Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Favorite Christmas Cookies

I thought I had all of the Christmas cookie recipes I would ever need.  My standards include Raspberry Candycane Twists, Chocolate Almond Parson's Hats, and those really easy and cute round pretzels with melted Hershey's kisses and M&Ms.  That's enough, right?  I thought so... until the lovely Jessica posted this recipe.  I have now made it three times, and many of the delighted recipients have asked for the recipe.  Move over, parson's hats! 
Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter at room temperature
2 Tablespoons water
2 eggs
12 oz. chocolate chips
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3 packages Andes mints
  • Cream sugar & butter.  Add water & eggs.  Melt chocolate chips and add to creamed mixture. Add dry ingredients.
  • Roll into 1" balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. After baking, immediately top each cookie with a mint. Allow to melt, then spread like frosting.
  • Then for the most difficult step:  Allow the candy layer to harden and cool completely before enjoying.  Tough, but worth it! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Struckmeyer Elves

Karl and I are so lucky to live close to a lot of family members, including his grandmother, Helen.  She is very dear to us, and we try to do something special with her every Christmas.  She came to our house on Sunday for cookie decorating and dinnner. 

Karl and I made the cookies ahead of time...

And we put Helen to work sprinkling and sugaring them! 

 We sent her home with a big container full of her handiwork... hopefully enough to hold her over till Christmas!
After dinner, cookies, and more cookies, we had some time to relax by the fireplace.  Karl got out his guitar and we sang a few songs.  Sometimes I can't even believe how darling my husband is.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I don't know how it is where you live, but here in Madison, anytime there's a large gathering of people doing something kind of out of the ordinary, we like to add "Con" to the end of the title.  There's TeslaCon, GeekCon, OdysseyCon, WisCon, and, yes, SantaCon.  Last weekend, Karl and I put on our Santa gear and joined hundreds of other Santas downtown for some holiday bar hopping.   
There was a Badger game on during the first couple of stops.  Some Santas were more interested in the game than others. 

 Me with my friend and SantaCon organizer, Molli.  As you can see, I wore way too many clothes.  I'm already planning next year's outfit.  Probably not as lingerie-oriented as Molli's, but not as pajamaish as this year's get-up.  Which, by the way, I made while living in Alaska, and every time I've worn it (which has been like twice) not in Alaska, people have asked me if I'm dressed up like Mrs. Claus.  You can understand why I thought it was a good choice for SantaCon.
Also, it has been ten years since I lived in Alaska.  Perhaps it's time for me to say good-bye to that garment, now that I think about it.  But then there's the matching headband to deal with, too...
Just a bunch of Santas walking down the street.  I loved seeing people's reactions.  You're out for dinner and all of a sudden a huge group of Santas walks by.  Normal, right? 

Santas on the dance floor at a German bar/restaurant.  You can see people in the foreground trying to enjoy a nice wurst or two in peace.   Think again, diners!

My wedding photographer (but mostly now she's my friend), Sharon.  She was wearing a more appropriate amount of clothing than I was.  Not lingerie, but also not pajamas.  Must remember: no pajamas for SantaCon 2013.   

Santas on the Capitol steps, eating cupcakes being handed out by some strangers.  The woman in the front of this photo is wearing a unitard with a belt.  And rocking every inch of it.  I may have informed her that she was an inspiration to us all.  What I meant by that was "I wish I could wear a unitard."  And "I wish I weren't wearing this stupid dress/pajama thing that I made ten years ago." 

The hottest Hawaiian Santa in the crowd!  Those sunglasses originally belonged to his grandmother.  Everyone loved them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

O Christmas Tree

 We got our Christmas tree last week!  We went with my mom to the UW Forestry Club's annual tree sale in the old stock pavilion on campus. 
I tried to get Karl to smile like a normal person for a photo.  First he hid...

Then he made a lot of goofy faces.

 Finally I got a secret photo of him comparing two seemingly identical trees.

 My mom picked out her tree!  It was all wrapped up, like a suprise. 

Our tree wasn't wrapped up, but we still managed to fit it in the back of the Miracle Yaris.  It's already up and twinkling in the living room! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 30

We're getting our Christmas tree today!  I'm thankful for:
  • a house to put it in
  • a family to enjoy it with
  • gifts to put underneath it
  • ornaments to hang on it, many of which hold happy memories
Happy thirtieth day of November!  Thanks for reading along! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 29

There is this one really cool girl who I see all the time.  We have a bunch of friends in common, and she and I work in the same town.  She wears cool outfits and has awesome hair.  She could basically be a model.  Only cooler.  Her outfits really are amazing.  And seriously I see her at least twice a month.  Today I'm thankful that she doesn't recognize me.  I saw her at the co-op when I went at lunchtime.  I was looking totally dumpy (due to a series of events that we won't discuss here, I was wearing two sweaters and a fleece) and Thursday is a swimming day so my hair is super stringy.  And I was (as usual) in a hurry.  She was leisurely considering the pomegranates; she's cool enough to have extra time at the grocery store.  Unlike someone with stringy hair and a ridiculously bulgy fleece who was hurriedly shoving bulk salad mix into a plastic bag.  And of course she chose the pomegranates to pore over. Of course. Because what would be cooler? Nothing, that's what. 

So thank goodness she doesn't know me... yet.  I want to be looking my coolest when I finally actually meet her. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 28

Today I'm thankful for the super slick new ipod touch I have at work!  I just took it out of the box and loaded it up with songs for my new Tales and Tunes storytime, plus a neat app I keep hearing about.  It's already awesome.  I have an ipod at home, but it's the kind with the wheel, and I've never downloaded an app onto anything before.  I'm kind of in love, just a little bit. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 27

I'm thankful for knitting!  I have several top-secret projects on needles right now, and it is such a joy to stitch along while Karl reads aloud from Harry Potter at night.  We're on book two, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione just found out who opened the Chamber of Secrets 50 years ago! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 26

I'm thankful for a lovely and fun-filled Thanksgiving and a relaxing 4-day weekend!  Here are a few peeks:
Black Friday pre-shop...

 That's right, we got in the car at 9:55pm on Thanksgiving night. 
 This is a pretty bad picture, so I'll just tell you that it is a photo of a completely full parking lot. 

Jam-a-thon on Friday...

 We made six batches of various flavors, including different combinations of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry (I had frozen a bunch of fruit this summer when it was ridiculously hot, and this was the perfect chance to use it up).
 My sister did an excellent job stirring!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 25

I'm thankful for leftovers!  They make life so much easier.  And more delicious. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 24

I'm thankful for a four day weekend!  For the past three years, I've had to work on Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, but this year I get to stay in my pajamas, drink hot cocoa, read, and knit all weekend long.  Lucky me! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 23

I'm thankful for Christmas!  I love getting out our decorations, wrapping up gifts, and listening to Christmas music.  Soon we'll get a tree- I can't wait!  Our house feels so cozy in December with the tree lit up and the fireplace going.  I love every second of it. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 22

Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm thankful for the chance to be with my family and Karl's family today.  And I'm thankful for all of the delicious food on our table today and every day. 

When I was in nursery school (preschool), I had a favorite song.  I still think about it and sing it to myself this time of year.  Here are the lyrics:

Five fat turkeys are we
We slept all night in a tree
When the cook came around
We couldn't be found
Five smart turkeys are we

If you'd like to learn the tune, feel free to call me and I'll sing it to you. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 21

I'm thankful for the jokes that frequently fall out of the sky and into my head.  Like this one:

What did the yarn store owner say to her employee after realizing that he had inadvertently left a knitting needle off of the store's annual inventory? 


Put the needle on the record! 

Get it?  Needle... knitting needle... record... inventory... 

Seriously, I don't know where these come from.  They just pop in to my head and then I have to tell everyone, especially Karl. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 20

On Tuesday mornings at our house, you'd think we were a couple of workout fanatics.  Karl leaves at 5:45 for basketball, and I leave to catch the bus to the pool at 6:15.  Then we don't see each other for twelve or so hours.  But this morning, just as I was zipping up my jacket and leaving the pool locker room after swimming, my phone beeped with a text from Karl.  He was outside, and he was offering me a ride to work!  I usually walk from the pool to the library, which isn't very far (maybe a ten minute walk), but it was such a nice treat to get to see my sweetie before heading to work!  I'm thankful for his thoughtfulness!  ♥

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 19

I'm thankful for a fabulous weekend in Minneapolis!  Karl was deer hunting, so I drove up and had the chance to re-connect with some of my most cherished friends and their families.  On my way home yesterday, I stopped to hike at Devil's Lake and soak in the gorgeous weather, and I also stopped off at my mom's house for a quick hello.  I'm thankful for a safe weekend of hunting for Karl, a safe drive for me, a fuel-efficient car (all the way to Minneapolis and back on under a tank and a half of gas!), and a fridge full of food from my wonderful mother.  Can I tell you how awesome it was to cross "grocery shopping" off of my to-do list after stopping at her house?  Completely, totally awesome. 

Oh!  The give-away is almost complete.  The shower gel is in the hands of its new owner, and the markers and corkscrew soon will be, too.  Mind your mailbox!  ♥

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 18

I'm thankful for:
  • Good friends
  • Good weather
  • Laughter
  • Surprises
  • All the delicious pieces of late fall: pumpkins, first snowfalls, golden sunsets, cozy socks...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 17

I'm thankful for the yoga studio that's within walking distance from our house!  It feels pretty luxurious to walk to class in the evening. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 16

The stars have aligned and there are three things I want to do, all in Minneapolis, all in one weekend.  I'm driving up tonight after work, and I'm super excited to stay with my friend Danny and his beautiful family (he has two little boys and a wife who I've never even met!).  We're heading to a pancake breakfast in the morning to benefit the wilderness camp where we met as guides years ago.  Then I'm going to a craft workshop and a baby shower, and staying with another set of friends Saturday night.  I'll probably hit Ikea before heading home on Sunday, just to round things out.  I'm thankful for a perfect weekend ahead of me!  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 15

It's official!  I'm so proud of my sweetie.  Karl Struckmeyer, RN!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 14

I'm thankful that it's the middle of November and the weather is nice enough to go outside with no hat or gloves!  And I'm thankful that my mom sometimes drops by the library to join me for lunchtime walks.  Yesterday we walked to the co-op... I'm also thankful that there is a co-op within walking distance of the library.  It's pretty much perfect.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 13

Today I am thankful for the chance to make someone's day at work with a little surprise.  And I'm thankful that my craft area at home includes a box of book pockets!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 12

Today I am thankful for this Crock-Pot Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe.  I made it yesterday, and it was perfect for a fall afternoon.  Even better: today the leftovers are in a Mason jar with my name on it in the fridge at work. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 11

Recently I came home from a book sale with several boxes of wonderful, darling, lovely vintage books, many of which I loved as a child.  I'm thankful for a patient husband who happily incorporates all of my obsessions into our tiny little house.  And I'm thankful for finding some gems!  My dream is to have all of our beloved picture books on shelves (imagine that!), readily available for many happy hours of reading in front of the fire.

p.s. Guess how much the books cost.  No, never mind, you'll never guess.  One dollar... per bag!!!  How could I say no?  I mean really. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 10 (Stocking Stuffer Give-Away Edition!)

Today I'm thankful to have three items to give away!  They're stocking stuffer-ish, so if you're already planning for the holidays, these could be great additions to your stash.  Because my camera is still on the fritz (and because I'm lazy, let's be honest), I stole photos from the internet to really bring the give-away items to life.  You could win:

A 12-pack of Sharpie markers, featuring the limited edition Caribbean Colors! 

A Chefmate Corkscrew! (This is not the exact one, but it's pretty close) 

A bottle of peppermint bath and shower gel from Avalon Organics!
To enter, just leave a comment including which of these items you'd like (you can indicate more than one item- even all three!). 
I'll draw a winner or two or three (depending on how many winners it takes to give away all of the items) later this week... good luck! ♥ 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 9

Today I'm thankful for:
  • An author visit at the library tomorrow afternoon
  • Tickets to an Iris DeMent show tomorrow night!
  • A day of relaxation and knitting coming up on Sunday
  • The banjo class I'm taking on Tuesday nights  
  • The baby shower I just RSVPed to... it's far away, but I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends and celebrating a new baby

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 8

Today I'm thankful that there wasn't room to run my book review column in the local newspaper last week, so I don't have to write one this week! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 7

I'm thankful for a husband who makes dinner and then says,
"Take that, Martha Stewart... whoever you are!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 6

Over the weekend, Karl and I drove down to the metropolis of Toulon, Illinois (population 1,226) to visit his extended family, who we hadn't seen since his grandmother's funeral last fall.  The story is pretty neat: Karl's grandparents had a farm- it was a Century farm, meaning that it was in the family for over 100 years.  Karl and his cousins all have wonderful childhood memories of holidays on the farm, running wild in the fields and climbing huge mountains of corn (sounds safe, doesn't it?).  In the 1990s, his grandparents sold their farm and moved to a house in town.  Fast forward to 2011, when the couple who bought the farm sell it to Karl's cousin, Jill, who lovingly moves in with her family and decorates with a lot of the same items her grandparents had owned many years before. 
I haven't seen Karl as happy as he was this weekend in a long, long time.  He loved every second of being back on that farm, from feeding the chickens to roasting hot dogs over a bonfire to target practice with Uncle Dan. 
You can just see someone's beak poking out of the door:

 These chickens are serious egg-layers.  I collected eleven eggs in the coop one morning- and that's not counting the six we found under a bush that same day!

With Aunt Sue and Uncle Dan at the thrift store where Sue volunteers

In the dining room at the farm!  Joe (Jill's husband), Mitchell (Joe's son), cousin Jill, Aunt Sue, Karl, and me! 

I'm incredibly thankful that we had the chance to visit, and that Karl's family can look forward to many more get-togethers on the farm!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 5

In the spring, I started taking a swimming class three mornings a week before work.  I love love love it, and swimming gives me a great start on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Of course, it means I need to get out of bed pretty early... so I'm thankful for daylight savings and the extra light we have in the morning.  I still love to hit the snooze button a few times, but it's a little bit easier to pry myself out of the covers now that it's not pitch dark outside!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day 4

In China, we had the chance to visit the Great Wall.  It was amazing!  First of all, it's gigantic (obviously), and it goes up and down and up and down a LOT (which might be obvious to most people but honestly I was just expecting a straight wall that you could walk on), and there were super cool watchtowers that we could go in.  And we got to ride toboggans down from the wall-- little plastic sleds on a winding metal track.  And the scenery was unbelievable.   
Looking out the window of one of the watchtowers 

A lot of buildings in China have rows of little animals on the corners of the roofs.  I thought one of those animals would make a neat souvenir.  Don't worry, I didn't try to steal one.  I tried to buy one.  FYI: they don't sell them. 


Practicing my cheerleading moves 

Knitting break!

 There are some portions of the wall that no one can go on.  They're crumbly and dangerous.  Also, no naked flames, please. 

Instructions for the journey down the hill
I was so, so lucky to have the chance to go to the Great Wall!