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December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

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Bellies full of Pad Thai, hearts misty for Portland after watching Ramona and Beezus, we have a bedtime antic to record before hitting the hay.

Later, after lights out, Joel and I will crack the bubbles and head to the dry and dusty Old West with Man from Laramie.

I think I'd take Ramona's house on Klickatat over anything Jimmy Stewart can rustle up in Wyoming any day.

Welcome 2011!

December 24, 2010

Buche de Noel

For simply months I've been thinking about a Buche de Noel.

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Buche de Noel, which means yule log, is a whimsical French Christmas confection; it is a sponge cake rolled up around a cream filling in the shape of a traditional yule log. Of course, unlike a real yule log (from which a splinter of wood is saved each year to light the new year's log), this is a cake, meant to be devoured and savored and enjoyed until the last morsel of cake is gone. The trick of the Buche is mastering the cake's recognizable style and making it tasty, too.

To prepare for the Buche, I began to muster my courage in early October when I made the Buche's autumn cousin: a pumpkin roulade. Using careful technique, a cup of powdered sugar, a favorite dish towel, and the competent urgings of Ina Garten, the roulade was a success! I then began sifting through loads of recipes, I watched two "How to Buche" cooking specials, and I read several foodie blogs to add to my knowledge of Buche making. Last week, I finally settled on Martha Stewart's Walnut and Orange Buche de Noel.

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The sponge cake, comprised of a scant amount of flour and a cup of very finely pulsed toasted walnuts, rolled up beautifully. Earlier, I smeared the orange and marscarpone filling onto the cake only to realize Gads! I'd used a coffee-flavored marscarpone! My mom tasted it, I tasted it, and Joel tasted it, and we all decided that the coffee-flavor was to subtle and/or overpowered by the orangy-Cointreau flavor of the cream. I held my breath and pressed on.

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After the chilled, but undressed log rested in the fridge overnight, we tackled the decoration. We melted a bunch of semisweet chocolate, spread it onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, chilled it in the snow, and then broke it up into bark-like shapes. We hurriedly pushed the melting chips of bark onto the frosted cake, dusted it with a little confectioner's sugar and Volia! A beautiful Buche de Noel was born!

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Merry Christmas!

This entry is dedicated to my mom, Mary, who let me use her Cuisinart food processor, her KitchenAid mixer, her Apollo Craft Fair cookie sheets, the dishtowels my sister hand-embroidered, and gave me lots and lots of encouragement. I hope she got the only piece of leftover Buche de Noel. Thanks, Mom!

December 18, 2010

Daddy Day Care

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Earlier today, I called Joel from my post at the hospital to ask how things were going at home.

You see, yesterday Henry and I went to the doctor to inquire about the spots that cropped up all over his body overnight. Henry's been weathering a little cold, but never before (even in my clinic nursing days) had I seen a person break out in hives quite like Henry did on Thursday night. From head to toe, Henry was spotted with bright red dots! Worried that my baby was going to stay that way, I packed him off to clinic and was quickly reassured that his dotty-quality was an acute inflammatory response to his cold virus and would subside with time (and a little Benedryl, if itchy).

This morning, before I began my shift, I peeked in on my sleeping babes: Adelaide, asleep; Joel, asleep; Ophelia, wagging; and Henry, asleep. I was reassured and so marched off to the salt mines. I wasn't able to call home and query about Henry's condition until lunchtime.

Aimee: How's Henry today?

Joel: Fine. Well, his face was puffy when he woke up this morning, but I think it's better now.

Aimee: What?!

Joel: Yup, I could barely recognize him. And Adelaide has a shiner. But I'll let her tell you about that when you get home.

Aimee: WHAT?! Adelaide has a SHINER?

Joel: Yup. We had a little sledding accident. Well, bye!

Thank goodness, I didn't call before lunchtime. I worried and laughed and worried a little more until 3:18, when I punched out and quickly zipped home to assess the damage.

Henry's spots were much lighter and he had only a little bit of swelling around his eyes by the time I got home. As usual, he's happily bashing about the house, singing his little songs, eating his rice and peas for supper, and generally making his toddler-sized mayhem. All is well.

Adelaide, indeed, has a Christmas Shiner. Here's Joel's version of the Shiner:

Adelaide, Henry and I tromped out to the big sledding hill. When we arrived, two other children (aged approximately 7 and 9) were already enjoying the slope. They greeted us cheerily and then observed somberly as I assembled my sledge: Adelaide sat down first in the middle, then she holds Henry tightly in front of her, then I sit in the back and straddle the whole crew. Henry squalls about the whole thing, but I chalk it up to Character Building. We descend.

After a successful first run (aside from Hal's protests), we turn to tromp back up the hill (Adelaide does all her own tromping these days, which is a huge improvement from last year). We get to the top and Adelaide, perhaps with an eye on those older kids, chirps, "I want to go down all by myself!"

"Really?" I ask.

"Yes!" she replies.

"Okay," I say, helping her to settle securely onto the sled and pointing it down the hill away from the trees. "Watch out for those trees on the left. If you see that you're about to crash into a tree, bail out."

"Right," Adelaide says confidently.

I give here a little push, again making sure that the nose of the sled is aimed left, away from the copse of trees near the bottom of the hill. She picks up speed, and the sled begins to veer right. "Uh oh," murmurs the 7-year-old boy standing next to me.

"Bail out!" I yell, too late, as Adelaide crashes into the scrubby trees. I run down the hill and check her crumpled and wailing form. She seems okay, aside from the wailing.

"Hookay," I chirp. "Let's go down again, this time we'll all ride together."

"Nooooo!" Adelaide howls.

"Yep," I reply. "You've got to get back on the horse that threw you." Which, if there was a Miron coat-of-arms, could serve as its motto. That, or "Buy High, Sell Low."

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December 12, 2010

Tardy Old St. NIcholas

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Last night, St. Nicholas visited (albeit five days later than his traditionally-celebrated December 6th feast day). He blew by on the eve of a blizzard, leaving us excellent new cold-weather trappings (in lieu of the traditional chocolate and sweets), including snow boots, pants, mittens, and SLEDS!

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After his arrival and hasty departure last night, we couldn't wait to try out the sleds and tramped out to our big sledding hill in the park. This morning was a bit chillier with high winds and frigid below zero wind chills, so we settled for testing the side yard hill.

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And had a fantastic time!

December 2, 2010

Finally, A Little Snow!

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After hearing reports about other snowstorms in other Midwestern burgs, we finally got a little dusting of snow! Adelaide frantically threw on her winter clothing and raced outside to play and build a snowman ... Well, not quite a snowman, but collected - or rather, scraped together - a nice, healthy bucket-full of fluffy, white snow!

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It was tricky to convince Hal that the snow was fun, and not just a terrible ploy to get a little guy stuck out in the wind and cold. Hal refuses his mittens, time and time again, so he stayed tucked in the safety of the garage with his treasured Laughtop and worked on his ABCs.