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Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Adventures of Cookie, our Elf on the Shelf (Part 3)

We left off at doing laundry last week. To be honest, there was more laundry this week. I'll spare you though. 

Cookie made a phone call. We had several guesses as to whom she wanted to talk to…

  • The folks over at M&Ms to complain about the disappearance of the raspberry M&Ms 
  • Grandma, just asking how she's doing
  • Some Elf friends, Zippy and ZuZu
  • Nino Niederreiter, to congratulate him on his first hat trick 

The next day she thought she'd help out stocking up on TP rolls!

Have you ever wondered how Elves fly to the North Pole and back in less than one night? They take a plane, duh!

Barbie and Cookie played Taboo

Ready for some gift wrapping!

Remember how she wrote a letter to Santa a while ago asking for a school bag and crayons? Guess what, she got it and promptly went to Elf School!

Now that she is a student she occupies herself with art. She read a book called "Tidying up Art" by the Swiss Comedian Ursus Wehrli. You can see in this video what this is all about:

Not only does he clean up paintings, he also busies himself picking out the letters from the soup and arranging them in alphabetical order

and organizes people's cloth lines. So did Cookie:

Our Elf, the neat freak ;-)

For more Elf fun check out the 4 Crow's link-up! See you back next week for the last installment of Cookie's 2014 adventures!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Use Your Words - Hitchcock vs Good Mothers

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: 

Good mothers ~ bummed ~ society ~ try harder ~ size ~ sarcastic
They were submitted by Baking in a Tornado  - thank you, Karen!

The other day a mommy friend and I had a blog-worthy conversation. It started when she told me about picking up her younger son from Kindergarten. "So how's it going with him?" she asked the teacher. "Oh well, you know, he seems to be tired a lot." She answered. 

Apart from the fact that this was not the answer to the question, my friend immediately felt bummed. She's not usually apt to take offence, but  there had been situations like this before that made her feel like she didn't take care of her kids well enough. 

It didn't take long and she used the words: Mommy guilt, judgement, society, expectations, personal choice.

Oh man, going to work does that to a mother.

We agreed that it started right after giving birth. Breast feeding consultants visited us at the hospital. If you nurse, they praise you and maybe recommend how you could do even better. If you don't, they tell you you should. If you can't they tell you you should try harder, and they come back with teas, ointments, pumps and whatnot. Because… good mothers breastfeed.

Good mothers also had a natural birth, their baby doesn't need a pacifier, (s)he will sleep in their crib with a minimum of crying, and Mommy will cook their own organic baby food once the nursing is over which is just around the kids' 4th birthday. They go for walks every day, play with wooden toys, made by the crafty Mom. In order to do so she needs to stay at home, end of story.

We were being sarcastic, but somehow it felt like the two of us were justifying ourselves for our choices. 

"You know, people tend to ask me if I don't regret missing out on my time with the kids" she said. "Do people ever ask this question to Dads?"

"For some reason they think it's different. Does your Mom ever go on vacation alone? Mine does, and as soon as the dates are out, family and friends will invite my Dad over for dinner. He can cook perfectly fine, but he gets the royal treatment. I wonder if that happens to women when their husbands are away, say on business trips?"

"It doesn't. Why should it. We are supposed to manage, even when we're sick. You know what? We should take a break from the bleak daily grind. We could take a road trip. I installed "Route 66 Navigate" on my phone the other day, it's genius! 
Or escape to a resort on an island, just tap on a spot on the world map with a blindfold on, that's where we'll go. Spend hours reading on a deck chair by the pool, I alway wanted to read stories my mother never told me."

"What stories? Your Mom was a SAHM, she should have told you every story, right?" 

"It's a book title by Alfred Hitchcock. I need a break from parenting magazines. Although…"

She went on telling me about an article in a parenting magazine (that I still have to read. It's on my to-read pile. When does she have time to read? Must find out) It said that even though the average Dad today is more involved in child care, there are certain questions they get wrong every time.

"What questions are those?" I was curious.

"Haha, wait till our husbands join. We can ask them both."

Then we went inside where her husband was cooking. We sat down, had a glass of sparkling wine. And another one. We may have had another one, we weren't really counting. We had vacation destinations, drinks and books teachers, school rules, homework, daycare and the like to discuss.

The like being "It's one thing for the school to decide to have full two weeks off and call it Christmas vacation, but do they ever consider what this means for us? What are you going to do Monday and Tuesday, Dec 22nd and 23rd? And don't get me started on the random teachers' advanced training days during the year? If it was for us we'd divide our employees, some would mind the office, and the others could go and attend the course. But teachers? They all get to go, school is closed, and the Moms have to make it happen."

"I know, right? I asked the principle about that. You know what she said?
It has been announced in advance, so it's OK."

Can we ever announce in advance that the kitchen and laundry room are closed, and that Mom taxi is not operating? Is that ever OK?"

PS: I made those words up. Karen must have been shaking her head all through that post. "That's not what I've submitted? Good mothers? Try harder? WT&*@?"

The real words were

Hitchcock ~ bleak ~ resort ~ confirm ~ navigate ~ world

PPS: I haven't been around much these past days. Hubby unexpectedly had to undergo eye surgery. All went well, he got released today, and he's recovering at home now.

I've been juggling office, home, day off at school, elf on the shelf, hockey practice, fabulous day in the city, hospital visit and advent calendar window party including baking.

Which reminds me... Stacy of Stacy Sews and Schools posted this quiz and shared her result. Of course she's the cheerful elf :-)

I wanted to be a cheerful elf as well. At the very least a mischievous one. This is what I got:

Right. Island resort, I am on my way!

PPPS: In case you are wondering about the question that Dads seem to have a hard time answering… it is about their kids' shoe sizes. Their answers confirmed that the article was right. Unless size 2.5 and 4 is the same thing.

Now go find out what my friends' words were, and what they did with them:

Baking In A Tornado 
Spatulas on Parade 
Follow Me Home…
Battered Hope
Stacy Sews and Schools
The Bergham Chronicles
Evil Joy Speaks
Juicebox Confession
Eileen’s Perpetually Busy
Confessions of a part time working mom 
Sparkly Poetic Werido

Pictures taken by my Mom - couldn't do it without her support!
"Singing Christmas Tree"
77 Kids, 3rd - 6th grade carolling

Regular tree along the Limmat River in Zurich

A window full of his favorite books - C in heaven!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Adventures of Cookie, our Elf on the Shelf (Part 2)

All that sitting in the fridge made our elf cold and hungry. So when Colin was late for lunch she jumped at the chance to dig in from his plate!

Not that Colin would forget that it is his turn to open an advent calendar gift… 

But Cookie thought she'd remind him anyway!

As he is an only child I am constantly trying to prevent him from getting more spoiled than he already is, hence the hubs, my parents and I get to open presents, too.
Colin worked out a plan. On the days with silver stars it's his turn.

This year our advent calendar is a simple white Christmas tree "shelf".
A good place for an elf to be.

I also broke down and purchased this cute winter village with an ice rink!

On Dec 6, St. Nicholas Day, the elf brought a letter from Santa! I used the services of Brooke, a blogger buddy up in Alaska and can only recommend it! Amazing handwriting! Nice stationary, too!

It was four pages long and included Colin's activities, pointed out what he is doing well and also reminded him to listen to what his parents say and to eat his veggies.

A busy elf like ours gets hungry from time to time. Today she went groceries shopping.
The miniature items were part of a promotion last year.

In a recent post I committed to knitting a Holiday sweater for Barbie so she could hang out in style with the elf. As I am not one to follow hard to understand instructions I just went ahead and - knitted! I haven't done it in a while, but it's basically like riding a bike. 

Then I had to undo an hour's work because it felt totally wrong. 

Barbie showed me how it's done!

And voilà! Holiday sweater: done!

Even the toughest elf that flies to the North Pole and back every night needs an occasional beach day, soaking up the sun and relaxing!

Cookie found herself a crafts project! Who says ghost lights are a Halloween thing? Please meet THE ELF LIGHT!

Daddy's sock drawer sounds like a cozy place to spend the day, no?

And finally, laundry day!

Check back next week to find out what Cookie has been up to!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Baking with our Elf Cookie

It's getting seriously christmassy around here. The other day I was running an errand in a region that was new to me. In front of me was this truck transporting logs which reminded me of Canada.

But you know what? In the meantime, our friends in Canada say it looks like THIS (aaaaawesome!):

Picture by AP
By the way, you wouldn't be able to guess what kind of "errand" it was. Actually you may want to call it differently. What is that on my back seat?

That's right. I took my wedding dress to a lady who is going to take it - along with her own and a handful of her friends' - to another lady who runs a wedding dress consignment boutique. 
Do I hear screaming? "How can she give away her wedding dress?" 
I am one of that rare species who wasn't into the whole wedding dress shopping. Let's see if it sells at all!

When I got home, my kitchen still smelled nicely from the cookies I baked in the morning: 

Chocolate Cinnamon Hazelnut Balls

(Find this and lots of other mouth watering cookie recipes over at Tampa Cake Girl's Cookie Recipe Swap!)

Original Ingredients (for 3 cookie sheets)

2.5   cups brown sugar
4     eggs
3.5  cups ground hazelnut
2.5  cups all purpose flour
3     tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
2     teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°)
Beat eggs and sugar until foamy
Add hazelnuts, flour, cocoa powder and cinnamon and form a firm dough.
Roll strings, flatten them and cut into sticks.
Place on cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper
Bake for 8 - 10 minutes
Let cool

Now I didn't feel like doing the string rolling thing, so I used my mini sorbet spoon to make balls. After a couple of days that I kept them in a tin box, I didn't like how they became kind of all the way through dry-ish.

So the next time I used the mid-sized ice cream scoop, and hooray! My cookie balls were still a bit moist in the middle! Also I doubled the amount of cocoa powder and cinnamon, and I like the result!

We also made a batch of Big Soft Ginger Cookies replacing one of the two teaspoons of ground ginger by two teaspoons of freshly grated ginger. I just love the smell! Also I was hoping it'd help fight my lingering cold.

Make sure to leave enough room between the dough balls as they expand quite a bit while baking!

Lastly - for now, at least - Colin, Cookie (our elf) and I made Mailänderli, the most popular Christmas cookie in Switzerland. Never mind that Milan is actually in Italy ;-)

If you have to watch your cholesterol intake, then this recipe sadly isn't for you, cause there are a lot of butter and eggs in it.


Ingredients (yields 2 - 3 cookie sheets)

1.1 cups (250g) of butter 
1.25 cups (250g) of granulated sugar
1 lemon, grated zest
1 pinch of salt
3 eggs
4 cups (500g) of all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together
Add salt and lemon zest
Stir in one egg at a time 
Gradually mix in flour until incorporated

I like to flatten out my dough between two sheets of parchment paper before putting in into the fridge for about two hours.

Colin thought wearing an apron and a hat was completely embarrassing but was nice enough to put them on for two seconds so I could take a picture. You can tell he hated it ;-) I still think he looked cute. He'll probably sue me in a couple of years for publishing this:

Quickly, let's get rid of it. I can't believe I was wearing this. I must really love my Mommy!

Take the dough out of the fridge and give it a couple of minutes until it's rollable. 
Roll out about 0.3 inches (8mm) thick, cut out shapes and put on cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper.

Let them get firm in the fridge for 15 minutes, then paint with egg yolk (if you are going to ice your cookies, skip this step) and bake in your preheated oven for about 10 minutes at 390°F (200°C), let cool.

Let cool! I said let them cool! They are piping hot, don't touch them!!

Hubby insisted he wanted to try one. He wanted one so badly he agreed to wear the elf gear and have his picture taken (he must have known it ended up here, right?) That's how much he loves Mailänderli! Especially the first ones of the season.

The one below, left, reminds me of the black headed sheep we spotted the other day. Don't those rocking horses look like the toy store's logo? 


As we got a cookie cutter shaped as an elf's head of course we went for it!

With a simple icing made from confectioner's sugar and lemon juice we painted the tip - my friend over at Measurements of Merriment suggested to call it jingle ball, I love that name!) and the rim of the hat, the eyes and the collar. Yes, really painted. With a brand new paint brush from the crafts shop. It worked much better for me than any piping bag!

Then we added some red food coloring to the icing and painted the hat and the smiling lips.

Finally, using food coloring pencils, we drew hair and eyes. Oh, and eyelashes ;-)

Now you know why our elf is called Cookie ;-)