Sunday, December 29, 2013

Advent - Week 4

This is gonna be a fast blog post - we just rolled back into town after a family weekend in La Crosse, WI to visit my sister and we still have to get the house clean in time for a New Year's party on Tuesday night!

With all of the excitement of Christmas, only three things got crossed off of our Advent list.

Brent helped the kids build a huge fort in our basement on Christmas Eve day:

Once they had the fort built, they made birthday cards for Jesus inside:

And the part I was most nervous for ended up being pretty easy - homemade marshmallows!  We followed this recipe exactly.

Basically, you bring water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil and let it get to 235 degrees.

While the sugars are cooking, you add the unflavored gelatin to some water in the mixing bowl and let it soak for a few minutes.

 Once the sugar reaches 235, you pour it into the gelatin mixture and slowly increase the mixer to a high speed.

As it whips, for 10 minutes, it gets white and fluffy.

It immediately gets poured into a greased pan to set up overnight.

This is the part I was most nervous for - I was afraid the marshmallow was not going to come out of the pan.  In preparation for it, I made up a little mixture of corn starch and powdered sugar.  I had read that it helps your knife not stick to the marshmallow and it prevents it from sticking to the cutting board.

Surprisingly, the marshmallow popped out pretty easily when I flipped the pan upside down and onto my cutting board.

I dipped our pizza cutter in the corn starch/powdered sugar mixture and sliced right through the marshmallow.  After I cut these long strips, I cut smaller pieces off of them to make them about the size of a large marshmallow.

After the small pieces were cut, we tossed them in the corn starch/powdered sugar mixture so they wouldn't stick together.

And that was it - they taste like marshmallows!  You can flavor them if you wish, so peppermint may be fun to try next year.  I was thinking that this summer, I would cut them a little larger to use on our S'mores - but other than hot chocolate and S'mores, I couldn't think of anything else you would use them for.  Maybe popcorn balls?  Any ideas?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent - Week 3

Oh man....things are starting to get cah-razy!!!  Last weekend we had church activities, family pictures, a big birthday party for my mom and sister and the kids' Christmas program and brunch the following day.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday calmed down a bit but then we were thrown right back into the holiday vortex of madness.

Brent and I had the absolute PLEASURE of assisting with Emma's 1st grade class party.  Words cannot describe.  Thankfully, the kids had a great time and we were thankful that the party was only an hour long.  That night, Brent and I served as the kitchen crew at my mom and dad's house for a holiday get-together for all of my mom's co-workers.

Friday held dentist appointments and work parties for both Brent and I - by this time I was developing a really bad cold and Owen was catching it as well.  Halfway through my work party, we got a phone call from my mom that Owen had taken a turn for the worse, so we left to go pick him up to get him home for some rest.

Which takes us to this morning.  With Owen and I under the weather, we cancelled our ginger bread house decorating party for this evening, so we have all day to try to get better before another crazy week starts.  Here are some of things we crossed off of our Advent list this past week, even with all of those other things going on!

1.  We had our family movie night.  This is our kids' absolute favorite thing to do with us - we always start with a fresh bowl of popcorn.  My sister taught us how to pop it over the stove awhile ago and that's how we prefer to make it now.  Do you guys notice when you make microwave popcorn that it leaves a film on the inside of your mouth??

OK, and I realize this may be super obvious, but I had never thought of it...when you put baby marshmallows in your bowl of popcorn, it tastes like popcorn balls!!  We also throw M&M's in there, but they sink to the bottom so we are all always fighting to get at those.  Mary Poppins was the movie we watched, which I enjoyed as a child.  It's kind of a weird movie when you watch it as an adult though - especially the strange man in the park that draws the pictures that they jump into.

2.  Brent took the kids sledding.  I was at work when this was occurring, but I wasn't terrible sad because cold weather + Heidi does not mix - and Brent knows this.

3.  Emma and Owen made gifts for their teachers.  We bought these little red burlap sacks and used our snowflake stencil to paint a design on them.

We then stuffed the bag with a thank you note and a Starbucks gift card - because really...can you go wrong with Starbucks?!

4.  We drove around and looked at Christmas lights - LIKE A BOSS!!  My siblings and I surprised my mom by renting a luxury limo bus to drive us around to see the lights.  I tried to take some pictures but they didn't turn out very well - you'll have to use your imagination.

5.  Wrapped Christmas gifts.  You know how this goes, the first one is fun, the second is ok and by the third, you are pretty much over it.  Emma and Owen helped me tape up the first...

And then they lost interest and spent the rest of the time talking through a wrapping paper tube.

6.  The kids wrote letters to Santa.  The only conclusion I came to, is that they really don't know what they want because it changes every time I ask.  Fortunately, Santa has already decided what they're getting, and lets just say, the kids MAY be disappointed.

Owen asked for a plethora of items - I think he was just trying to name off everything that he could see in eyesight.  The only real take-aways here were a Bouncy House and a little Christmas Tree in his bedroom.

Emma's was a little more articulate and a little more disturbing.  Handcuffs..yep.

7.  Delivered Angel Tree gifts from our church.  This was pretty fun, we got to deliver a minivan full of gifts and food to a family of 8.

The gifts and food all get sorted by family in our church gymnasium.

Man, it's no wonder Owen and I aren't feeling good - that was a busy week!  We are looking forward to the excitement that the next few days will bring - seeing your children's anticipation for Christmas is an amazing thing to watch.

What is everyone else up to this weekend?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Kruse's Christmas Wish List

I recently asked Brent this question...if you could whisper anything into Santa's ear, what would you wish for?  Here are some of the dreamy things we would love to put to use.

Porter Cable Router:  A router has a thousand different uses and is crucial for cabinet building.  If you already know what this thing is, scroll down - permission granted.  If you don't know what a router  does, it uses different types of bits to hollow out a piece of wood or material.  For us non-professionals, it's how you get those decorative edges on cabinet doors, picture frames and trim.  You also would use it when applying laminate to countertops as it trims the excess away from the edges.  Still confused on what this crazy tool does?  Stop by some time, we'll give you a demonstration.

SawStop Tablesaw:  Brent is actually saving up for this table saw - but it's pretty spendy so it will take awhile to reach that goal.  If you've never seen one in action, it's pretty sweet.  As soon as the blade touches something that conducts electricity, a brake immediately engages to halt the blade.  What does that mean exactly?  It means if you are sending a piece of plywood through this bad boy and your finger touches the blade, the saw will automatically sense that and stop, only giving you a small scrape instead of confiscating an entire digit!  Brent is big on safety - he is the guy that actually CHOOSES to wear eye and ear protection, so this one is a no brainer for him.  Plus, he's used this brand before and claims it is a great table saw.  

Forstner Drill Bit Set:  These bits are used to drill hinge cut outs in the backs of cabinet door panels, also used for drilling any kind of flat bottom holes you would need.  They are meant to be used with a drill press, so I guess we better ask for one of those too.

Graco TruCoat Plus II:  Ooooohhhhhhh...mama wants this one REEEAAAALLL bad.  I could probably use this thing every day.  That's an exaggeration - maybe every other day.  This paint sprayer is great for small to medium sized projects, since it doesn't hold a ton of paint.  Not only does this work great on woodwork and crafty type projects, we've used something similar to paint two popcorn ceilings.  Have you ever used a roller on a popcorn ceiling?  May as well schedule a massage before you even start because your neck is going to hurt for three weeks.  And you'll be picking paint out your hair for just as long.

The North Face sweatpants:  Because I want to feel classy when I'm too lazy to put on jeans.

The North Face Flannel:  Because I am always freezing cold.

A Townie Bicycle:  This is my absolute dream bike.  Another mom friend of mine has a Townie and she even let me take it for a spin around the playground once.  It was positively dreamy.  I finally knew what it felt like to be one of the cool kids.  Well, a cool mom anyways.  Mine would definitely have a basket though.  And a headlight.

That's not asking for much, right?  I mean, this stuff probably only has a retail value of about $5,000 - and we have been really good this year.  But mom, seriously, it's just the flannel shirt that I really want, ok!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent - Week 2

The second week of Advent saw the Kruse family crossing more things off of the list.  Here's what we've been up to...

1.  The Western Mall Light Show - an indoor light show, set to music, to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation is something we try to see each year.  It's only about 15 minutes long but is stunning!

2.  We made Brent's Puppy Chow (Muddy Buddies).  This is his favorite Christmastime treat...pssstttt....don't tell him that we could actually make this ANY time during the year.  The guy just goes crazy for the stuff.  I wish I was kidding when I tell you that I caught him eating it for breakfast.  Even the look in his eyes screams, "I want to devour you!"

You should have seen Owen's eyes light up when he saw me pour liquid chocolate/peanut butter over cereal.  Amazement.  It takes so little to impress these children!

3.  Bought Angel Tree gifts.  Brent is on the church committee in charge of the Angel Tree, so we got to help get everything ready for it this year.  We went shopping one night and then wrapped everything the following afternoon - it was a joint project with my parents.  Tomorrow, we will help deliver them to their families.

4.  Santa Advent calendars. My mom gave both kids these super cute Santa posters that the kids need to glue a cotton ball on each day.  When Santa's beard is full, that means it's Christmas.  It was evident after 2 days that we had a problem.  When Owen says the word "cotton ball", he has trouble with the two t's.  Instead of the t sound, he makes the ck sound.  Go ahead and try that out in your head, not out loud!!  Guess what it sounds like?  Yep, we cringe a little bit too.

5.  Bought a new puzzle.  We've just barely gotten a start on it though.  This one may take awhile.

We've got a jam packed weekend ahead of us full of birthday parties, Christmas programs and church activities.  The schedule is heating up!!  What's on your agenda for the weekend?