holiday wrap

Let me pour you a delicious chocolate martini whilst I tell you about my Christmas. Oh, I forgot the edible gold glitter! Well, just imagine it. The little chocolate "joy" I drizzled out of a piping bag to sling over the side of the glass.

Instructions: Mix one part vanilla vodka, one part chocolate vodka and one part chocolate liquor and shake over ice... strain into a chilled glass and serve to Pepper.

Has your New Year's diet started yet or are you still up for a little snack? I baked triple cheese (brie, cream cheese and goat cheese with figs) stacked inside puffed pastry with thinly sliced pears. I served it up with a maple syrup and white wine reduction, sliced pears and almonds. It is sinfully delicious, served with sliced baguette and crackers.

Now for the presents! Of course you are wondering about my loot, that's perfectly natural. I've been holding out on you. From Veto, the worlds cutest, tiniest laptop computer:

... it fits in my purse! I can take it with me anywhere I go. I suppose now I will become one of those super cool people who blogs from Starbucks. I'm pretty geeked about surfing the internet from the comfort of bed. Veto had my brother Bug install all of the programs that I need and some games that I like. They were both pretty proud of themselves.

From The Fan: the exact opposite of the world's most advanced notebook... an antique typewriter! I lurrve it. It's sitting in our foyer and both Loopy and Buddy Budderson are fascinated with it. What else did The Fan bring?

Saucy Girl lotions for my feet and legs! Awesome! Especially since my feet are so sore and swollen from my hydrocortisone.

The Fan also gussied up some fancy rubber gloves for me to wear around the house - with this:

A lovely Laura Ashley apron. And one for Loopy, too. For when we make cookies and such. The Fan toted these back from the UK.

Now I know all of you will be wondering what my brother Bug made for me this year. My Canadian blogging friends will know who this is:

Mr. Dressup! 1970's CBC children's entertainer extraordinaire. Look behind him, there's his tickle trunk, filled with costumes to dress up and play in. Now look what Bug made for the attic of the dollhouse:

Yes indeed! Complete with tiny costumes and playthings... a little cheerleading uniform and a witch's getup and spellbook, too. Absolutely fab.u.lous.

One of my happiest childhood memories was seeing Mr. Dressup live at the Centennial Auditorium. I wasn't as excited to see Mr. Dressup, truth be told, as I was because I was going to see Mr. Dressup with Wenda Osterhold who lived on Mills Crescent. Wenda was one year older than I was and she had an older sister, Alane Osterhold who lived on Mills Crescent. Well, they had been flower girls at some family wedding the year before... their mother had fashioned them some downright fancy dresses for the occasion. I can still remember those frocks: white polyester with coral daisies and flocked white dots for a pattern. Wenda's had a smocked bib and grownup Alane's had a collar. Oh, the glamour of it all!

I was quite excited you see, because Wenda Osterhold who lived on Mills Crescent had outgrown her dress and would now be wearing her sister's. On the day of the Mr. Dressup concert, I would inherit Wenda's dress. I was quite beside myself to match my grownup friend, why, she went to Kindergarten, don't you know! To me this was the height of sophistication and I clearly remember sitting in the back of The Fan's Ford Impala (the one that ran without keys) speeding down the freeway, admiring my new dress and enjoying the spoils of being the littlest kid of the mother's coffee club... and realizing: Wenda will also grow out of that second dress. Life is good.

I didn't wear a new dress to the theatre on Boxing Day to see Marley & Me starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, but it was still excellent even without the starched polyester. Veto tried to avoid it, being such a dog lover and all... and now, I don't want to ruin it for you, but we anticipated that it would be a sad ending. And it was. And sitting between Veto and Loopy, both crying and sniffling, and looking over at Buddy Budderson with silent tears streaming down his cheeks, I realized: this is not a movie about a dog, it's a movie about family. I love my family and our dogs. Life is good.

Owen Wilson is downright charming, maybe more so than usual. More than four dog biscuits. You must see it. Pack tissue. See it with your family.

my present for loopy

Here is a sneak peek of the special gift I made for Miss Loopy... a Jonas Brothers charm bracelet. I'm giving it to her tomorrow morning. The album covers, band crest and photos are all shrink art! Sweet cousin Sassy made the special cupcakes. Check out the instruments, guitars, a motorcycle (Joe drives a motorcycle, yes) a guitar pick, and the little hearts and even an engagement ring! A girl can dream. I made her a little pair of earrings, too. I suspect this might be one of her favourite gifts this year.

Merry Christmas! I will see you after the holidays.

I was the recipient of the most marvelous random act of Christmas kindness... this parcel arrived from Karen, a fellow Canadian blogger. Loopy and I were thrilled to cuddle up with a cup of Rudolph cocoa and watch Elf last night. Karen is a Club Little House participant who also took part in my Zombie Jar Swap in October. How gorgeous is that dragonfly pendant? I am totally going to wear it to Antigua in January.

Make that, not Antigua in January. The next part of my post is going to sound feeble, ungrateful and spoiled. You might want to avert your eyes if you think I am above such things.

The annual trip that we take with Veto's clients is not to Antigua as of today. It is to Jamaica. Ocho Rios. To be more precise, to the exact same resort we stayed at in 2004 where our room was broken into and ransacked. I think maybe by hotel employees who knew precisely when we would be out of the room and for exactly how long because we were there for a wedding.

And it wasn't a very nice resort. We didn't pick it, then or now. Today the airline announced it isn't flying to Antigua during the specified dates of this year's trip and in order to keep the dates of travel the same because too many people have had to make arrangments, now the only resort left open during those dates is...

... you guessed it. The downtrodden, long-drive-from-the-airport, cosmetics bag thieving resort.

I keep telling myself that it couldn't possibly still be such a dive, five years later. I should It's a tropical destination, after all. What could be so bad about that? You tell me. Have you ever stayed at a bad resort? You are also allowed to tell me to suck it up if you think need be.

just say spahh

Even though we still have a few things to do, Loopy and I took the day off. And I mean We slept in. We ate breakfast in bed. We listened to our iPods and read. Our excuse is that we both are suffering from colds. Is it possible to catch a cold from surfing blogs?

Then, we had a two-hour nap. Sorry to rub it in, we really did. While the rest of the world was out in traffic, cramming in last-minute errands, we were curled up in bed together, snoozing. When we woke up we decided to pamper ourselves a little more while we enjoyed our tea. We used the last of our Evian facial products:

We scrubbed and polished our little feet:

We soaked them in our bubbly foot massaging soaker thingy. And if you still have no idea what to get someone for a Christmas gift, consider a paraffin wax spa. The wax heats up and you dip your feet and hands in it. After you peel off the wax, your warm feet are soft and smooth. Yes, we did this too. It felt so good and warm, especially knowing that it is -37 degrees outside.

On the weekend, we saw Four Christmases starring Reese Witherspoon (America's sweetheart) and Vince Vaughn (Saucy's secret celebrity sweetheart). It was light, fun adult fare (whoops, we took Loopy to see it) but very enjoyable and it put us into the holiday spirit. Veto hates holiday movies but he suffered through this show for me, just like Fred Claus last year... another Vince-Vaughn-starring-as-Vince-Vaughn classic.
Oh, that Reese Witherspoon is just so cute and that Vince Vaughn is just such a tall and sassy drink of water, you can't go too terribly wrong... but it's not Academy Award material of course. I'm giving it three and a half fruitcakes out of five because it's the holidays, after all.

the only thing that separates us from the animals

Finally! The last day of school before the Christmas break. It was red and green day. Loopy of course went all-out. We even knocked the green eyeshadow out of the park thanks to this brand at Sephora. Oh, and the blinking wreath earrings (not really shown)... The Fan brought them for me from New York City back in the 80's! This was actually the first year they needed new watch batteries to operate, can you believe it? The original batteries were so old they had no code number on them. I had to take them to a watch repair - and they wanted fifteen dollars per battery, two batteries per earring... you do the math! No way! I caught the eye of the nice lady working there who mouthed "3-6-2" to me behind her boss's head and I went to the drugstore. So thank you, nice whispering anonymous watch repair lady. Thank you.

I volunteered to take treats to school for the Christmas party. What to do when there are egg allergies, nut allergies, wheat and gluten allergies and dairy allergies? Why, Rice Krispie snacks if at all possible.

We whipped up a tray for the teacher's lounge also. I've had some request for pretzel dipping tips:

  • The rods are not available in Canada, that I have seen at any rate. I smuggle mine home in my carry on from the US. If anybody sees them at a Canadian store, please let us know!
  • Use Wilton brand melting candy and chocolate if you can get your hands on it... at Michaels. It stays soft and workable the longest, and if you need to reheat it - it still melts beautifully.
  • We melt our chocolate and let it cool a bit before working with it. Sort of like tempering, but it is already tempered if it is Wilton. Letting it cool makes it thicker and when you dip the rod more of the candy stays on... sometimes we need to get resourceful and use a tiny spatula and sort of spread the chocolate around quite thickly!
  • This is one of those times you will use the silicone parchment paper that I told you to get at the Dollar Store! Place your dipped rods in rows on the parchment and let the chocolate solidify at room temperature. You don't want to rush it by putting it in the fridge or outside because the cocoa butter in the chocolate will solidify faster than the chocolate itself and then you might get that whit-ish look that chocolates sometimes get.

Loopy is a natural chocolate drizzler. It must be in her blood. We pour the melted chocolate into either a disposable decorating bag or a ziploc (snip the tip off after you've poured the chocolate in!) and just drizzle back and forth, back and forth. Add jimmies or sprinkles, whatever you call them where you live. What do you call them where you live?

And lastly, a tray for Veto to take to the office. I was too tired to cut the Rice Krispies into stars for this batch.

We sent everyone some of our fabulous dipped marshmallows! The same rules of dipping apply. You may want to do two thin coats rather than one thick coat, just in case your marshmallow starts to melt.

After the final dip, set them upright onto a tray of crushed candy canes... or graham crumbs! Decorate with a teddy graham and you have a s'more on a stick! Ours are wearing jaunty Christmas sweaters, just like Loopy.

The last trick up my sleeve this week, a teacher's gift for our Kumon instructors:

flip girl

The photo CD arrived today from Loopy's Triple Flip photo shoot. Kudos to photographer Tracy D! She did an amazing job... just in case any of you are looking for a photographer! The photo above will be displayed at the Midtown Plaza store.

I thought you might like to see a few of the other photos from the shoot...

Check out Miss Loopy's groovy pants by Naomi. She digs the peace signs.

She's got a little of The Fan in her. She can be a hippie when she puts her mind to it.

Today the Grade 8 students visited the high school... the same high school some of their parents attended:

Loopy and her friend Alexandra wore their mother's old cheerleading jackets... like totally, for sure! Very retro. I'm glad I saved it. How cute must they have been, walking in like they owned the place (in 1983)...

bake sale!

I saw these beauties at Foodlife in Chicago, at Water Tower Place. I just had to try one (or two) for myself as I am a sucker for nice packaging.

Our version, for the bake sale to benefit the preschool that Loopy volunteers at. We had to hold our mouths just the right way to get that shredded paper tucked in and not obstructing the view of this:

We hit the Dollarama and got those candy trees and lollies to embellish the house... it looks pretty sweet - pun intended!

Our peppermint bark hearts are always a hit! I get the mini candy canes from the dollar store because they aren't wrapped in those tight tubes... you know what I mean... they are in little cello envelopes and are much easier to get into. Plus, they weren't all broken into bits like the more expensive ones I got at Safeway this year. Also, we use only Wilton Candy Melts when we bake with white chocolate. It stays smooth and soft longer than any other brand. Assemble these bad boys on silicone parchment paper.

We also use only the Wilton sugar cookie recipe for roll and cut cookies. The dough is soft but firm and easy to re-roll as you need. The secret is to use real butter, not margarine.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

Sift together the baking powder and the flour, add gradually to the sugar mixture. You may have to add a tiny bit of water or milk. Roll on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 - 8 minutes, remove from oven and cool on rack.

The marshmallow skewers look amazing this year! We drizzled melted red chocolate on the top of them and sprinkled on some of the crushed candy canes.

This weekend, everything got dipped in melted chocolate... marshmallows, cookies, pretzel rods. Loopy and I do some of our best visiting over melted chocolate. I dip, she drizzles and sprinkles.

the secret weapon turns 80

Today marks The Secret Weapon's 80th birthday! Happy Birthday to a true genius... the fellow to whom we say in jest "it simply cannot be done" and then makes it happen.

I am so lucky to have been blessed with The Secret Weapon as my Dad. Let me show you just a tiny, tiny smattering of the things he has created for me....

Having never attempted to work in stained glass before, he created this dragonfly motif window for the transom over my bedroom door.

I had a silly idea that I wanted rods on my staircase to hold down the carpet runner. When I couldn't find any that suited me, he made them for me. Just like that.

Along with The Fan (his number one assistant) he made this butcher style block for the top of my island. Look carefully below and you will see that he branded it - yes he made a brand! - with a dragonfly.

He fashioned a tiny, detailed metal dragonfly to be inlaid into the concrete countertops in our kitchen.

My craft room is tricked out with an amazing ribbon rack and storage!

Check this out: when he built our oak fireplace, he did a test run complete with a cardboard maquette in the true size for me to live with to see if I liked the depth and height well enough. You can see he has created several cardboard options regarding the dentil mouldings on the cardboard model above.

The gorgeous finished product, replete with a titanium dragonfly... made from the same titanium piece that he used to fashion Veto's wedding ring of.

Because yes, Dear Reader, The Secret Weapon happens to be a talented and award-winning jeweler as well. How incredibly lucky for The Fan, Loopy and I. Here, Loopy models the gorgeous tiara that The Secret Weapon made for me many years ago.

In spite of his ability to work with gold and diamonds, I keep asking him to build me fireplaces! Here, he built a cherry fireplace for our bedroom. I can tell you this story because we don't live in this house anymore: that fancy little detail is actually a secret drawer that opens with a special magnetic key that he made. The box is fireproof and designed to hold valuables... like handmade jewelry and such.

You will think me small and petty, but when we sold that house I didn't show the drawer to the new owners and I didn't leave them the key, either. It was just for me and me alone. I left a letter inside the drawer and someday, somehow, someone might find it... along with the key, which I threw inside.

He makes tiny little fireplaces too! The bear family in my dollhouse are cuddled around the fireplace that he made... he designed it with some sort of fancy electronics so that it flickers randomly, like a real fire. Details like that are important to him. Oh, and did I mention that my dollhouse has a working ceiling fan? And a doorbell? But no running water. Oh, if it only had running water. I suppose it cannot be done.

Club Little House wouldn't be the same without him. He truly earns the name "The Secret Weapon"... figuring out how to make these tiny Birkin bags:

Or the now-famous ironing boards?

Now is the time to avert your eyes if you are a member of Club Little House this round and don't want to have your surprise ruined... of course he helped me with this:

The world's tiniest pink iPod! Yes, it plays music. I can't tell you how we did that, because even "The Secret Weapon" has secrets.

It was The Secret Weapon who concocted those tiny headphones in just the perfect scale. His studio/workshop is a maze of activity... he had everything on hand to make just what we needed.

Here he is, wondering just what sort of project I will get him into next. The Festival of Trees? Charms for a bracelet party? He wants to teach me how to make "real jewelry"... but for his birthday, let's give him the day off! Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Oh, and if you want... I can dig out some photos of other things he has made. It is fascinating.