Our Christmas Spider

A friend recently tagged me on facebook asking if I’d ever heard of the Christmas Spider. The short version of the story is about a spider that came down after the Christmas housecleaning was done, and made an elaborate web all over the tree, Father Christmas took pity on both the spider and the housewife, and turned the web into silver which is why there is tinsel on trees. Putting a spider on the tree, thanks the industrious spiders for all their hard work.

We have a house full of industrious spiders, and we are trying to encourage the children to relocate them outside instead of just smushing them.

Initially, I thought about making my own Christmas Spider, and then I remembered I already had the just-perfect one stashed away in a box. I’m not totally sure of the origins of the fabulous spider brooch, I believe it may have been my paternal grandmother’s, I’ve had it for a number of years now, and it never fails to delight and horrify.

This Christmas it will take a place of pride on our tree. I’m not going to bother with tinsel, but the tree will likely be draped in enough garlands to make our spider bro feel right at home.

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Smashed Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve made a fair bit of soup the last few weeks. With the days growing colder and shorter, and the rainy weather brought by the Pineapple Express, soup seems like the right choice for dinner as the darkness closes in. I can also make it in the crock-pot and forget about it until later (at least that’s the theory).

The boys like their vegetable soup “chunky, like Ms. Liz makes.” I prefer my vegetable soup to be more pureed. I’ve had to compromise, and now the soup is “smashed” — I use the potato mashed instead of the immersion blender, and the end result is thick, creamy soup with chunks.

Winter has also brought a change to our CSA box, we’ve been getting butternut squash in our box the last few weeks. Some weeks it is sent off to school, some weeks I attempt to do something with it at home, roasting it is only popular so many times before the novelty wears off, so this week I decided to try it in soup.

I had every intention of making this in the crock-pot, but the power went out (again) after I had started it so I transferred everything to my dutch oven and let it simmer covered on the stove for several hours.

IMG_0382Smashed Butternut Squash Soup
Serves more than I intended to, I’ll probably freeze the leftovers

Ingredients:

2 large butternut squash cubed (that’s what I had on hand, I have no clue how many cups it was)
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic – smashed/minced/whatever
1 box chicken stock (4 cups) + water to cover (approx. 4 more cups)
a few sprigs fresh thyme
a few sprigs fresh sage
some ground pepper
some salt

Directions:
1. Place squash, apples, carrots, onion, garlic, stock, water and herbs in a slow cooker on low and allow to cook for 6-8 hours (until everything is mushy tender) — this was my original plan, and then the power went out, so it simmered on the stove top in my dutch oven for 6+ hours.
2. When everything is tender, scoop out any of the herb stems, then smash with a potato masher (or use an immersion blender for a smoother puree).
3. Add extra and pepper to taste. Serve with generous dollops of sour cream, parsley garnishes, bacon, croutons, or whatever else suits your mood.

Patrick prefers his thinned/cooled off with either whole milk or heavy cream.

Oh, where do you come from you little flakes of snow? Falling softly, softly falling, on the earth below. On the trees and on the bushes on the mountains afar. Tell me snowflake do you come from where the angels are?

- Winter Verse from Ms. Donna

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Some rounds from the peach tree branch Sasha gave the boys several months ago have been transformed into candle holders for the slender hand-dipped beeswax candles we made at the school’s Winter Faire. We plan to light them during our Christmas Eve dinner.

The gnome on the card tree was made by the very talented Monica Ashley.

Lego Winter Village in action & transformation

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In November, in the very early stages –  the snowflake fabric makes me happy

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Also in November

The beautiful (and often infuriating) thing about our Winter Village is that it is not a static display, it is regularly taken down and played with. It also grows and changes daily with new additions from the Lego Advent Calendar.

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Patrick with all of the Winter Village (before the Advent Calender) on the building board that Gavin built

The boys enjoy playing with it, and on occasion, the Advent Gnomes get ambitious and set up scenes on a shelf in the dining room.

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the “Advent Gnomes” got a little ambitious the other night and made a scene on a shelf in the dining room, complete with blue LEDs (Dec. 5th)

Shortly after the last photo was taken, the Winter Village had an encounter with an Abominable Three Year Old. He is still learning to use his “gentle hands” and learning the meaning of “leave it alone” and sadly the Village sustained extensive damage. The Advent Gnomes’ feelings were very hurt by the incident so now the Village is “resting” until it can be mended.

the Pineapple Express & Peanut Butter Play dough

A weather system nicknamed the Pineapple Express hit the west coast Wednesday night. School was canceled Thursday, and my cell phone pinged about a dozen times with flash flood, high wind, and pouring rain warnings. Sometime Wednesday night the power went out and stayed out for about 10 hours (?) possibly longer, coming back around noon on Thursday.

Breakfast at 6 am by candle light.

Breakfast by candle light at 6:00 in the morning.

Thankfully, we had some notice of the impending deluge. Our part of Sebastopol regularly gets stuck without power, so Wednesday morning while the boys were at school, I gathered candles, double checked the batteries in the lanterns and flashlights. To help pass the time as we waited out the worst of the downpour, I found some edible play-dough recipes — why edible? Why not?

The honey got cold so it took longer to pour.

All the things

I wasn’t totally thrilled with any of the recipes I came across, so I took the two most common variations and made my own.

Peanut Butter Play-dough

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

What to do:

  • Dump in bowl, mix with wooden spoon until it has a play-dough like consistency.

IMG_0369The play dough kept them occupied on-and-off between bursts of creative play (train building in the living room), and getting out of the house for lunch (thankfully some parts of town had power).

Patrick consumed most of his play dough — the rest was thrown out after he dunked it in his water. Oliver’s was played with to bits that ended up all over the table, chairs and floor.

High fun factor, great flavor, pain in the back to scrape out of tile grout. I’ll keep this recipe on hand, but it’ll take another deluge to convince me to make it again.

The Advent Gnomes

The boys have two advent calendars this year, one from Lego, and one from the local fabric/craft store (on sale, plus a coupon) with pockets that can be filled. The Lego one, without fail, has so far something exciting each and every morning, the one that needs to be filled has had the occasional let-down.

The first four days of December the calendar to be filled was filled with care, peppermint bark squares, or mini-candy canes were discreetly tucked in to the pockets once they were snugly tucked into their beds, and then one morning, the pockets were empty.

How did this happen? Oliver looked at me in disbelief. I get enough grief for enough things so I passed the blame onto the Advent Gnomes. They’re the Gnomes responsible for filling the Advent calender (everyone knows this).

IMG_0320Sometimes I think the talk of gnomes and fairies in the early childhood at school is a bit crazy, and sometimes I’m really glad I’ve got gnomes to blame for one night of slacking off.

Oliver told me that he was “very sad the gnomes forgot, then he went over to the nature table where the Gnomes reside. He gave them a very stern talking to. He explained that the Nature Table Gnomes should tell them (the Advent Gnomes) they will bring chocolate tomorrow!

So far the gnomes have not forgotten again. 

IMG_0275The Advent Gnomes also took full credit for St. Nicolas’ visit. They left the boys clementines, chocolate, candy canes and carved wooden ornaments of their first initials to hang on the tree (when we eventually put it up).

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our Lego Winter Village – Santa’s Workshop

Up until now, our Lego Winter Village has been made entirely out of parts we already had on hand — yes, we have a wide variety of part, and largely built without the aid of directions or building guides.

On the afternoon before Thanksgiving, Grandma and Oliver built the Christmas Tree Lot Truck. On Thanksgiving afternoon, Grandma and Oliver built the Giant Snowman. It was a lot of building, and Oliver was really excited to be able to do so much of it all on his own!

On Thanksgiving eve, Dulce, Gavin and I added Santa’s Workshop to our Christmas Village.The boys were thrilled to have a real Santa (not just Mommy’s found-parts “Santa”), and a real sleigh with the most adorable reindeer.

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