Phew, this was a whirlwind of a season…..  we have been enjoying every moment and are now getting back into the rhythm of our “routine”. 

The season starts on Thanksgiving.  We have spent the last few Thanksgiving dinners at our good friends house in their arbor out in their vineyard doesn’t get better than that 😉  It includes, good friends, lots of kids running around, good conversation, good food and beautiful fall weather and sun.

After a day of good food we went for our post Thanksgiving hike.  We headed out on a new trail that lead us to an ancient Redwood that looked like there should be dinosaurs walking around it – it was magnificent!  Then we headed up to this reservoir for some good old fashion echo calls – the kids got a big kick out of that – not sure all the animals around the area were thrilled but hopefully it scared off the mountain lions!

The next day was spent trudging around Moon Mountain for the perfect tree!  We always like to get the tree and the holidays kicked off early, it really gets everyone in the mood.  It was a great day spent looking for our tree.  Of course, Mama likes to walk around the mountain looking carefully at every tree while the kiddos run through the trees squealing with delight and Milo and Doug saunter along waiting for the call of “WE FOUND IT”!  For some reason it always ends up being one of the first trees we were eyeing.  I enjoy cruising around enjoying the sights and the smells, I don’t really think I’m looking for the “perfect” tree, I think they are all great, I just enjoy the time spent out there with the family – so I will keep taking “forever” to find our “perfect” tree 😉

Next comes the decorating….

Then began the baking.  Oh the baking, cookies, breads, more breads, more cookies, fudge.  I have found two lovely recipes at rhythm of the Home that I have added to my holiday arsenal – so delicious – orange, cranberry walnut bread and cranberry ginger bread and so easy.  The kids had so much fun making all the goodies to be passed out for our friends.  Baking and singing was the theme throughout our house during December – good times 🙂

The first weekend in December marked the first Christmas recital for Ryder and what was supposed to be Saige’s second recital, but…… a little bug took Saige down for the day/night (luckily she was back in the game the next day – of course) but Ryder made his debut in a hip hop routine and rocked the house 😉  He was a bit nervous but as soon as he got up on stage with his buddies he was a natural and then he came running off the stage after the performance just flying on adrenal and saying “that was too short, I want to go back and do it again!”  It was priceless.  Very proud of my little elf, but sad my little mouse missed her performance – oh well there’s always next year.

The next adventure was the Santa Skunk Train in Mendocino.  We usually go on The Polar Express but that was sold out way too quick – which I am now glad for – because the Skunk Train rocked!

That’s one groovy looking Santa Train 😉  We made a weekend out of it with another family and had such a great time.  We stayed on a bluff with access to the beach – which we enjoyed making our version of snow angels!

Then we made it to Glass Beach – I have been dying to go there.  There is polished glass all over the beach.  We had lots of fun collecting and trying to find unusual colors (only found blue and red in really tiny pieces).  We all wondered what caused all of this glass to wash up on this little cove – much to our dismay, this area was an old dump – yes, we were frolicking on an old dump!  UGH!  It was still gorgeous, maybe the years of crashing waves has washed this area clean (and unfortunately dragged it all out for the rest of the world to enjoy!)  Seriously who would build a dump on the oceans edge!

polished glass

great tide pools to play in, lots of urchins, a few crabs, some fish hiding and lots of anemones – which all equals lots of fun and exploring 🙂

The annual lighting of the snowmen happened Friday after Thanksgiving – which turned out to be a volatile stormy day and night.  We were all ready to go but right as we were getting ready to put on our coats the sky unleashed its fury and we decided to sit this year out.  So instead we visited the snowmen on a different occasion. 

The deal with these snowmen is…. every year Cornerstone sets up these vintage snowmen (lots of them) and then lights them to start the holiday season.  They have marshmallow roasting, frosty and rudolph played on a wall of one of the buildings with hay bales set up for seating, hot chocolate, etc.  Everyone who has kids in Sonoma comes.  It’s a great time – too bad for the weather.  I just love these snowmen – I would love one for our yard.

This little guy showed up at our house the first week in December.  Not sure if you’ve heard of Elf on The Shelf?  Well I heard about this a few years back, we had elves that looked just like him when I was growing up (they weren’t elf on the shelf) but my mom always had them hanging out on the banister heading upstairs and I simply LOVED them!  It was my favorite thing to get them out and line them up.  I would pretend they were alive and I would talk to them.  Well fast forward to somewhere around 2008 and here is a modern day version of what I used to pretend.  So the story goes, the elf arrives, he is named by the kids, they can not touch him/her, they can tell him/her all their wishes, he/she reports to Santa every night whether the kids were good or bad and then he/she flies back to the kids home and is in a different spot every morning.  So the fun part is when they wake up the first thing they do is look for the elf.  Ours is named Nutcracker Boy 😉  Let’s just say Mama had a couple close calls, a few mornings I heard Ryder’s voice and I bolted out of bed, ran to Nutcracker boy and replaced him (once he got thrown across the room into the christmas tree!)  Ugh!  That got me a few times throughout the month.  Ryder swears he saw his head move 🙂  On Christmas eve the elf flies back home to live in the North Pole until next season.  He usually arrives sometime around Thanksgiving. 

We had so much fun with this tradition this year.  We even wrote our letters to Santa and gave them to Nutcracker boy to bring with him one evening 🙂

In between all this craziness I still remembered to enjoy the beauty of the season

And I think it was a little too much excitement for these two 🙂


New Years came in quietly – thank goodness 🙂

Hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season.  Would love to hear how you spent your season.

Peace and Blessings to you in 2011 – hope to see you all back here

Saige and her new big girl bike (big 3 year old!)

soccer practice and soccer games – Doug is coaching this year too 🙂

painting the bean bag toss game for the birthday party

Snuck away from the party planning to go to Power to the Peaceful to see our boyfriend Michael Franti 😉  Yes, Saige and I are quite infatuated (as well as Doug and Ryder ).  What’s not to like about the man!  Saige was bummed we were so far back we couldn’t see him – too cute!

Figs are coming in

and so are the tomatoes!  Yippee!  I am thrilled.  Not sure if you remember my previous post about my tomatoes not being so big or great, well we got a nice little heat wave and BAM  they all turned red and were decent sized and I’ve been hauling in 8lb + baskets of tomatoes weekly – I’m loving it!

So with that said I’ve been doing a lot of sauce making and storing.

something else we’ve been making a lot of …. hula hoops – 30 to be exact.  These were the “reward” for solving the mystery at the kids party (Scooby Mystery party).

our big 6 year old (yes that’s right 6!) got his first skateboard for his birthday.  He got to go to the local skateshop and had his board built and got to tour the shop and learned the “skater” hand shake – the red carpet treatment.  He was so stoked!

Shaggy and Daphne before the party.  Mama had a late night – I had some costume adjustments to make.  It was going to be 95+ degrees that day and I had to make a new dress for Saige (or I should say Daphne) one that was sleeveless.  Doug was Fred (unfortunately we did not get a picture of him) and I was Velma (yes, the smart one 😉  ).

picked some berries in the morning for a raspberry/strawberry curd for the filing of the cake.  I tried my hand at a red velvet cake and was thrilled with the outcome. I usually try out new cakes on my friends and they don’t usually turn out good (I am not the best baker) but this one turned out good 🙂

In the haste of frosting the cake (15 minutes) before the party I forgot to cross the “T” in birthday.  And no that isn’t a spelling mistake – it is supposed to say Rappy Rithday (in the words of Scooby).

The hoops were a success and Velma really liked them too 😉  yes that is me under the wig and glasses – it was way too hot to rock the turtleneck!

So after this all this, I woke up and it suddenly was October!  Ugh!

And during this time Ryder started kindergarten, I (and a few others) are trying to get the schools garden built, I started doing a daycare co-op with a friend and her two kids and Saige is back in tap and Ryder is taking hip hop – phew! 

September always seems to sneak up and fly by.  The good thing is the “gang” has their costumes ready for Halloween – no costume sewing for Mama.  Now back to my quilt (and the other 50 projects I have half finished).

I can catch my breath now

We LOVE granola bars in our house.  But sometimes finding “good” granola bars that aren’t uber expensive  – well, that’s a challenge.  So you can imagine how excited I was to see this super easy recipe for homemade granola bars.  I like it because it’s all ingredients I always have around and I’ve figured out that you don’t need as much of the brown sugar or butter and you can add any fixings (I omit the chocolate chips – unless I’m making them as more of a treat). 

I recently (yesterday) made a double batch for “snack day” at Ryder’s school.  Once a month each family is responsible for bringing snacks for all of the kids.  I really like the additions I made for “snack day”.  I used almond butter instead of peanut butter, I added some unsweetened coconut, dried cherries and almond extract – then kept the recipe as is (limiting the sugar and butter) and I cooked it for double the time.   So yummy 🙂

The hint of coconut with the almond and cherries – delish – now I just wish there were left overs!  Looks like I know what we’ll be doing tomorrow. 

I always have my taste tester (Ryder) try out my new recipes – I got the “thumb’s up” on this one 🙂  Man I love that boy!

I just purchased this book a few weeks ago – I have been eyeing it for some time and I had a credit at our local bookstore (b/c we have been attending A LOT of birthday’s and books are my gift of choice) so anyways – I treated myself to a new book. 

So long bread machine (not really but at least while I’m enjoying my new book and new recipes) hello hands working in gooey dough (or as Saige likes to call it “dough bread” – she is the first to pull up a stool and get in there).  I am LOVING the bread making process again…..

mix, wait, mix some more, knead, wait, punch down, wait, split put in loaf pans, wait, cook, smell the yummy smells, cut and enjoy 🙂  The basic recipe makes 2 loaves (which barely lasts our family a week).  I’m going to try to the rye recipe this weekend.  There is another recipe that calls for ricotta and olives and then wrap the bread around the filling (yum). 

I had to cheat about a week ago and purchase a store-bought loaf – sooooo very different!  But we’re back to our homemade loaves.

I would highly recommend this book  – there are so many wonderful recipes.

Happy bread making

We LOVE bread!  Definitely a carb family.  I have been making it a goal to NOT buy bread but to only make it.  I feel if we are going to eat bread – it should be homemade.  I know I’ve written about my new found LOVE of the bread machine but I will remind you about that LOVE.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!  I’m not a fan of baking the bread in the machine – but to make the dough in the machine – walk away and then pull it out and put it in a loaf pan and bake it – superb!  You don’t get the weird hole from the paddle, the weird shape from the bread machine pan, but for a busy mama who wants wholesome homemade bread – this is the perfect solution.  Trust me – I like to have my hands in the dough and kneading it – but reality sets in – I can make a dozen loaves in the time I can make 1 (not truly) but you know what I mean.  So this is how we are taking the little shortcuts to having homemade wholesome bread.

I made a loaf the other day and it truly was the BEST loaf yet…… Is this weird that I am so excited about a loaf of bread?!  Even if it is, I’m going to run with it – it was YUMMY!  It was a honey wheat bread – but of course I had one drop of honey left in the pantry, so I used agave nectar instead and I added a couple teaspoons of flax seed – OMG – so sweet, moist and delicious.  It took about 3 minutes to drop the ingredients in the pan and then turn on the machine and walk away until an hour and a half later, you remove the dough, place in the loaf pan, let rise until double and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (give or take).  There you have it.  Anyone can do it.  No excuse now for buying preservative laden bread anymore.  Try it and you’ll see just how simple it is. 

And what is better than the smell of fresh baked bread? Not much.

Honey Wheat Bread

1C Water plus 1 T warm water

1 egg

2 T Honey (or agave nectar)

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 C bread flour

3/4 C whole wheat flour

1 package yeast

(sometimes I reverse the whole wheat flour and bread flour amounts- you get a bit of a denser bread)

put the ingredients in the order above in your bread machine and turn it on to the dough setting and walk away.

once the dough cycle is complete – remove dough and place into a greased loaf pan, let dough rise to desired height

bake for about 30 (+/-) minutes at 350

slice and enjoy 🙂