Christmas 2015

pie.sliceThis year for our Christmas Day meal, I decided to make a blueberry pie.  It’s good to shake things up a bit, especially on holidays, I think.  Some of my family would disagree and say this is a terrible idea – why mess with a a good thing, especially on holidays?!  It is due to this sentiment that I left my Challah recipe alone this year.

blueberry.pieI was using a combination of a couple recipes – a terrible habit of mine when I am in the kitchen.  I ended up with a delightful, though a bit on the juicy side of a pie.  My youngest – a huge pie fan – almost perfected his ability to say the word pie due to his love of the blueberries in this pie.

I used my dad’s crust recipe with gin this time – I was out of vodka.  And the basic blueberry filling from my Martha Stewart pie wheel.  See below for both recipes.  I would add thickener in the form of tapioca or corn starch for future reference.  I topped it off with real whipped cream.  I accidentally bought a carton of heavy whipping cream instead of the kids’ milk, so I have been creatively putting it to use.

walkIt snowed on Christmas Eve day and so I enjoyed a wintery walk with my eldest child.  She is a budding scientist and makes keen observations that make her mama proud.  Here she is gingerly touching the thin crust of ice at the very edge of the pond.  She told me after doing this that she, “would hold on to my hand while we were near the water’s edge.”

familyWe enjoyed quality family time with cousins and grandparents.  Poor Q, Christmas is a lot of work when you aren’t yet 2.  Though it’s a lot of work when you are my age, too.

IMG_8487Here he is earlier in the day, a little calmer and still barefoot.

IMG_8492My daughter’s writing is exploding now.  She decorated my present herself, asking for spelling help with all her favorite characters.  If she hadn’t made me open it, I would have just left it wrapped like this forever.


Santa visited my two little Batmen with some surprises, and some surprises for me – they are actually sharing in this picture!  My youngest little ham now slits his eyes when he smiles – not sure if he is trying to be funny or if this is how he thinks one is supposed to smile.

frostOn Christmas Day the foggy morning weather made everything a frosty white that surprisingly lasted all day.  It was absolutely beautiful and I found myself stopping and staring out my in-laws windows frequently during the day.

giftsWe opened gifts .  The chaos of this picture is perfect.

The men did most of the cooking.  Eric is working on assisting my brother-in-law with his salted fish recipe.  The fish are covered in a salt and egg white mixture and then baked.  The salt crust is then peeled off and a perfectly cooked fish is left inside.  This was paired with a saffron risotto, challah, a salad, and yule log cake and pie for dessert.

all the grandkidsWe certainly missed Grandma this year, this image was taken last year at Christmas.  She would have turned 91 on Christmas Day – how lucky I have been to celebrate her birthday and Christmas, together, for so many years.  So, with the exception of losing loved ones, each year Christmas just gets better.  I am so grateful for my life, my family, my health, my friends, and the way I get to spend my time.  Here’s to 2016!

Dad’s Double Pie Crust

  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons vodka
  1. Sift together flour and salt; cut in butter with pastry blender until pieces are the size of small peas.  (For extra tender pastry, cut in half the shortening till like cornmeal. Cut in remaining till like small peas).
  2. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over part of the mixture.  Gently toss with fork; push to side of bowl.  Repeat, alternating water and vodka till all is moistened.  Form into 2 balls.
  3. Flatten on lightly floured surface by pressing with edge of hand 3 times across in both directions.  Roll from center to edge, till about 1/8 inch thick.
  4. Trim lower crust even with rim of pie plate.  Cut slits in top crust.  Lift pastry by rolling it over rolling pin; then unroll loosely over well-filled pie.  Trim 1/2 inch beyond edge.  Tuck top crust into under edge of lower crust.  Flute edge of pastry as desired.

Blueberry Pie FillingMartha Stewart Pie Wheel, (click here for your own printable version)

Combine in a large bowl: 3 pints of blueberries, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 chopped up tablespoons of butter.

Bake at 425° for 20 minutes with a Pie Crust Shield or aluminum foil on edges to protect crust edges.  Reduce to 350°, remove foil or shield, cook for 30-40 minutes more or till golden and filling is bubbling.



Artistic Wrapping Paper


This project ended up being one my most favorite that I have ever done with Greta – making our own wrapping paper.  I have always kind of hated wrapping gifts and find myself giving sideways glances at those who wrap perfectly gorgeous department store worthy packages.  But that all changed this year – I now have a helper!  My oldest can write names, tear tape, cut, and hold her finger over knots.  VICTORY!


Both kids are starting to get to the point where they can come with me to my classroom while I do a few small tasks.  Over Thanksgiving break, I had to unload a kiln or two, so I set them to work.  I gave them the backside of used, white roll butcher paper, and set them to work designing and creating recycled wrapping paper.  Here, they are using texture rubbing plates and large crayons.


They used foam dot stamper brushes and regular large paintbrushes to create swirls of reds, yellows, golds, and glitter, on the left.  The gold dots, on the right, are my personal favorite.  My youngest was able to easily stamp out the designs, and it was a quick enough project that he was not easily bored.


Back at home, my oldest wanted to use foam stamps and Jumbo Paint (and Clay) Explorer Rollers to transform the brown paper packaging sheets into wrapping paper.  She loved figuring out how to mix tints – above she has figured out that adding white to her sponge stamper (something similar here: Pattern Paint Foam Rollers), it makes the green lighter.  This is always a fun ah-ha moment for little artists.

After the success of this project and their joy in working on a larger scale, a roll of paper may become a mainstay on their own art table.  I am leaning toward this Melissa & Doug Tabletop Paper Roll Dispenser.


On another note, I woke up at the wee hour of 4:15 AM this morning – nothing says first day of winter break like being awake before the birds.  So, I got up, relished the quiet of my house, and set to work making Challah.  I would say this was a home run batch, making up for last year’s total flop.

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  Happy almost Christmas Eve!

Mixed Media Necklace + Holiday Decor

necklaceI have been organizing my art room and basement craft stash this winter, in an effort to purge what I don’t need, use what I have, and make room for cold day play with my kids.  I discovered some fun unfinished projects in this process.

necklace.1My mom gave me a couple bags of Hand-felted Wool Felt Balls  a couple years back and I had made a few things with them, but they had mostly been pilfered by one of our cats as extremely entertaining toys.  I also came across my recycled paper beads I had made during a paper making lesson I taught my middle school students back in North Carolina.

The beads are simply paper pulp squished into bead shapes, which then dry, and are coated in Mod Podge, Gloss Finish. I used a small drill bit and drilled holes in each paper bead, alternating them with the felted balls.  The felted wool balls are easy to string as beads, just use a sharp needle.  I also added a couple pieces of coral with holes in it, found on a trip to Key West.  Now I just have to keep this necklace out of the reach of our cat – he has already nabbed it and dragged it down to the basement once.  I am not sure what the allure of these felted wool balls are to him, but he cannot resist them!

Other things that have been keeping me busy – Christmas decor!  I used some more of the felted wool balls to create a simple garland for the chandelier.

garlandOne of these days I am going to do something about that chandelier – I am still not a fan of it.

mantelThe mantle is decorated with my odds and ends.

We started a new holiday family tradition – picking up our tree via cargo bike!  It was a chilly but perfect day, we biked to a tree lot just off one of the bike trails in town.  Eric let me ride it back – it was a little squirrely to ride, but much easier than I thought it would be.  Now our tree is up and decorated, though a little top-heavy – our youngest is still in the destructive phase.

My current favorite holiday decor – I finally got my deer skull hung up and decorated with a set of battery-powered lights.

What’s your favorite holiday decor or tradition?