December 25, 2023

Merry and Happy

I'm just under the wire in getting this post up on Christmas day, but I do want to wish you all a peaceful night and hopes that you enjoyed the time with the ones you love.
I'm taking a few days off to hang around the house and hopefully fool around with my new camera lens, knit my afghan, and finish my quilt.  A girl can dream, right?
Though these two clowns have other plans, I'm sure, some of which I'll bet involve Legos.
Hope you enjoy your time together with friends and family. I'm most certainly savoring it this year.  Happy new year too!

December 19, 2023

Easy Baking with #MaytagMoms

It's coming up on the end of month three of my Maytag Kitchen makeover, and I continue to pleased and impressed with the appliances I received.
I love to cook, and am especially busy in the kitchen during the holidays.  I've baked lots of cookies, made homemade play dough on the stove, and of course made up a batch of my specialty, spicy snack mix.  I could even fit all my trays in my Maytag oven at once, and they baked evenly with the convection feature.
That makes it so convenient to bake, not having to stand around waiting to bake batch after batch of cookies or snack mix.

I also made some of my friend Shana's exceptionally good saltine toffee candy.
I was a little concerned when the caramel sauce was bubbling and splattering, both on the stove and in the oven.
However, both the cooktop and oven cleaned up so easily.  The Maytag range has "an innovative coating called AquaLift Self-Clean technology that activates with water and heat to release tough baked on soils from underneath. This allows you to easily wipe away food and debris."  I've certainly found that to be true, and it saves me the time of having to use the self-cleaning mechanism, or to be on my hands and knees with my head in the oven. :)
One other thing about the cooktop I like: the warming center, which is great for keeping mulled cider or wine hot and also for keeping pancakes warm.  It sure beats having to turn on the oven to do that.

Since my last post, my husband and father-in-law installed the cabinets and microwave, which has made a huge difference in the kitchen.
Rather than taking up precious counter space (having an entire counter for cooking and rolling out cookies again has been awesome!), we are able to have the microwave above the stove, making it easy to melt butter, reheat food and even boil water for a quick cup of tea.  This microwave is so much more powerful than our last one.
I've been getting to know the features on the microwave, and have been using the "soften/melt" key a lot with baking and cooking.  It senses when butter or cheese has melted or softened without overdoing it.  I'm still learning some of the other keys, but most frequently use the simple timed cooking which is common to all microwaves.  I don't think I'll use most of the bells and whistles on this microwave; it was the same with our last one too.  Once I get to know how quickly things cook, I tend to just use the basic features.

So far the range and microwave have not let me down.  I'm happy with how dependable they've been, and how convenient they've made cooking and baking this time of year.  We still have a ways to go (Grandma's pierogie recipe, perhaps, and definitely some entertaining for a New Year's Eve party), and I'm counting on these appliances to give us more time to enjoy the season rather than working away the evening in the kitchen.
You can keep up with Maytag via their Facebook page, @MaytagBrand on Twitter and by checking out the other Maytag Moms (including the laundry moms) by following us on Twitter under the hashtag #MaytagMoms.
Disclosure: I wrote this post participating in an Maytag Moms Dependable Kitchen Ambassador program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Maytag. I was provided with a Maytag kitchen appliances set, including a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, and range to facilitate my post.

December 18, 2023

The Lost Boys

Like many other parents, I've been extra-emotional this week.  I ache for those families who have lost beloved little children especially.  Our hospital ordeal this fall with Soren makes that pain quite real for me.

While I haven't been glued the news (we don't have cable tv), just reading articles online about the tragedy has evoked so many emotions.  Obviously sadness, but also more complicated feelings like those raised in this article, which has been making its way around Facebook and Reddit.

While many people are screaming out about gun control, I'm not so sure that's where the problem lies.  Truthfully, I'm worried about boys.

All of my life, I've been surrounded by boys.  As sister to four brothers, mother to two boys, and even caretaker to many male pets, I've been surrounded by the Y chromosome.  So in some ways, I either have a keen perspective on males or am just more able to relate to them than some females.  Who knows.

What I do know is that boys are in trouble.  In a culture that seems to be crushing healthy outlets for masculinity (having to sit still all day in school, lack of rite-of-passage rituals, etc.), situations like the one that occurred in Connecticut are bursting out of a bubbling pot.  Now of course I understand that this lost young man was mentally unstable, but I think that what happened is an indicator of something larger.

What do boys need?  I'm trying to figure that out myself, but I know lots of outdoor time, interactions with other boys their age, and a positive male adult role model are good starting points.

I think sometimes we don't know what to do with boys, myself included.  I'm a quiet, introverted person by nature, so having to raise loud, boisterous, crude boys myself has been difficult.  I'm turned off by their need for constant physical interaction, their drive to climb everything and to destroy (at least this describes my sons).
Snoman: DESTROY!
It's been a frustrating journey to raise them thus far, but it has opened my eyes to many things about myself (that's a topic for many other posts).

I'll admit that I've had many, many failings.  Yes, I've used TV and iPad games to get a break from that constant in-your-face interactions with Soren, especially.  I wish I could give every ounce of myself to him, but I need to recharge too, and as in introvert, that happens when I'm quiet and alone.

Who knows what the future has for my sons.  I see tinges of anger in my older son and worry about him heading down a path of destruction.  I hope that Chris and I are prepared, knowing that we may have to take some unconventional measures to keep S on the right path.  A book Chris often references and which has changed his perspective on modern manhood is Robert Bly's Iron John.  I've yet to read the book, but am keenly interested in discovering more about men and the rites-of-passage that are lacking in our disjointed, modern society.

I'd love to write more on this topic of boys, which is of great interest to me, however said boys are now pulling me away from my thoughts. 

Hug those kids of yours, and those men in your life who they look up to.

December 14, 2023

The Pennsylvania Ballet Presents The Nutcracker

Last Saturday, Soren and I were treated to a magical performance of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, as performed by The Pennsylvania Ballet.

We enjoyed a fun day out in Philadelphia, indulging in a chocolate lunch at Max Brenner's (ah-maze-ing) and catching the holiday show at the Comcast Center.
But the highlight of the day was the opening performance of The Nutcracker at The Academy of Music, performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet, which is celebrating its 25th season.
The theater itself is marvelous, in all its gilded, Neo-classical glory (or maybe neo-Rococo?)
I remember seeing the show many years ago at the same venue, as well as trying to catch a yearly television broadcast of Baryshnikov's version.   It's just part of my Christmas history now, and I hope that Soren and Jude continue in that tradition.  Soren's stocking even has an image of the Mouse King on it.  I had high hopes when I bought it years ago.

My friend and I attended the performance with two 4 year olds, one of which was my energetic son.  I was surprised that they were both engaged for the majority of the ballet.  Considering we had walked them around the city and it was dark and quiet in the theater, I was impressed that neither child fell asleep.  Soren was actually sitting on the edge of his seat during the battle between the Mouse King and the toy soldiers.  Though he wasn't eager to come across the Mouse King in the lobby during intermission. 
Image taken from the PA Ballet's Facebook page, when the Mouse King visited Love Park in the city.
Typically for me, the first act with the party scene can often be tedious and a lot to sit through, however The Pennsylvania Ballet made great efforts to make it engaging, especially for children (many of whom made up the audience).  Sibling rivalry, choreographed games and dances by the child performers, and a playful, not menacing Godfather Drosselmeyer (sometimes he's downright scary) made this act fun to watch.  And it ends with such a magical, snowy performance of the Waltz of the Snowflakes, that literally gave me chills.
The Philadelphia Boys' Choir added their voices to the music and magic of the scene; it was like nothing I had ever seen live on stage.

The Nutcracker was a delicious holiday treat that I look forward to seeing every year.  I hope to return again with my family next season.

There are still many performances scheduled for the month of December.  Tickets start at just twenty dollars:
Friday, December 14 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 15 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, December 16 at noon and 5 p.m.
Thursday, December 20 at 7 p.m.
Friday, December 21 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, December 23 at noon and 5 p.m.
Monday, December 24 at noon
Wednesday, December 26 at noon and 5 p.m.
Thursday, December 27 at 2 p.m.
Friday, December 28 at 2 p.m.
Saturday, December 29 at 2 p.m.
Sunday, December 30 at noon and 5 p.m.
You can connect with The Pennsylvania Ballet via @PaBallet on Twitter and on Facebook.
Disclosure: I received complementary tickets to The Nutrcracker for review. All opinions are my own.

December 13, 2023

Stuck: With So Many Things to Do

I need to stay off Pinterest. Not because I'm addicted (I maybe visit the site every other day), but because it makes me feel so inadequate.  Yes, I have the ability to make a lot of the crafts and recipes, so that isn't the problem. It's just when do I find the time? I want to make so many of them, yet here I am, stuck, with nothing to show for my online dalliances other than a pin board that just gets larger.  Which one is the one I want to make? Where do I begin?

I have some guilt during this month, wanting to make lots of cute, handmade gifts for others, yet knowing that many of my recipients don't appreciate crafty presents.  My knitting hours have been selfishly going into my afghan, which I'm working hard to finish before the weather gets warm.  It's halfway there, and has taken all my determination, despite many, many mistakes and ripping out rows.
My to-do list, or more pointedly, a want-to-do list is growing, mostly with gift and holiday ideas that I know I just won't do.  Managing two boys certainly overwhelms me most days, and during those days when naps and TV occupy the little minds for an hour or two, all I want to do is veg out on the couch.  Usually behind a screen myself.

Even my posts here haven't been so stellar.  What stories do I have to tell this week? What funny things have happened?  Instagram doesn't always make its way into our day, because these boys just move too quickly (and Jude is always sitting atop a table before I'm able to pull out the phone).

So this rambling post will now end as Jude is waking up from a nap and I've still not done anything creative for the day.  One of these days, I'll pull it together, just not this one.

Are you having a good day?

December 10, 2023

Deck the Halls with Country Living {Giveaway}

On the tails of my last review of a Christmas book from Country Living is yet another delightful book for the holidays, Country Living Deck the Halls

I LOVE this book.  It's filled with lots of ideas for do-it-yourself holiday decor, packaging, ornaments, recipes and crafts.  Its subtitle, Christmas Notecards, Labels, Ornaments and Other Festive & Fun Projects, there are pullout recipe cards, table toppers,  ornaments, gingerbread-house templates, and more, all rendered in a modern and simple style.  These are actual pull-out cards, not things that you need to bother enlarging on a photocopier or scanning into your computer.

Other than the lovely photography, the pages have pretty illustrations in a whimsical, sketchy style.  Each page contains either a pull out item or an idea for a craft, recipe  Some of the ideas have been featured in Country Living Magazine and are revisited in this book.  Chapters include Delicious Gifts from the Kitchen, Dazzling Decorations, and Wrap it Up!

There are so many inspiring projects in Deck the Halls that will help bring a modern, country holiday into your home this year and for years to come.

One lucky reader will win a copy of Deck the Halls!  Enter via Rafflecopter below:
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Disclosure: I received a copy of Deck the Halls for review.

December 6, 2023

The Farm Chicks Christmas from Country Living {Giveaway}

When it comes to decorating with a vintage, country flair, The Farm Chicks are experts.  I've admired their work in Country Living magazine, as well as on their website and blog.  While one half of the duo is now retired, Farm Chick Serena Thompson is still creating projects to inspire homemaking, cooking and entertaining.
Thomson is shown in the book above, wearing the red coat
The Christmas book, The Farm Chicks Christmas, now available in paperback, is filled with ideas and tips for creating a welcoming atmosphere in your home for the holidays.
From baking to decorating to crafting, The Farm Chicks Christmas is a great resource for creative and non-creative types.  There are simple ideas like stacking vintage books, spelling out Christmas-y words with Scrabble tiles, and covering cones in fabric,
as well as more involved projects like a holiday scalloped bunting and felt gift card holders
The book is peppered with Serena's stories of family and friends, where she writes of Christmas traditions shared with the ones she loves.  The accompanying photography is gorgeous, whether its subject is a visit to a tree farm to cut down a Christmas tree, or of the beautiful interiors decked out in vintage charm.
Also included are three pages of cute note cards and stickers, which I'm eager to use to accentuate handmade gifts this year.
The Farm Chicks Christmas is a visual delight, and will be a festive resource that I look forward to opening up every December to inspire a homemade and homey Christmas.


One lucky Katydid and Kid reader will win a copy of The Farm Chicks Christmas!
Please enter via Rafflecopter below:
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Disclosure: I received a copy of The Farm Chicks Christmas for review.  All opinions are my own.

December 4, 2023

Fresh from the Oven: The Old Farmer's Everyday Baking Almanac {Giveaway}

Many of my go-to dishes are from The Old Farmer's Almanac cookbook, which I received as a gift a few years ago. I reference it all the time for classic dishes like macaroni and cheese and biscuits.  Naturally I was eager to see that they've published a cookbook especially for baking--The Farmer's Everyday Baking Almanac.
It's as good as my original book, and especially handy this time of year.  I made the Pecan-Top Apple Pie last month which came out perfectly.
I do wish I had dressed it up with the recommended Caramel Sauce, however I didn't have the time to do so.  Though the pie was sweet enough on its own.

I like that the Everyday Baking Almanac includes tips and tricks for better baking, like why the best way to use eggs is at room temperature (cool eggs affect the consistency of butter and other room-temperature ingredients in the dough).

I do wish that the book was more substantial in appearance; it has the look and feel of a magazine, rather than a book.  While the amount of recipes is great (118), I wish it was available in hardcover or was spiral bound for posterity.  The photography is excellent, and unlike the Everyday Cookbook, most recipes have a photo to go along with them, which is something I appreciate.

There are so many tempting recipes in this book, like the Chocolate Mud Bars. They might be great with a teaspoon of peppermint extract and some crushed candy canes to make them more festive for the Christmas season.


From The Everyday Baking Cookbook, page 54


1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
¼ cup cake flour
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.

For crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well with your hands. Add the melted butter, stir well with a fork, then rub the ingredients together well with your fingers until thoroughly mixed. Press the mixture evenly in the prepared pan to form a level layer on the bottom with a lip extending about ¼ inch up the sides of the pan. (Do not prebake the crust).

For filling: Combine the butter and chocolate in the top of a double boiler over not-quite-simmering water. When melted, whisk to smooth, then remove the pan from the heat. Scrape the chocolate into a medium bowl and cool to lukewarm. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk the sugar, eggs, and vanilla into the lukewarm chocolate. Stir in the cake flour, mixing until smooth. Stir in the walnuts. Scrape the batter over the crust and smooth with a spoon. Bake on the center oven rack for 35 minutes only - no longer. Cool on a rack. Refrigerate an hour or so before slicing. Serve at room temperature. Makes 16 bars.

For you bakers out there, I have a copy of The Everyday Baking Almanac to give away!  Please enter via Rafflecopter below:
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Disclosure: I received a copy of the Everyday Baking Almanac for review.  All opinions are my own.

December 3, 2023

Coconut Chai Biscotti {Plus a Giveaway}

Chris has been begging me to make biscotti for ages.  He loves dry, dunk-able cookies perfect for pairing with coffee or tea.  In addition to this sweet confection, he loves chai tea, so I thought it might be great to combine the two into one recipe.
I was contacted again by Hodgson Mill, this time to create a recipe for their "Have a Grain Holiday" challenge, so I thought Coconut Chai Biscotti would be perfect.  It uses a blend of whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and all-purpose flour, as well as nuts, chai spices and coconut.  I'm a fan of Hodgson Mill products, since they're made without GMOs and are made with 100% whole grains, and no artificial colors or preservatives.



  • 3/4 cup Hodgson Mill whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup Hodgson Mill pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 cup Hodgson Mill yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp softened butter (you can substitute coconut oil for half of the butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts)
  • 1 cup packed coconut (if using sweetened, reduce sugar by 1/4 cup)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a non-stick 9x13 sheet pan and set aside.

Whisk together the first 11 ingredients (flours, spices, etc.) and set aside.  With a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and orange juice and beat on low until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low until just combined.  Then add the coconut and nuts and mix again until just combined.
Transfer the dough onto the sheet pan and pat into a 6"x12" rectangle (a piece of wax paper put on top helps to keep your hands from sticking).
Bake for 30-35 minutes on the middle rack, watching for cracks to appear in the top of the dough.  Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the cookie to a cutting board.
With a serrated knife, carefully slice the cookie into 1 inch slices.  TIP: Use the knife as a saw, and don't push down on the knife--let the teeth do the work.
Carefully transfer the slices back onto the baking sheet, spaced about an inch apart.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are browned.
Enjoy with tea, coffee, milk or by themselves.
Chris' only complaint is that there isn't an endless supply of these.  That's enough of  a complement for me!  I think I'll double the recipe next time.
You can download a coupon for $1 off any 5 lb. bag of Hodgson Mill flour, good until December 31, 2012.  I'll definitely be using it toward my holiday baking needs.

And be sure to enter the Baker's Holiday Gift Pack Sweepstakes!
Just head on over to the Hodgson Mill's website to enter.  You can also enter my giveaway to win an assortment of flours.

One lucky reader will win their own Have a Grain Holiday prize pack, which includes the flours I used.  Enter via Rafflecopter below:
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Disclosure: I received a variety of flours from Hodgson Mill in order to facilitate this recipe.

A Little Elf Magic

We've gotten to know our elf friend Martin over the last two years, and were looking forward to his antics this December too.  So far he hasn't disappointed us!

He brought his twin sister Allison to help make this season bright for our family. 
Our elves arrived on the first of December, bearing candy canes and their suitcase/house, a few elfits to change into, as well as bed linens (thank goodness I didn't have to prepare a room for them).
 I'm a fan of Martin's candy cane quilt.
So far, our elves have just been up to mischief and funny antics.  We sprinkle them with snow before bed and set out their customary crackers and ice water (crunchy and cold, to remind them of home) and then they do some magical things during the night.
Soren was enchanted with the Lego replica of their home at the North Pole that they built.

They also like reading stories to an audience of toys at night while sneaking a cup of hot chocolate.
But most of the time, they're up to mischief, or maybe trying to fit into our world and make sense of it.  This morning, Martin wrapped up Soren's shoes as "gifts" before school.
And last night he taped his doorway closed with painter's tape.  I think he overheard Chris and I saying that Soren needs to stay in his bedroom until 6am and no sooner.  It was funny hearing Soren in the morning, tearing through the tape and realizing who did it!

We're eager to see what Elfcapades these elves come up with next!  Their friends even have a Facebook page to keep up with their antics, and star in a video with someone named Matty B (I'm clueless about tween pop culture).

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