holiday recipes part 4

I hope you have all enjoyed my holiday recipes this Christmas season!  You can find the previous weeks here:

Holiday Recipes Part 1
Holiday Recipes Part 2
Holiday Recipes Part 3

This last recipe is one that we have every Christmas Eve.  It is called Kugel.  From what I can gather it is a Jewish pudding/casserole.  It is delicious, slightly sweet, and definitely the most looked forward to dish of the Christmas season for my family.

350 degrees for 1-1 1/2 hours

6 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
16 oz cottage cheese
8 oz farmers cheese (ricotta can be substituted)
8 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 Tablespoons melted butter
8 oz angel hair pasta, cooked

Mix all ingredients together, pour in a 9x13 and bake for 1-1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar when it comes out of the oven, and serve with additional cinnamon and sugar when you plate it.

I hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas!  And a Happy New Year!  I will be on vacation next week, so the blog will be quiet until the new year.  Enjoy this time with your families!

Christmas Breakfast

I hope everyone is finishing up the last minute odds and ends before this weekend!  I am having a bit of a problem with deciding what to make for Christmas morning breakfast.  Growing up my mom always made coffee cake, and we all ate leftovers from our Christmas Eve party.  I never really thought about it much after Emma was born because, well, she was a baby.  But, now that she is 3 1/2 I think that it is time to figure out a good Christmas breakfast tradition.

I would also love to hear what you do Christmas morning, do you let your kids go for the presents as soon as they wake up.  Do you make them wait while you shower and get dressed?  Do you go to church?  Eat breakfast first?  What are your Christmas morning traditions?

crunch time yarn along

It is definitely crunch time here at Townsend House!  This week I am working to try and finish my pile of projects.  It is slow going.  After having Christmas with Matt's family this past weekend, I am ready for a vacation.  I am almost done with the little dress for Emma's doll Ellie, which is what is in the picture.  I kind of just made up a little pattern for it.  There won't be sleeves, because the doll is one I knit this year, and it wouldn't really work that way :-)  I am almost done with Jack's Eli doll as well.  I also have a bit of sewing to do for the kiddos...clearly I have a few long nights ahead of me :-)

Even though there is a lot of making going on, sometimes I need to take a break.  I love knitting, but I love to recharge a bit as well.  I am still reading The Purpose Driven Life, which I am enjoying immensely.  Thinking about the questions at the end of each short reading has been very beneficial in understanding my own journey right now.  I definitely recommend it.

I also had the opportunity to read Forks Over Knives, which is the book that compliments the movie.  I have talked about the movie before here.  And reading this book definitely made me want to watch the movie again.  It is a very short read, mainly having little blurbs about the contributors to the movie, and some of the people that have been helped by going on a mainly plant based, whole foods diet.  It highlighted the important parts of the movie as well (although, I think the entire movie is important).  The part of this book I liked the most is at the end of the book.  They provide 125 recipes to help you get started.  Even though I have a really hard time following a recipe, I really enjoy looking through recipes and getting ideas.  I'm not sure I would ever exclude all fat from my diet, people do need fat to live, but I can definitely see adjusting a lot of the meals I currently make.

I am linking up with Ginny at the yarn along this week!  Looking forward to browsing what everyone else is working on!

the still of the morning

In all of the hustle and bustle and stress of the holidays, I sometimes forget about peace.  But, when I wake up and the whole house is still asleep, this is what I see.  It makes me happy, and I hope it gives you some joy this morning.

weekend craziness

Craziness, I think that must be my word from 2011.  I am hoping for peace to be my word next year :-)  This past weekend we had our first Christmas, with Matt's family.  We hosted this year, and like always, it was insane.  Not because we don't have the most amazing day, but because there are so many people.  I guess we are actually small if you think about large families.  We had 14 here, which included 4 littles.  But those 4 littles gave the impression of 40 :-)  It is such a joy to see them play together though, my favorite part of the day.

We had a huge array of food.  Like I mentioned previously, I decided to have everyone send me a check this year and I bought all the food.  I had planned to have everything prepared before the first guests arrive, but it of course never works out exactly as I see in my head.  Luckily I had the help of a wonderful sister-in-law to help me pull everything together at the last minute!  And I forgot to take pictures of the food!  I did take one picture though, of an appetizer that I pinned when thinking about Christmas party cooking.  They were mini BLT's on a toothpick, and I think they were the favorite appetizer of the whole day, so that made me happy.  I cooked the bacon in the oven to make sure it was nice and crispy, put them together, and then prepared a chipotle mayonnaise for was delicious!

The present opening was insane this year.  I think my sister-in-law's husband may have been in complete shock.  The opening of presents had always been a youngest to oldest, everyone takes a turn kind of deal.  But, now we have the eldest cousin who wants to open her present and play with it.  The two middle cousins who want to open every single present, and could care less what is actually through the wrapping paper or who it is for, and then the youngest who just wants to have all the bows, and don't take them away, just let them stay stuck to his head.  This year I said that all the kids should just open their presents immediately, and then they can help the adults open, and in about 30 minutes we were done.  This is a large change from previous years where we would be literally opening for hours.  And even though it was complete chaos, I think that it was better to get it done with so we could enjoy more chatting and food.  I love the presents, what person wouldn't, but for me Christmas is about spending time with family and eating a whole lot, and less about what is under the tree.

To give you an idea, here is a picture before everyone came with their presents:

And this is with all the presents:

And in the thick of it:

I don't want to give the wrong impression though, our kids did extremely well with all the stress of a large get together.  They played amazingly well together, there were no meltdowns, and everyone had a great time.  At least that was my experience!  It isn't all about the presents either.  The kids sat very nicely for the reading of the Christmas story, which we did from Jack's baby Bible this year.  

I hope that you all are enjoying your Christmas season!  I can't believe there is only one week left before the big day, so much left to do!  How do large family Christmas parties go for you?

holiday recipes part 3

I love cookies.  I could eat them all day, well until my mouth started to give out from so much sugar :-)  My favorite cookie, by far, is the sugar cookies my mom makes (and now I make) at Christmas time.  You may see a theme going on here with all of my recipes.  All from my mom :-)  This recipe makes TONS of cookies, literally tons.  I always make one batch and have plenty to give away and the rest go right in the freezer, because honestly, that is the way you should be eating these cookies, from the freezer.  I don't know why I like them better that way, but I am not the only one, my brother is the exact same way.  Maybe we are just used to them frozen because when we were younger my mom would do all of her holiday baking and put it all in the big freezer we had in our basement...which Greg and I would take samples of periodically convinced that she wouldn't notice if just. one. more. was missing...hmmmm...Without further ado!

Sugar Cookies
350 degrees for 10 minutes

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups flour

Cream butter & sugars together
Add eggs
Add remaining ingredients except flour
Add flour gradually
Roll small amount of dough into ball with your hands and place on cookie sheet
Sprinkle with colored sugar
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, or until slightly brown on bottom

These cookies are not for decorating.  They are for large quantities :-)

Do you have a favorite cookie recipe?

Holiday Recipes Part 1
Holiday Recipes Part 2

Christmas pictures

Every year I try to get a picture of the babes for Christmas. It is so fun for me to dress them up and try to pose them like a professional would. Of course I don't have the best camera, a simple point and shoot is what I use :-) I am always pleased with the results, no matter how crazy the actual picture taking is. This year I had the help of both my mom and Matt to get the kids to take a picture. I think it came out really well! Merry Christmas everyone! Oh, and you will have to excuse the half decorated Christmas tree. The bottom half has a bunch of soft ornaments, but they don't seem to stay on the tree...some little boy keeps taking them and then putting them somewhere else :-)

no picture yarn along

Is that bad?  I don't have a picture at all today.  I had planned to take one, and in all my crafty craziness have misplaced my camera.  Yeah.  I think it might be in one of my craft bags, but I digress!  This week is all about Christmas knitting!  Of course, I think that is how it has been for several months now, but thankfully it is almost Christmas.  Whatever I finish will be gifted and whatever I don't finish, well, won't be gifted :-)

I am working on a scarf for Emma's ellie doll right now.  It is in the same purple as her hat, and in kind of a zig zag pattern that I made up.  I am hoping to take pictures of all of the presents to post after the holidays, so stay tuned for that post!  I had made a scarf for my niece last Christmas, and made a matching one for her American Girl doll, and of course Emma saw it and said she needed one for Ellie, so I am doing that now.  I also have a pair of socks on the needles for Jack.  Well, one sock is on the needles, and is almost done.  I love baby/toddler socks.  They knit up so quickly!  The only problem that I foresee is that they will be super slippery on our hard floors.  Any ideas on how to remedy that?

This week I am reading The Purpose Driven Life.  I am starting to reflect on the year, and thinking ahead to next year.  I swear I am always 10 steps ahead of the date on the calendar.  Christmas in August, check.  New Years' goals before Christmas, check.  Maybe one of those goals should be slowing down and living more for the moment than the tomorrow :-)  I have owned this book for quite a while, but have never actually gone through it.  I like it so far.  Good thoughts and questions to write down and expand upon myself.  I am only on Day 9, so I have quite a ways to go.  Nothing mind blowing, but maybe because a lot of the questions are ones that have been ruminating in my head for months, so it is kind of a blessing to sit down and write my thoughts on paper through this exercise of "40 days."

I am of course linking up at the yarn along today.  Can't wait to see what everyone else is working on!  Although, I think most of us are working on Christmas presents, so not as much is available in the descriptions or pictures :-)

cable tv

We don't have it, but we will soon.  I am not crazy about getting cable again.  I think that it is too easy to just sit down and watch the tv for me.  Not that sitting down to the internet is any less difficult, but when there are so many options for tv, it makes it easier for me to not try so hard to figure out other activities for myself and the kids.  It was never my plan to get cable again.  Mainly because I try to not watch TV, and felt a bit silly paying so much for a service that I didn't really use all that often.

We used to have cable internet, but then switched to DSL because it was such a cheap deal.  Unfortunately, it does not work for Matt.  He works from home and has to log in to his work from here, as well as plug in an internet phone.  And the phone has not been working, so he has been using our house phone, not entirely ideal.

What it really came down to, though, was the "Christmas" deal they were having.  We were going to have to get the cable internet again regardless, and it ends up only costing a few dollars more to get the phone/tv/internet package then to just get the internet and phone...literally $5 more.  So we opted to get the cable tv.

I have to say I am excited to be able to watch the food network again...I love that station.  I am slightly concerned that it will take over our evenings, but I am hopeful that we will still find other things to do, and not need to completely veg out in front of the tv.  But, with all the knitting I have to do in the next couple of weeks, it might be nice to sit in front of the tv a bit :-)

What about you?  Have you cancelled cable for a long time and then recently come back to it?  Do you find that you are spending more time watching programs?  Or do you feel like you spend a lot of time flipping through the hundreds of stations available to you now?


I love music.  Have I shared that here before?  I don't think there is anything that can help me work through emotions like music.  I really listen to everything, or at least I did.  That was pre-kids.  When Emma was really little and I would be wearing her in the moby all the time, I would listen to a lot of Jason Mraz when I was trying to calm her down...and a lot of Billy Joel when I just wanted to sing to her.  And then the crazy music that I can scream out when I needed to :-)  As she got older, we still listened to a lot of what I thought was ok. She would enjoy rocking out to Beyonce's put a ring on it.

Then Glee came along, and I bought a lot of their music, because it was music that I loved, totally dialed down for a younger audience.  But, then Emma started to enjoy listening to Lady Gaga, and I knew I needed to change my tactic.  So we started listening to a lot of children's music.  My pandora playlist was all about Barney, Raffi, and Elmo.

She enjoyed a lot of the music, but I noticed that whenever I was folding laundry listening to my ipod and would start singing a song I would normally listen to, she would want to listen to it.  OK, so we went back to Billy Joel radio, because can that really be that bad for kids to listen to?!  I mean, yes, a bottle of red...a bottle of white...not necessarily the message I want to send to my 3 and 1 year olds, but better than Lady Gaga.

Recently I came across Elizabeth Mitchell children's music.  And I was sold.  So were Emma and Jack.  It has a good mix of folk music with the children's songs.  I plugged it into Pandora, and it is probably one of my favorite stations.  It is how we start our music time every morning now, and I am so happy I have found it!

What about you?  What is your preferred music genre?  If you have babes, what are you listening to with them?    And what is it about Lady Gaga's music that draws my 3 year old to sing Bad Romance all. the. time.???  Although, this performance with Elton John was pretty awesome :-)

holiday recipes part 2

I am not a big chocolate person.  I always want to like chocolate, because I love the smell of it, and I love to see all the different varieties available.  But, I am more of a white chocolate kind of girl...meaning I mainly like white sugar :-)  However, once per year I do like chocolate.  It is at Christmas time when my mom makes fudge.  I love her fudge.  I love that I can make a big batch and throw it in the freezer, and then just chop off a chunk every now and again to eat...for months.  Yes, I make that much fudge each year.  I also like to make it for friends, and have never had a complaint yet!

Makes 1 9x13 pan of fudge

12 oz (or 2 cups) milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Baker's German's sweet chocolate bars
8 oz of marshmallow fluff
4 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 12oz can evaporated milk

Smash German's chocolate bar with a hammer or a rolling pin, whatever you have handy.
Combine chocolate and fluff in mixing bowl, set aside.
Butter a 9x13 pan.
Add butter, sugar, milk, and 2 dashes of salt in sauce pan.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Boil for 6 minutes - keep stirring!
Pour over chocolate mixture, and mix until smooth.  I use my kitchenaid mixer for this, you have to move fast before it starts to cool down and set.
Pour in pan and let it set until hard in fridge.
Lick the warm fudge from the mixing bowl, it is delicious :-)

I hope you try it!  I typically will make one batch with milk chocolate and one bath with semi-sweet chocolate.  It is kind of hard to get out of the pan, so make sure you butter it really well.  And maybe putting a piece of wax paper in the bottom of the pan would help with this...I think I might try that this year :-)  Do you have a favorite candy recipe for the holidays?

You can read part 1 here.

the expense of entertaining

I am in shock about the amount of money I have spent on food for one of our family Christmas parties.  Who would have thought feeding 14 people would be so expensive!?  Well, everyone I am assuming.  It isn't like your normal fare either, it is fancy, or maybe not fancy, but different than what you typically would have every other day.  Obviously we want it to be special!  It is only a once per year kind of thing.

Typically, each year we alternate where the party is.  And we usually will have everyone pitch in to bring some type of food.  This has always worked in the past, and definitely helps to cut down on the cost of everything.  This year, however, I decided that I would purchase all of the food, and then I would have everyone send me a check to contribute.

I think this will definitely work in everyone's best interest.  I will have everything prepared when people show up, so there isn't a mad dash for the oven, or trying to find another outlet for a crock pot, and we can start right in on spending time together.  Also, everyone has to travel to get here, from 30 minutes to 2 hours, so not having to deal with the transport of food is always a good idea.  I remember one year my mom was bringing kielbasa out to a friend's house for another Christmas party, and it spilled...all over the car.  It was not a good evening for my mom :-)

What about you?  Are your family parties potluck?  Or do people contribute money to the host for food?  Obviously, this is not something you would want to do if you were having a party with friends, but a family party I think it is OK to ask for cash instead of a dish.

yarn along

Last week I talked about how I should take a picture of the pile of unfinished knitting and post that for the yarn along.  So, today that is what I did!  This isn't everything, just what I had close by me :-)  Not even a pretty basket to hold it all!  Well, I do have several baskets in my craft room, but that is upstairs, and I am downstairs right now...since you all wanted to know.  I am actually making really good progress on everything, and am pretty sure I will finish it all in time.  I'm not going to lie that I haven't been slightly stressed, and even though I started planning and working on some things in August, I realize now that making presents for SO MANY PEOPLE is completely insane!  Next year I think I might concentrate on my own little family of 4 before I go out and decide to make something for everyone else in the world :-)

And like I said yesterday, I am going through seed catalogs.  It is slow going though.  The FEDCO catalog has so much awesome information in it, and I really need to sit down and process it all.  I'm hoping tonight I will have some time to do that...and also continue working on my knitting.  

Like always, I am linking up at the yarn along!  I hope you all are getting your Christmas knitting and crafting done!

seed catalogs

The seed catalogs are starting to roll in.  It seems early to me this year, maybe it is because it is 55 degrees outside right now.  I am kicking myself for planting my garlic in October!  I don't have high hopes for it to actually grow, in fact it is probably growing right now...I can't bring myself to look though :-)  With the seed catalogs comes a lot of thought about the summer CSA.  We usually send in our deposit for the summer CSA right after the holidays.

I think this year we will bow out of the CSA, not because I don't love them, but because I need to start being serious about our garden, and the amount of food that we are able to grow ourselves.  If I can really work at it, perhaps I can grow everything that we would typically get from the CSA, saving us quite a bit of money - although definitely costing a lot more time.

My thinking is that the kids will be older next year, ie they will have the ability to listen when I say "don't run towards the road!"  Whether or not they will listen, that is another question entirely :-)  Maybe I can even train them to weed the garden...although that might be later in the season when the plants are well established and can easily be identified by littles.  Now I have to figure out what to grow, what to start inside, when I need to start these seeds, and how long do I have to figure that out before all of my seed requests are sold out!

What is your favorite thing to grow?  Do you start seeds inside, or buy seedlings in the spring?

i'm talking about the weather again..

I hate to keep harping about the weather and heat, but this has been a crazy year so far.  As I have said before, we usually have to turn our heat on in October due to tenants, I think a couple years ago it was September.  Apparently everyone expects it to be super warm all the time if your landlord pays the heat :-)  I am used to the cold, since my mom's house was pretty drafty growing up.  Add to that the cost of oil, and well, obviously we keep the heat down.

This year has been incredible though.  Our heat is on 55, and has been for quite a while now.  We didn't turn the heat on pre-November 1st, but after November 1st we did put it on 55.  The heat has only come on twice since the start of this heating season.  Two times.  In the middle of the night.  The rest of the time?  Well it has been staying a pretty regular 66 degrees, although the past couple of days the thermometer has been reading 72 in the house.  How is that possible?  I mean, obviously I am baking most days, but the fact that the house is staying so warm is insane to me.

Last week Maine had the warmest temperature in the nation.  What?  Maine?  The state that typically has snow most of the year, and is ALWAYS cold.  Not this year.  For people to say that climate change is not real, well obviously they don't live in Maine :-)

I am really happy about the warm weather, but I am slightly concerned as well.  What will this mean for the rest of the winter?  Will our winter keep going into April and possibly May?  Are the seasons shifting?  What has the weather been like where you are?  Is it warmer or colder?  More snow, less snow?

holiday recipes part 1

After I wrote about our holiday food choices, I figured that I should share some of the recipes that I am used to having every year.  Over the next few weeks I will try and share some recipes from my favorites.  Trust me, these are not in any way healthy foods.  They are comfort to me during the holidays though!

Every year for as long as I can remember growing up my mom would have a Christmas Eve party.  My mom lives in a very small 1100sf cape, with not a lot of space for entertaining.  We would go to the Christmas Eve service, and then rush back, and people would start pouring in.  A lot of people.  Everyone would stay late, the kids would all either pile into my brothers tiny room to hang out and play nintendo (the original one) or go upstairs and sit in my room chatting away.  It is one of my fondest memories of the Christmas season...and I have been trying unsuccessfully to recreate that ever since we bought a gigantic house.  Most of these recipes come from her...probably should ask her about sharing them first :-)

This first recipe, however, I know other people do.  It is super easy.

Sweet and Sour Kielbasa

2 14oz packages of polska kielbasa
1 16oz jar of grape jelly
1 12oz jar of chili sauce

That is it.  You cut the kielbasa into little circles about 1/4" thick, and then put the jelly and chili sauce on top.  Mix it up a little, turn it on and let it cook.  Once it is done, just turn it to low or warm and it is great for a party.  I know that people also use meatballs with this sauce, but I prefer the kielbasa, and meatballs with marinara sauce :-)

Totally not healthy at all...or organic.  I am sure that you could improve on the grocery store ingredients immensely though.  You could use homemade grape jelly and chili sauce, and some farmers markets will sell kielbasa.  Our farmers market, I believe, sells goat kielbasa.  I'm not a huge goat fan though.  If you buy a meat share, there is sometimes the option to have some of the meat turned into kielbasa, but it depends on who your butcher is.  

Do you have a go to family favorite that you would like to share?

toy organization

I am in serious need of a new toy organization system.  It seems like every time I try and clean up the toys that we have, they just get strewn all over the floor again.  I guess I shouldn't expect much since I have a 3 and 1 year old.  I have gotten it all down to one toy box.  Everything that is a toy goes in the toy box.  The problem?  My children are 3 and 1...and although we do periodic cleanups, and put everything back in the toy box, nothing is organized.

I have several wooden shape puzzle pieces being stored under the couch at this point in time.  Not to mention all of the educational toys I get for the kids, and the pieces that seem to get all mixed in together.  I can't seem to manage to get the kids (or the husband for that matter) to keep all the pieces together in a nice little package.  We have a large amount of stuffed animals, unfortunately all with names that Emma asks for regularly.  Luckily, she *allowed* me to put the majority of them in a big bin upstairs, and she only has a few downstairs at a time.

My new idea is to move the toy box upstairs and just keep a few toys downstairs at a time.  We are not upstairs during the day at all, except when we are in the craft room.  I was thinking about keeping the toy box in the kids room (which will hopefully be done before they are 10), and then only bringing a few toys downstairs to play with the rest of the time.  And then to switch them out periodically.  I'm not trying to make it so my kids have nothing to play with, but I would rather they play with a few toys, and then realize that they have something new to play with in a week.

I think perhaps part of the problem is that I am tired of picking up the toys every night just to have them literally emptied out of the toy box in the morning.  And not because they want to play with the toys, no, because they want to play in the toy box.  Honestly, I am thinking about getting rid of all the toys and instead giving them a cardboard box to play in :-)

So, my question for you, what do you do about toys?  I know people that are completely organized and have everything in awesome baskets - would love to be there; and I also know people who have toys that totally take over their entire house.  I would like a balance.  My kids are obviously too little to be organizing all of their toys in baskets, but is it wrong to put most of their toys "away" and leave a few out to play with?  How do you organize your kids' toys?