Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas full of family, love, food, laughter, relaxation and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Around here, we had a great Christmas and luckily for us, our "Christmas" will be extended just a little longer, as we're leaving tomorrow to see Cameron's family in Wyoming. Yay!I was preparing all last week for the upcoming celebration feasts I had planned. Here's what our menu turned out to be:

Christmas Eve: French Onion Soup, Pear & Avocado Salad, and for dessert, Croquembouche.
Christmas Morning: Homemade Cinnamon rolls, fruit, and breakfast casserole
Christmas Dinner: Prime Rib, Au Jus, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, pumpkin fritters and a hypothetical almond cake which I never made.

It all turned out great....except for the Croquembouche. After all my hard work, one batch of my little cream puffs didn't exactly "puff". In all actuality, they were as flat as pancakes. See, they should have been on the cover of Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat.But I made some more, still not quite like they should be, but it worked. I made the cream custard, filled them, made the caramel "glue" and put it all together. The end result looked great and tasted even better.
Here's the prime rib. Ummm...why have I not made this before?!! It was sooooo easy and soooo good! BEFORE:
Our Christmas dinner:

Now, onto more important things....PEOPLE. We were lucky enough to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas day with Cameron's good friend, Beau Suder. We were so glad that he could be a part of our family (which he already is) for this special occasion.

This is Beau enjoying his Christmas presents from us.After dinner, we read the story of Jesus' birth and then opened our stockings. Apparently, Santa comes early to our house.
Christmas morning of course was a bit earlier than it used to be. But exciting nonetheless. We handed out our gifts and took turns opening them one by one. Malone didn't quite understand this situation and just wanted to open all of them at once. We all were so blessed by all the gifts we received. My personal favorite was some pretty little earrings from Cameron.I gave Cameron some new wine glasses and a decanter.

My favorite gift to give was definitely Malone's box! Christmas eve, after she was in a deep slumber, we had to put it together. With lots of help from Cameron and Beau, we finally finished it. It was awesome!! It has a door, windows, curtains and even a roof. Granted, it does look a little ghetto with it only being partly painted...spray painted, that is...apparently there's not as much paint in a can of spray paint as you'd think. But still, its AWESOME!After gifts, we had breakfast, relaxed all day and I finished cooking dinner. Here's Cameron and I about to eat breakfast....still in our pjs. Once we were sufficiently stuffed from dinner, we headed over to our friends, the Scheuermans', where we solved world hunger problems, wars, government and then played Settlers of Catan until the wee hours.

It was a perfect ending!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our own Christmas Traditions

This year we will be alone for Christmas. Our own little family. We will miss our families dearly and wish we could all be together for this time of year. But, there is something about starting our own traditions, building those memories with our own children that I'm excited about.

As we've been preparing for this holiday season Cameron and I have often talked about what traditions we would like to incorporate into our little family. You've already read about how we decorated the house, put up the tree and made cookies. Well, now we're really onto the nitty gritty of Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, the presents, Santa and of course the food. So here's a couple of things we're gonna try this year:

- Presents: I read somewhere & heard about it from Stephanie, about doing 4 presents for the kids. One they want, one they wear, one they read, one they need. Cute, economical, just right for us, I think. However, since Malone is so little she's getting a book, a box and some fun little stocking stuffers. Sh.... don't tell her. I'll explain the book and box when they're finished. You'll want to see this for sure.

- Food: I'm working on the menus right now. I think we're doing something light for Christmas eve dinner (maybe soup & salad) and this beauty called Croquembouche (they're little cream puffs made into a tower) for dessert. Christmas morning, I'm thinking fruit and homemade cinnamon rolls. And for Christmas lunch/dinner, ribeye roast. Still working on the details. Plus, I kind of want it to be a surprise for Cameron.

- Christmas morning: I love reading the story of Jesus' birth. Then, opening presents. Then, thanking the Lord for what our gifts represent, His gift to us, Jesus.

I want to hear from you! What Christmas traditions do you love from your family? Any food ideas? PS: I have to warn you, I might steal your ideas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baby Update

Yes folks, I am 33 weeks pregnant with little baby boy Schaefer. My belly feels huge, although I am told its not really that big. My back is sore, maybe due to the nerve in my lower back that he's using as a pillow and my ribs are bruised due to our little athlete's early training program. But otherwise I'm feeling pretty darn good. Here's a good look at the belly.

Its weird to think that in 7 weeks, the playing field will be a bit more even on the Team Kids vs. Team Parents game. We're ready for the most part, just missing a couple of little things like pacifiers and washcloths. Really, I just need to get my butt in gear and go to the store and buy it. Worse comes to worse, who needs pacifiers and washcloths to survive?

We've decided on what kind of double stroller we want, but we'll probably wait until the baby gets here to see if we really need it. For you gear heads, after much research we've decided on the Baby Jogger City Mini Double stroller. Beautiful, I know...but that's not why we're getting it. What kind of researcher would I be if the reason ended there?And I still need to order my baby wrap/sling/thing.

See, having a baby is easy. :) hahaha.

Oh speaking of easy, I had my first appointment with the mid-wife this week. Yes, I took the plunge and switched to the mid-wifery program. I switched for many reasons but mostly for continuity of care within our crazy military medical system. Still not 100% sold on the natural birth, because I just loved the dickens out of my epidural when I had Malone. But we'll see.

Ummm...I was a little concerned however, when we were talking about Malone's birth and I informed the mid-wife that Malone's birth was only 5 hours long (pretty short for a first baby) and I was induced (which I guess usually means labor is longer). She just looked at me and laughed and said, "Well, girl, I wouldn't wait until your contractions get too regular before you come to the hospital! But don't worry, I guess you can always call 911. You wouldn't be the first." What?!!! Plus, we live a good 30-45 minutes from the hospital! Needless to say, my fears about having this baby in the Jeep, in traffic, on the way to the hospital, with Cameron having to cut the umbilical chord with rope or butter knife, was NOT relieved.

On the plus side of things, I get a special maternity parking permit at my next appointment. They have special...aka..super close parking spots reserved for preggos all over the base. I don't usually shop at the Commissary (grocery store) very often, but I will start, just so I can use my handy dandy parking permit.

Anyways, there's the long awaited baby update. I better run. Time to test Cameron on his "delivering a baby in a cinch" procedures. Luckily for him, no flash cards will be used today. Ha Ha. One can never be too prepared.

Cameron's Birthday Feast- Part 2

And the feasting continues!

After I got the beef short ribs in the oven, and they roasted nice and slow for a couple hours, I took it out. Since the ribs rendered so much fat, I transferred the mixture to another bowl and put it in the fridge for a little bit, so that the fat could harden, making it a million times easier to remove. A little bit of fat adds flavor, but no one wants to feel like they are drinking oil.

While the beef was de-fatting (you like that? I just made it up...on the spot...I'm smart like that), it was time to start on desserts. I know, people, I really love my husband. I was in the kitchen, literally, THE WHOLE DAY. No resting for this little pregnant lady.

Chocolate cake is one of Cameron's absolute favorites. So much so, that I had already made another one 2 days earlier for our missional community at church. Aren't they beauties? I wish I liked chocolate cake more.
Selfishly, I made a dessert for me too. I'm a little bit of a fruit fanatic, so when my friend Brittany made this cobbler of the blueberry variety, I knew I was in love. So I made it with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, all on sale at Safeway for $1.98 a pack. It was meant to be.
Consider this cobbler my rest. Who needs to sit down or take a nap when they can have this?
(This isn't even cooked yet)
Oh yes, and somewhere in here I roasted some vegetables. Zucchini, parsnips (my new fave), potatoes, onions...all until they are nice and golden.

Then it was time to enjoy the fruits of my labor along with our good friend, Beau Suder. Boy, it was good. Its going in my "favorite" recipes file.
Luckily the night didn't end there... dessert was still left and some of our favorite friends showed up to help.
Here's the girls. The boys were WAY too deep in solving the world's problems to be bothered for a picture.

Ahhh, good food + good friends = one great night!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cameron's Birthday Feast- Part 1

I love my husband. Words can't even begin to describe how grateful I am for him. So this year for his birthday I decided to cook him a whole birthday feast as an expression of my love for him! And let me tell you, he did not complain.

Since his birthday was on Thursday, the same day as the Christmas party, we celebrated his birthday on Friday. We celebrated with a quiet, family dinner at home and then later in the evening had friends over for dessert and wine.

Herein lies the chronicles (in 2 parts) of my full day in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant .


Braised beef short rib served on bed of creamy polenta
Roasted vegetables
Mixed Berry Cobbler
Chocolate Birthday Cake

Here's my excited face as I'm about to start cooking. Please note the cute Christmas apron I'm wearing, courtesy of Stephanie's mom.
Malone wanted a beginning picture too. Except she insisted on it being by the Christmas tree.

It all began with the recipe that I got from Pioneer Woman Cooks, one of my favorite food blogs. And indeed it was heaven on a plate.

I started by browning some Pancetta (Italian bacon) in my new LeCreuset dutch oven. After it was nice and crispy, I took it out and left the fat it rendered in the pot.

Here's the beauties themselves

I salt & peppered them then drenched them in some flour.
Then I browned them real good on all sides.
Don't they look pretty!
Then I chopped up a bunch of onions, carrots and a little bit of celery, the last of which was not called for in the recipe but I thought it would taste good and I had some.
Meanwhile, this is what Malone was doing. Isn't she sweet? And yes, I am the worst photographer in the world.
I added a little more Olive oil to the pot and cooked the veggies for a couple of minutes.
Oh and I added a couple of cloves of garlic. It wasn't in the recipe either, but everything is better with some garlic, right?
Once the veggies was cooked, I threw in some nice red wine. Please note the special 10th AS (Cameron's squadron) C-17 edition of this wine. Nice, eh? Oh yes, and there was scraping of the nice little brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Ooooh, double nice.
Then the beef broth, rosemary and thyme was added to the other kids in the pool
Once it cooked together for a couple of minutes, it was time for the stars of the show to join everyone else in the pot. Beautiful!
Into the oven it went for 2 hours at 350 degrees and then another 45 minutes at 325. Please excuse the dirty oven. Its leftover from Thanksgiving and possibly last Christmas....just kidding...maybe.
Then it was cleanup time. Yikes.
Ahhh...and that's where I leave you for now. I know, the suspense is just killing you. Come back tomorrow for the end result, dessert and friends.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Party

Thursday night was the long awaited Christmas party of Cameron's squadron. Long awaited, not because we were super excited about it, but rather because this year, Cameron had quite a heavy hand in planning it. So it was more of a labor of love, than an event to enjoy and look forward to. But, we did enjoy it nonetheless. It looked beautiful, the food (prime rib) was good and the company was fun!

Of course, the biggest stress for me was finding a cocktail dress that a) went over my 8 month preggo belly, b) didn't make me look like a blah tent, and c) didn't cost a million dollars. Target came to the rescue with a cute little, not even maternity, cocktail dress for only.... $20!!

The Mr. & Mrs.

Our fantastic and hot bible study girls, sans Sara (who kindly was watching Malone) and Leigh (who was soaking up the rays in Mexico)

Laura Glover and I. She just had twins 6 months ago. Can you believe it?

We clean up pretty nice, eh? This probably isn't a good representation of where my belly really is at...or feels at. :)

My excited face to take my high heels off at home

Malone playing in my high heels the next morning :) How does SHE walk in them when I barely can?

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Countdown: Less than 2 weeks away!

Oh, how I love Christmas. I love what it stands for, I love the decorations, the treats, the family feel of it all. And since Malone is getting a tiny bit older now, it is time for us to establish our own family Christmas traditions.

I started off this year by decorating our house just a little. A little garland on the mantle and hanging our stockings was first.

Putting up the wreath on the front door was next. My plans to make one was foiled when I realized it would be cheaper and easier just to buy one from Target.

Then one day, to my surprise Cameron said we needed lights on the house. Done. Sorry, no pictures yet. Its day time and the lights would look uncharacteristically lame. But rest assured, they are tactful and Christmas Vacation lights on our house. Wish I could say the same for some other people in our neighborhood.

The tree was set up, lit and decorated. It was a little bigger than we had remembered. It kinda takes up half our living room. But that's ok, because we're just trying to show our Christmas spirit, right? So what if you can't walk across our living room?

Lastly, we decorated Christmas cookies. We only gave a couple of cookies away, because it has become clear that here in the Schaefer household, art is not necessarily our gifting :) At least not yet. Plus, I think Malone was more interested in eating them than decorating them.

Expecting a big mess, we put Malone in an old t-shirt of mine. She apparently didn't like the mess as much as we thought she would and came out cleaner than we did. Oh, and here's her new "CHEEEEESE!" face. Where does she learn these things?
Malone and I feverishly working
Cameron feverishly working. Malone feverishly enjoying the cookie.

The end result

Can't wait until next year's new addition of family and family traditions.