Do-Ahead Holiday Breakfast that's Crazy Good

December 31, 2008

On Christmas morning we had these cinnamon buns from King Arthur Flour. A few years ago we made fancy yeast-raised cinnamon buns on Christmas morning, and they were great, but took a lot of time, and so Christmas morning became more about taking a break to bake something.

The buns we made this year were so easy it was kind of dumb. I felt like I was making that Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie or something, like these were Mock Cinnamon Buns. All you do is make biscuits (I made ones from How to Cook Everything), shape the dough into balls, roll the balls in melted butter, then in cinnamon sugar, and then throw them in a pan. The dough recipe I used fit perfectly in an 8×8 pan. Then you wrap it up and stuff it in the freezer, and when you’re ready, put it in a 350 degree oven for an hour.

We had ours with scrambled eggs, and I think the boys were frankly astonished that I had magically produced this unbelievably yummy baked good seemingly in the time it took me to put my contacts in. I’m telling you all this in case you want to go and rightthissecond make this so you can have it tomorrow morning for New Year’s Brunch, maybe with a mimosa or something. Because cinnamon sugar is supposed to guarantee good luck for the year (in World of Julie’s Fantasyland).



GIVEAWAY! Savoring Maine calendar!

December 30, 2008

Hurray! I have not one, but TWO Savoring Maine calendars to give away, thanks to Stacey’s generous donation. I am so in love with the gorgeous photographs in this calendar. I would love it if it only had the photos, but then! there are also recipes! I have three words for you: Blueberry Buttermilk Pie. Also: Sauteed Chard with Coconut. And: Pear and Cranberry Caramel Crisp. Also also: Fingerling Potato and Arugula Salad with Fontina. There was another one, too…ah, here: Fiddleheads, Maine Shrimp, and Smoked Ham over Fettucine (though that one may call a bit more on very-Maine-specific ingredients than others).

One incredible photo per month, one tasty recipe per month, each month featuring a fabulous Maine ingredient, and every month sure to be enjoyed by everyone, no matter where you live.

Go to the calendar’s website to read all about it. Go to the blog to read more about all the recipes and see more amazing photos, these of the recipes themselves.

I can’t recommend this calendar highly enough. The photos and design are beautiful. The recipes are mouth-watering and contributed by Maine chefs and foodies. And have I mentioned Blueberry Buttermilk Pie?

Then enter the giveaway! All you have to do is leave a comment to this post before midnight on Sunday, January 4. On Monday I’ll pick two winners and send your calendars out immediately. Good luck!

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There are still little piles of clutter everywhere, still

December 29, 2008

Let’s appreciate the fact that, as I sat down to read an article about how I, personally, am conquering clutter, my living room looked like the photo at left. “This is a fun house where no one ever sleeps!” the children said. It took me a minute to realize they were talking about the fort-from-chairs thing they were building, because this [Julie waves her arms generally at house around her] is a fun house where no one ever sleeps.

Yes, ha ha, Dave and my mom (who was visiting) and I all had a hearty laugh over the fact that I am featured in an article on decluttering. The fact is that I am a cluttered person by nature, a pack rat who often finds herself in Goodwill with an armload of cute-but-impractical shoes and small pottery pitchers (and who often then has to say, out loud, “Put it back, Julie”) (thus ensuring that I am a hypocritical decluttering expert who also talks to herself).

I told Dave, “Well, maybe I am more of a real declutterer, you know? Because I am really dealing with it, every day.” He looked skeptical.

It’s just awfully hard to stay clutter free with so many humans in the house who not only make general messes of what’s already there, but also bring in all kinds of new clutter (such as the daily possibly-genius-should-I-save-it art projects). And I have now spent every day post-Christmas walking around in tiny little circles, a new gift toy of some kind in my hand, as I revolve slowly, trying to figure out where this new thing goes.

The key is to stay on top of it. Clutter breeds clutter, and before you know it all of the little piles have hatched into sub-piles and they are marching across the counter and spilling onto the floors. I have to get rid of things daily, or else the piles start to stage a revolution, and they drag down the mood of the whole house, until we’re all suddenly beating back large grey clouds of gloom that can only be removed by taking a large black garbage bag around the house and filling it with junk. I try to deal with it before it gets to that point.

CATEGORIES: housekeeping

Children's Book of the Week: In the Town All Year 'Round

December 29, 2008

In the Town All Year ‘Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner

This book may as well be titled Book that Henry and Eli will Become Obsessed With, though, I suppose, in that regard, maybe any kid will become obsessed with it, since Henry and Eli’s combined literary tastes likely cover all children. My aunt sent this book to the boys, and she definitely tapped into their brains with this one.

It’s a mostly-wordless book that follows the same spots in the same town through the seasons. It has cutaways of buildings and houses, which, I think, is a sure way to get kids to pore over your book for hours. For each season there are a number of things to look for: a fox on each page, for instance, or “Why does Suzie need to buy a new hat?” So then you find Suzie on each page and see what the story is with her hat. We’ve had this book for a few weeks now, and I think we’ve only just begun to look at it. If you have a child who is at all into the “I Spy” thing, or who likes wordless books with lots going on, or who is likely to be rapt by a cutaway of a house where you can peek into all the rooms (or a cutaway of a museum where you can see the exhibits change with the seasons…) then this book is for you. Thanks, Aunt Sandra!



Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008

Happy holidays all, Christmas or whatever you celebrate. World of Julie will take a few days off to sleep off an eggnog coma. There will be a new Children’s Book of the Week on Monday, and then posting will likely be spotty next week while all children are at home.


CATEGORIES: Eli, Henry, Zuzu

Gingerbread House

December 24, 2008

Here’s how the gingerbread house making went:

First, we went to the Old Port Candy Co. to get candy. I figured this was better than getting giant bags of 12 different candies at the grocery store and then having leftovers. So we were able to get individual gummy lobsters and little licorice allsorts. We still had tons of leftovers (donated to Henry’s class for their gingerbread houses), and I did have to make a run to the grocery store for gumdrops, which I somehow could not find at the Old Port Candy Co. I’m a little on the fence considering the sum of money we dropped on candy here, but I felt good about supporting a local business, and it definitely seemed much more festive to go pick our individual candy bits from old-fashioned bins.

Let’s pause for a moment to celebrate the fact that I brought three kids into a candy store, and they did not at all go nuts but instead thoughtfully chose candy for the house and weren’t even so much considering eating it (in fact, when I mentioned something to Henry about tasting some candy, he got very concerned about running out of candy for the gingerbread house) (ok, and it’s not like Zuzu is going to get that excited about candy, stuck in a sling at 6 months old). I have a very short list of Quantifiable Parental Accomplishments, but the candy-getting is on the list (also newly on the list: that Henry used the phrase “truth be told” the other day in casual conversation).

Of course, half the fun of getting 100 different kinds of candy is organizing them (or are my kids mildly OCD and not all kids are obsessed with lining things up in categories?). And yes, it’s true, to help Eli power through the candy organizing task, I gave him…a cookie. I don’t know, sometimes I’m a little weak in the snack department, ok? It is a homemade best chocolate chip cookie ever cookie at least. Henry, wisely, chose a pear.

I gave Henry the task of choosing a gingerbread house design. He picked out the Sunday House design from (the appropriately titled) Tiny, Tiny Houses by Lester Walker (it’s not a book of gingerbread house designs, but a book of different very small house designs). The Sunday House is a type of house that the German farmer immigrants in Fredericksburg, Texas would stay in when they came to town on the weekend to do shopping and go to church. So, theoretically, they may have stayed in one at Christmas. I didn’t care about the Christmas appropriateness of it so much as the fact that he chose a design that was a perfect square and very easy to translate to gingerbread. We flattened out some cracker boxes and drew the plans on there, and then used those as a template to cut out our gingerbread pieces.

Here it is, unadorned.

The back.

All decked out. Notice the dogs on the roof, and also nestled amongst the gumdrops in front. They’re little licorice scotty dogs.

Random back-of-house gummy lobster decoration.

And then of course what happens after decorating the gingerbread house is that the kids are completely sugared up and Eli runs around like a loose spinning top and runs headlong into the chair and gives himself a black eye. Ah, Christmas!

I will say that, after Year Two of making a gingerbread house, I feel kind of Grinchy about it. It takes, literally, like two weeks to do it, with candy and material gathering, dough making, dough rolling, dough cutting, dough baking, assembly, and decoration. Last year we kind of forgot to eat it, and so the boys finally attacked a very stale gingerbread house around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, after which I dumped the almost-whole gingerbread house very unceremoniously into the garbage can (where it looked very sad). I kind of feel like the whole thing might be more trouble than it’s worth…except for that the kids do really love it, and somehow miraculously don’t pick up on the fact that Dave and I are audibly sighing and rolling our eyes during the whole fortnight of gingerbread assembly.

And, now that it’s done, it is pretty cute and I have to say it smells amazing every time I walk by (which is 75 times a day; it’s fairly prominently located).


CATEGORIES: crafts, Food, Parenting
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Asking Santa

December 23, 2008

Dear Santa,
Please don’t let my son ask for something completely random that I’ve never heard of, three days before Christmas.
Thank you,

I mean, seriously? A dinosaur makeup kit? What is that? I don’t know if this is a combination of his dinosaur love and the fact that his best friends are girls, but COME ON! I’ve never heard anything about any dinosaur makeup kit, and then suddenly it’s the one thing he requests for Christmas?

True hilarious conversation:

Julie [panicking]: What’s a dinosaur makeup kit?
Henry: It’s…well, do you know what makeup is?
Julie: YES, I know what makeup is! [Unspoken subtext: Why? Did one of the other moms ask if I know what makeup is? Because you can tell them that it doesn’t matter, there’s no concealer that covers up these eye bags!]

But hurray for the internet (again, how exactly did people Christmas shop before the internet?). I almost got the Klutz face painting kit, but in the end decided a Dinosaur mask book was more what he would want. I have a suspicion this is some kind of Santa verity test, so I knew I had to get something.



The Choconut Banagurt: Eli's favorite smoothie

December 22, 2008

This combo has been doing it for Eli lately:

  • one cup milk
  • scoop plain yogurt
  • scoop chunky peanut butter
  • one banana
  • two ice cubes
  • squirt of chocolate syrup

I forgive the chocolate syrup because, well, I’m scarfing back the dark chocolate all day long, so I understand him his chocolate needs, but also because it’s a small, small part of an otherwise power-packed smoothie. Blend it all in a blender, drink. It’s very milkshakey and one of those things that makes kids think they’re getting dessert for breakfast.



Children's Book of the Week: Too Much Birthday

December 22, 2008

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday by Stan and Jan Berenstain

This is a very, very serious book in Kid Land. Henry and Eli both have gone through periods of being obsessed with this one. Let’s face it, all Berenstain Bears books are essentially just Self Help books for preschoolers, and this one more than any of the others has deeply resonated with my kids.

In it, Sister Bear has a birthday and the whole Bear family goes a little nuts planning the birthday party to end all birthday parties, and in the middle of the candle-blowing-out, Sister has a major meltdown and is reduced to tears while her friends and family look on in horror. There are no laughs when this book is read. It prompts many earnest questions about why she breaks down, what exactly happened there, and how she might have prevented it. And I have all kinds of answers, because this same sort of overwhelming-activity-leads-to-sobbing has certainly happened in this family many, many times (and not just mom! kids too! ha). And, like I’ve found with the other Berenstain Bears books, a message conveyed through a book holds a lot more meaning than it would if I were just screeching, “This is too much! Too much! That’s why you’re being so tired and whiny!”

I present it here because “Too Much Birthday” could also very easily be “Too Much Holiday” and so now is as good a time as any to read it.



Paper n Stitch

December 21, 2008

As if I needed another internet obsession, along comes Paper n Stitch. It’s like Etsy but curated. I don’t know if I have very predictable and ordinary tastes, or fit squarely into a certain demographic (likely), but I love (love!) everything on there. I found it because one of my favorite Etsy shops, Paper Sparrow, is featured (birds and trees and narwhal shadow boxes, what’s not to love?). If you’re lately feeling Etsy-overwhelmed, check out Paper n Stitch.


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