Friday, December 31, 2010

new culinary adventures

I received a beautiful new ice cream maker as a Christmas gift this year from my parents and I couldn't wait to bust it out and try my hand at homemade ice cream creations! Every year for Christmas I make homemade almond roca along with my Christmas cookies. This year I didn't have it in me for an afternoon of toffee making so it just didn't get done.Only once I unwrapped the machine I had an urge to whip up a batch of almond roca ice cream. The ice cream machine is really easy. The hardest part is waiting for the cream mixture to get cold and the frozen freezer bowl to freeze. I made a basic vanilla ice cream and mixed in broken up almond roca after the churning stage and then stuck it in the freezer to harden up.

Now my worry is that we will be eating ice cream more often. I bought some good yogurt to try making frozen yogurt instead. Let's hope, for my waistline's sake, it tastes yummy!

The almond roca. This is pretty easy. To make this you need a candy spoon, candy thermometer, deep saucepan, bowl of cold water, 9x9 glass pan with ground almonds lining the bottom, semi sweet chocolate chips. Melt a stick (1/2 cup) butter in the sauce pan on a little lower than medium heat. Add 3/4 cup packed brown sugar and stir like crazy until the mixture is a hard crack on your thermometer and it's pulling away from the sides of the pan. Dribble a little in the cold water to test the crunchiness of the roca before you take it off the heat. Quickly pour the candy on top of the almonds and spread a little so it's not too think in places. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let them melt then spread the chocolate all over the candy. Sprinkle with almonds and refrigerate until cool. Voila, almond roca-way better than the store bought stuff.**warning. I may make this recipe sound super easy. On one hand it is. On the other hand I've been making almond roca every Christmas since I was tall enough to stand at the stove and stir the candy spoon. Years of practice makes the timing of candy making easy. If you try this and the first time it doesn't work. Let me know. I probably have some tips for you. But seriously, this stuff is to die for so you should try this!

child proofing

Thanks to my parents, we now have a real baby lock for our cabinets under our kitchen sink that house all sorts of chemical stuff Arabella was starting to investigate.

This is our child safety lock we had been using. It's the elastic strip on an old pair of Justin's boxers turned cleaning rag. This solution is one parts Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris (which by the way, was under the Christmas tree for me from my hubby-imagine my surprise and his joy when I realized there were no actual crafts in this book I would attempt) and two parts trailer park, with a dash of Filipino. If you ever thought for a moment that my family and I are the classy type, think again.

shout out to German made toys

The Playmobil castle is definitely the most beautiful toy Santa brought to our house this Christmas. Yes, it took a long time to assemble. Yes, there are dangerously small pieces unsafe for Arabella. Yes, it was a tad on the pricey side (or so Santa says). But this toy is gorgeous. The craftsmanship is great and the details on the characters and furniture are amazing. The castle itself is beautiful to look at and play with. We have plans to super glue some of the tiniest pieces in place so Bella can't remove and taste them. It's also a nice toy to add on to with different rooms and such.

green space

The American cemetery for men and women who fought during World War II in the Philippines is a beautiful monument and green space in the middle of stinky Manila. We've only been once before but both visits have been nice. When the girls were running (respectfully) in the grass, it felt like we could have been in the States. It's really a beautiful resting place.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

day after Christmas road trip

We hit the road and drove to Tagaytay the day after Christmas. The roads were clear and we wanted to show Brienne some of the Philippines outside of Manila. We all needed a break from the big city so lunch at Antonio's beautiful oasis restaurant was perfect! The views of Lake Taal were not too shabby either.

Merry Christmas 2010

Santa Claus came!Bella could have stopped after her stocking stuffer airplanesPlay teepee is a hitTired out from the morning activitiesSanta underestimated the size of our apartment!Arabella's Santa giftAdelaide's Santa giftAddie loves her VTech V-Reader from Grammy and GrandpaBoth girls got scooters from Poppy and Grandma Kathy. Addie deemed it her favorite gift.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve is here

Christmas Eve in a few photos:
Puzzle time (man we are getting old, but this was so much fun)Turkey in the ovenBoxes from family piled high (Thank you!)smoked muscles to tide us over for Christmas Even dinner (tradition in my family)Christmas Even dinner spread (with enough leftovers so I don't have to cook Christmas dinner). New on the menu was creamed cheesy spinach. The girls couldn't wait to get their mitts on mashed potatoes and turkey. I have to say my pan drippings gravy was the best ever tonight. Gravy is a blessing. Yes, I did just say that. The meal was great. Even Brienne loved it (score!).After dinner, the girls were adorable. A Christmas version of "Ring Around the Rosie" ensued. See video. All day long we chatted about Santa coming tonight. Addie is beyond excited and equally terrified because she's not a fan of Santa in person. She digs the fact that Santa will come while she's asleep so she won't have to meet him face to face.

I was tucking Adelaide into bed tonight when I realized we hadn't put any cookies out for Santa Claus yet. She jumped up to help and we quickly grabbed our cookie plate, some Christmas cookies, and a carrot for the reindeer. She was in a big hurry because at any moment Santa could be coming. She dictated a note for Santa then signed it. (it reads: Dear Santa, We love you. Happy Holidays. Addie). She decided the treats needed to be on the coffee table and even set out her stool for Santa to sit down while he snacks. I pretty much melted as she did this. She heard a noise outside as she was signing the note and quickly ran back to her bed. She has no worries about Santa Claus finding our house since we've already planned out Santa's route inside. We are leaving our curtains open and the balcony door unlocked for Santa to get easy access to our Christmas tree and stockings. Back in bed, she suddenly realized that Santa will be landing on our house with his sleigh and LOTS of reindeer. Oops we only left one carrot! I explained that with all the stops Santa will be making tonight the reindeer will have lots of carrots and things to snack on so it's OK that they all share our one carrot. She decided that was fair. We are hoping the midnight Christmas fireworks Manila is known for don't wake our sleeping beauties for too long tonight. Now it's time for the grown ups to make some hot chocolate, turn on It's a Wonderful Life, and wait for Santa!