Thursday, December 25, 2008

Memory Storage

Another Christmas under the belt. A success.

Yesterday morning dawned cold and snowy. The day became even snowier, and it seemed determined to bury us in for the duration. As more than six inches of fresh snow fell in our yard, we wondered if we'd ever make it out of town that afternoon to spend Christmas at my parents' house.

By the time we left home around 4, the snow had stopped, but the roads in town were near impassable in places. We had to slide down a hill once because the tires started spinning. Once we were on the highway, the roads were okay until closer to Minocqua, where they became snow-covered and slippery again. We made it, though.

During the Christmas Eve church service, I drew pictures of Lightning McQueen and Mater for Ben on the back of the program. Snapshot: When we started singing "O Holy Night," Ben started jamming next to us, complete with air guitar and booty shake. It's hard to explain to an almost-three-year-old that not all songs are dancing songs.

Back at Nana's, we let Ben and Anna open a couple of presents from family to keep him occupied. Snapshot: My brother's family gave Anna a box of tissues as a present. I knew she'd love it, because she's often strewn tissues around the house like rose petals. Instead of going crazy and tossing them everywhere, she pulled one out at a time and then brought them directly to the garbage bag that was sitting open for discarded boxes and paper. Such a conscientious girl!

My brother Mitch and his family opened their presents to each other. (They gave each other Mike and Ike's ... I'm so jealous!!) One of the gifts unwrapped was one of those new Monopoly games that uses a credit card system instead of cash, and Becky (Mitch's wife), Alisha (their 14yo daughter), Chris and I played until we were near to passing out around 10. Ben and I went to bed while Chris stayed up with a sleeping Anna on his chest. He was talking to Mitch and Becky until 1:30 in the morning. Crazy man.

Morning came far too early, and we gorged ourselves on homemade cinnamon rolls (we call it by the Finnish name "nisu") and breakfast pizza. My sister Jolene and her family came later in the morning. She has a son Gage who just turned 2 a month ago. Gage and Ben were chasing each other around the house and playing so easily together. It was remarkable to watch. I got to know my new niece Mya (she's 4 months old now) while Jo's stepdaughter Taylor entertained herself with Alisha.

We opened lots of presents after lunch and just before our family was going to leave for Wausau. So many gifts. So much fun. The ride home was easy, and as soon as we got home (and retrieved Molly from the dog sitter), we started putting together the new toys. The big circus tent playhouse was erected. I put together Anna's dolly stroller (now we just need a dolly). And Chris started the gargantuan task of putting together the play kitchen.

After no few than 3 hours, the kitchen was finally completed, and Ben and Anna were delighted with the finished product. Snapshot: Ben's favorite task is to wash his hands in the sink. Over and over again. At least I've taught him something wholesome. Snapshot: Ben knew instinctly where the ladle and spatula were supposed to go, even though we didn't have a clue. He placed them where they belong... on a couple of hooks built into the backsplash. We were dumbfounded.

The grandchildren:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Coffee Cake Pancakes

Yesterday morning I had this crazy idea to invite a whole passel of people over for pancakes following the half day of work today. Because of family obligations and the crazy amount of snow, only one family joined us, but we still had a fantastic visit.

I'd promised homemade pancakes, but I'd only ever made pancakes with a store-bought mix, so I searched online for the best recipe. I even stopped by IHOP's website for inspiration, where I saw their splash page feature for coffee cake pancakes. I started drooling.

With a few changes to a few different recipes, I came up with my own version of coffee cake pancakes. Here it is, a double-batch recipe...


Streusel topping:
1.25 cups flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup soft margarine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. After mixing the dry ingredients, I used a handmixer to blend in the margarine until the mixture was the consistency of wet sand. Toss the mixture by the handful onto a parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minute or until golden brown.

I overcooked the topping, so I ended up grinding up the hard chunks in my food processor. I was left with something that looked like graham cracker crust. Right before I started cooking the pancakes, I mixed in some melted butter to make it clumpy.

Pancake batter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/8 cup white sugar
2.5 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
6 tbs melted butter

Mix together the dry ingredients. Allow the eggs to warm to room temperature. Heat the milk to lukewarm. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla and melted butter and whisk well. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir slowly with a spoon until blended, but still lumpy. Let sit for 10 minutes.

I used an ice cream scoop to make medium-sized pancakes on a 350-degree griddle. Once the pancakes were poured out, I sprinkled 1-2 tablespoons of the streusel topping onto each cake, followed by finely chopped walnuts and almonds (optional). Flip the cakes once the bubbles reach to the center and the spatula slides under easily.

I served them with a choice of real or imitation maple syrup, homemade hot apple cider and orange juice. Delicious.

I can imagine them with a cinnamon frosting drizzled on top or even whipped cream, but I thought they were quite tasty "plain."


I filled a saucepan three-quarters full with unsweetened 100% apple cider juice. I added 2 tablepoons of cinnamon, 1 tsp of nutmeg, 1 tsp of allspice, and 1/8 cup of real maple syrup. I let that simmer for an hour and strained it through a cotton cloth. Delightful.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Much love from the Mathis Family.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bedroom Switch 2008

Anna, Ben and I went from having the stomach flu around Thanksgiving to having colds this week. Ben is on his nebulizer a few times a day, and Anna is constantly dripping copious amounts of snot and very fussy. So of course it's the perfect time to start sleep training again.

Yeah right. We started training her again because her sleep patterns were getting worse and worse, finally to the point where she would pop right back up in her crib when we'd put her down. And then she'd cry forever until she'd either pass out for 30 minutes or so or until I would cuddle her.

Wednesday night, I slept upstairs with her. I slept in the twin bed, and she was in the packnplay. The idea is that she'd still have to go to sleep on her own, but she wouldn't be alone. Didn't work very well. She's had two very difficult nights. So we're taking it to the next level. She'll be sleeping in her crib in a room by herself. And Chris will be doing the Ferber timing. Going in after five minutes to tell her she's loved and should lay down. Then after ten minutes. Then again after fifteen. Etc. Until she falls asleep.

The other side to this, though, is that she's not feeling well. She's sick, and she's tired and cranky and congested. So this mama's heart might bleed too much, and I'll have to take her up into bed with me and keep her there with me all night long. I've eliminated the night feedings, though. That's tough on her.

While I was sleeping upstairs with her Wednesday night, I was thinking about how nice it would be to have our bedroom be upstairs. It's such a big room. 12x19. And we hardly go up there nowadays since Ben is sleeping downstairs now.

I mentioned it to Chris last night, and he jumped at it. At first he wanted to wait until we can paint the rooms to non-nursery colors, but his desire to sleep train Anna came first. Instead of putting her upstairs and leaving her to cry, and having to walk up there all the time to comfort her, we switched bedrooms today. Ben's twin bed is temporarily in the dining room (again) until Anna is sleeping better. Hopefully we'll be able to put it in their bedroom before Christmas. Tonight Chris will be sleeping in the dining room doing the Ferber thing. And I'll have the whole upstairs to myself. Such a luxury. Except I have to get used to not drinking so many fluids around bedtime. It's a long hike down some noisy steps to go potty.

Getting our bed upstairs was a challenge. It's just a queen, but we couldn't get it through the stairwell because of how steep the steps are. We folded the mattress and shoved hard. Very intense workout. The boxspring was a lost cause though. We just can't bend that. So Chris bought some rope, we leaned the two-story ladder against the balcony, and we did the pulley thing to slide the boxspring up the ladder/ramp and up to the second floor. That was quite the ordeal, but we got it done. Phew.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Beginning to Look a Lot Like ...

We started decorating for Christmas yesterday. I put lighted garland inside the arch between the living room and dining room and hung beautiful glass ornaments from it (and only broke one in the process). Chris put up the Christmas tree, including the lights.

While reading FamilyFun magazine, I was enamored with their Sparkling Ice Crystals. They looked so beautiful and so simple to make. This morning, I bought the supplies, and Ben and I got to work.

You see, in my head I had a vision of a winter wonderland in my living room.

A back story. When I was in college, I had an awesome apartment, featuring an awesome living room. I covered the ceiling with gnarled grape vines. It felt like a winery arbor. Gorgeous. When I was going through my butterfly phase, I hotglued thread to little butterflies made of feathers. I tied the thread to the grape vine. The result was a butterfly garden effect. It felt like butterflies were flying around in the room. Beautiful.

Why not hang the ice crystals in a similar fashion? That's what I did. Well, that's what Chris and I did. We'll add more when we get more supplies. I think it's magical.

You may also notice from the pictures that I'm in the process of painting my living room. Yeah. It's taking forever, but it's so hard to find time to paint when the kids are gone or distracted.