Mix popcorn and the Coluntuano’s gave everyone their famous hand made tomato sauce so we have something to look forward to.  I had planned to serve this Cake Batter Chocolate Bark from How Sweet It Is, but by the time I got home from work on Friday, this is all that was left:

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Looking at you, Guitar Boy!

Fortunately, our neighbors from Pastries So Tasty make cake pops!

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For the record, Baker Boy made lots and lots of cake pops, but by the time I could clear the children out to get a picture, this is what was left!

And they also did this with a Christmas wine topper.  Cute!

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Every year since we’ve moved here, which is also the year we acquired a digital SLR camera in an attempt to capture ANY picture of baby Drummer Boy smiling, we have created The Block book of pictures through the year.  It forces us to actually create a yearly photo book and it makes a nice gift for the neighbors. Here is the 2014 edition on top of all the others:

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Speaking of gifts, in honor of this here blog, the Borkowskis gave us these awesome lucky rhino bookends.   And a gift card to TJ Maxx.   Borkowskis are enablers.

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In other gift news, when you make a joke saying the boys’ band should be called Turkey’s Furcula and you have a friend like John with immense creativity (see Fake Sister’s costume in Halloween posts), a touch of OCD and a love of music, you get this from the Rehors:

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That’s right, Furcula concert t-shirts.  For the whole family.  Here’s the back:

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Turkey’s Furcula, with the special guest, The Cranberries.  Oh wait, such a gift would’t be complete without an magazine cover (bonus Furcula poster inside!):

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In the end, all 34 people had a lovely time, and Kevin ordered…

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…just the right amount of pizza.

Next day was McNamara Christmas.  At the last minute (since Thursday I was flying from LaGuardia to Chicago, so it was anyone’s guess whether I’d be home by Saturday) I made this Smoked Salmon Dip from thekitchn.  It was yummy and it tastes great with Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Chips.

The boys went with ugly Christmas sweater theme for Mac Christmas:

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And here is the whole crew:

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it was basically your standard McNamara Christmas, with Irish dancing demonstrations, the cousins grab bag, and the children gathered around:

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one kid playing Minecraft on an iPhone, while the rest of the family gathered around the traditional…

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Danimals tree.  Yep, your basic Christmas celebration.

I hope you’ve all made a dent in your shopping and will have time to relax and enjoy the rest of the month  I just finished making the 5th batch of Chex Mix to create teacher gifts today, will move on to cookies next weekend.

Happy Middle Christmas everyone.