Christmas Day

Opening his stocking presents. He didn't care for anything else but the book. We hope this love of reading thing will stick.

Happy New Years Eve!

Holiday

We hope you had a fantastic Christmas!
We are, once again, having fun away from the computer.

Here is a super cute video, The Christmas Story, all acted out by kids.


Enjoy!



Getting Ready

The Lego Advent Calendar is being well loved. Most of the windows have been opened. We take turns as a family, or else argument ensues. If Advent means something is coming, shouldn't we open the windows starting at 24? Counting down to 1?
I presume it's harder to keep track of. We will have to get this every year from now on, I'm afraid.
Lego is 100 times better than chocolates. My favourite mini fig so far is the ice fishing eskimo. I got to open that window and build him. :)
We broke out the fancy Christmas china. Actually, I lied, we use these melamine plates 365 days a year.
We've added to the chalkboard.
I'm having a hard time keeping up with the smearing on the bottom. Headless bird under that tree, it will stay.
As long as it's still pretty up top.
P.S. Welcome to those of you who are visiting via Pinterest because of this tree. We are enjoying our Christmas tree very much, and are so glad that you do too! 
Merry Christmas!

Christmas Reads

Recently, we've been reading:
Packing in all that Christmas-ness, as much as we can.

Those roasted potatoes on the cover of Nigella's book - boy were they divine. I followed her recipe, replacing the tub of goose fat with a combination of olive oil and butter. They were so delicious, the best roasted potatoes, ever! Out goes my old method, in with jolly Nigella's.

The One to Two Days Scarf

4 more days until Christmas!
More than enough time to finish up this last minute scarf.
It's actually called The Eleventh Hour Scarf. I used a thinner yarn, so I guess mine should be The One to Two Days Scarf. It's difficult to knit with a little one tugging at the scarf/yarn/needles. I usually get about 4 stitches in before something happens.
The general hijinks.
These are his favourite toys of the moment. Anything with buttons. And if they light up, the better.
Now if only I can get him to sit still.
In theory, we would have less fuzzy photos if there was better lighting.
But all he wants to do is play with the light, not sit in front of it.

Dining Out: Deer Garden 鹿園魚湯米線

Living in Vancouver, it's not difficult to find restaurants where I get to feel like I'm transported back to Hong Kong. I don't venture to them very often, mostly because I'm not sure which one to go to, there are SO many. Good thing I have friends who know. Deer Garden is a Hong Kong style cafe featuring noodle soups in fish broth. The best thing about this noodle soup joint is that you get to build your own, choosing from a variety of soup bases, noodle types, and toppings.
It didn't hurt that it was tasty, without the help of MSG, as the menu claims. This is comfort food for me, a good bowl of Hong Kong style noodle soup. We created the following combos:
Chiu Chow style dried fish and minced pork fish soup, vermicelli noodles, home-made cuttlefish balls, beef brisket, and baby bok choy.
Malay laska soup (yellow curry), flat rice noodles, beef tongue, and fish tofu. All noodles bowls come with mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, cilantro and green onions.

Very different combinations, both were deemed to be hearty and delicious. But we knew it was going to be good, because this place was recommended with high praise by real Chinese people, and we had to wait for a table. It's always a good sign of yummy food if you have to wait for a table. 

So if you are not Chinese but are feeling adventurous to have a taste of what everyday Hong Kong food is like, I recommend you go here. They do have English on the menu, but try not to feel annoyed if you have to ask the wait staff for service, that's how it's done back home.

No Sew Bow Tie Update

The double sided tape used for crafting Castle's bow tie did more than alright. It stayed in tack the whole night. 
And Castle managed to do the same. No meltdowns despite the late bed time. Thank you for being a swell boy.

No Sew Bow Tie

I would love to have a sewing station, where the machine is all set up ready to go, and all I have to do is sit down to get working. One day. While I'm waiting for that day, I will continue to use double sided tape for small 'sewing' projects. 

Castle needed a bit of flash on his outfit for the annual Christmas Gala that our church puts on. It's a formal event, and we look forward to it each year because we get to see everyone all in one place, plus make ourselves all pretty and dapper! So to add a little shimmer to Castle's outfit, I made a bow tie for him.


Since he is only going wear this once, I figure I can get away with making it without sewing. He's already yanked on the bow tie a few time during the tryout and it has stayed intact.

To make this you will need:
Fabric of your choice (Champagne Satin shown here, to match Daddy's tie)
Double sided tape (1/2" wide)
Woven Elastic Band

Cut fabric to a 5" square.
On the front side of the fabric, line three edges with double sided tape.
Make a roll with the fabric and peel off the top of the tape to stick. Fold the sticky side down to stick to the opposite edge, front of fabric to front, to make a seam. Make sure you roll the correct edge so that it looks like the above, with double sided tape on each end of the tube.
Here comes the only tricky part. Peel off the top of the tape on one end of the tube and tuck the sticky tape edged bit back into the tube, while aligning the long seam in the middle, as above. Press to seal.
Do the same to the other side. Now there's no raw fabric edges showing.
Cut another pice of fabric 2 1/2" X 3", and tape the seam, on the long side, to make a roll as per before. This will be the middle of the bow tie.
Use some double sided tape at the ends to secure the middle piece to the big piece.
Wrap the middle piece around the big piece, with exposed seams at the back, and adjust the shape of the bow tie.
Trim off the excess, and use double sided tape again to secure.
Measure an elastic to go around your little one's neck, and thread it into the back. I actually peeled back the middle part to taped it on for added security. Also, I used a little piece of tape on the raw edge of the middle piece to prevent fraying.
There it is. Andrew couldn't even tell it was put together with tape. Now that he knows I can whip up a bow tie in 10 minutes he said he's going to request them from now on, with funky fabrics and patterns, and matching ones with Castle.
All ready to go.

Making Stuff

You know how food can have such a strong bond to memories? Especially childhood memories... This is what Andrew has been requesting for years now. Frangipane Squares.
He calls them Frangy Pangy. The first time I looked at the recipe I refused to make them because the amount of butter you gotta use is insane! Therefore, in keeping with the tradition of the over eating month of December, I made them. Recipe below.

Other stuff got made too. When we really should have been sleeping. Some friends came over for dinner and we let their kids have at it with all the Lego. We were trying to clean up after they left but instead, we stayed up, Lego-ing.
 For some reason both Andrew and I made vehicles.
 I think it's because we've been car shopping.


Frangipane Squares

Bottom Layer
1 1/4 cup Flour
1/2 cup Icing Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup + 3 tbs butter, cold, in small pieces
2-4 tbs cold water

Mix flour, sugar and salt together. Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Add water to form a dough. Press into a 8"X8" pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.

Middle Layer
Jam or preserves (any flavour you like, strawberry, raspberry, apricot...)

Spread a layer of jam onto the baked bottom layer while still hot, to cover the entire surface. This is where you can add a few fresh raspberries, blueberries, or pineapple chunks, if you want to be adventurous and creative.

Top Layer
1 cup Icing Sugar
2/3 cup butter
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp Almond Extract
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup Finely Ground Almonds + 1/4 cup for sprinkling 
A handful of Chopped almonds, or other kind of nuts

Mix sugar and butter together until creamy. Mix in eggs and yolk one at a time to combine. Add Almond Extract, Vanilla, and salt, mix to combine. Fold in ground almonds. Dollop mixture over the jam layer and spread to cover. Don't worry if it's not perfect, it will level out as it bakes. Bake for 25 minutes at 350°F.

Mix remainder 1/4 cup ground almonds and chopped nuts. Sprinkle over top after 15 minutes of baking. Put it back in the oven to finish baking. Cool on a rack.

Music Score Sheet Wreath

Paper is my favourite crafting medium. It's inexpensive, forgiving, and versatile.

I found the music score book in a thrift store. I felt a little bad about cutting up Tchaikovsky and Beethoven but it's okay if it's for a good cause.

To make this, you will need a practically free DIY square wreath form, and a pile of paper leaves.

How to make a pretty leaf:
Cut on the 'bias' of the page (on an angle) so that the music score is running across the leaf on a diagonal, not strait up and down or straight across. 

Also, score the middle of the leaf with the tip of a scissor in a curve and fold, just like the curvy red line in the middle leaf. You can see the difference between the leaf on the left and on the right. Left leaf, straight fold, blah. Right leaf, curvy fold, pretty! 

Last, cut leaves of different sizes for variety.
Glue leaves with hot glue onto the wreath form.

Glue the second row over lapping the first, covering the not-so-pretty toilet roll.

Keep going gradually around the corner. 

Until about here.
It was at this point that I ran out of leaves and glue.

I needed more leaves than I thought. In total I used about 6 sheets of music.
Make sure to leaf around the tube to hide most of the toilet paper roll. 

On the back of the wreath, glue on something to hang it with. I used a giant paper clip, it was what I had within arms reach. Yikes, the back side is so ugly.

Good thing the front is not.

Santa?

It was a small room bursting at the seams with babies and toddlers at the Christmas party we went to yesterday. In amongst all the mayhem Santa came for a visit. I was not surprised when most of the toddlers had pouty faces dripping with tears as their parents tried to force them to sit on Santa's lap. Why do we do such things to kids? Santa is kind of a scary guy.
Poor Castle started crying as soon as the jolly old man strolled in with those bells. He didn't want to go near Santa when his name got called out. Those little hands grabbed on so tight they left nail marks on my arm. It's okay, Santa is just a guy in costume. I know this may be unconventional, but we don't do Santa at this house. I didn't get presents from Santa growing up. I was taught that Christmas is not about Santa or presents. I remember thinking, my parents are such weirdos. But eventually, year after year, a present does come, just not from Santa, but from Mom and Dad. So as long as I still get a present, my world was alright. (And it was A present, not plural, just one. Weirdos.)

Square Wreath Form

A practically free DIY square wreath form.
Made from toilet paper rolls.
Gather / save your toilet paper / paper towel rolls. The Orchestral Excerpts book is not required for this, but it is for the wreath, which I will show you later. You will need 8 rolls.
To make the corner, cut two rolls on a 45 degree angle.
Tape together on the cut sides.
Make another...
And an other, and an other...
Now tape all four of them together.
I will get to that sheet music another day. Now we must go get ready for a Christmas party, that happens in the morning, on a weekday... for the kiddies, of course.
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