Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Elf and Me

Elf on the Shelf 

Disclaimer - I am by no stretch of the imagination a parenting expert. Having been a mom for 26 years I do have a lot of experience. These are my observations and the opinioins are my own. 

With that said ... let's get in to the whole Elf on a Shelf "thing".

We had an Elf on the Shelf. If my memory serves me correctly my kids were half bought in to the idea that the Elf was keeping an eye on them for Santa as we approached Christmas. The Elf arrived when the days of them believing in Santa were on the way out. Now add in this elf guy and the doubts started to come fast and furious.
Some friends had Elves, some did not. How do you explain that one?
Some friends believed, some had the elf kicking around in their toybox among the other toys.

Truth be told, I may have been more in to it than my kids were. I remember a friend of my youngest daughter coming over and upon seeing our elf on the mantel shared that she had an elf at her house too. In fact, just that morning her little sister touched it.
"Wow." was my reply. "What happened?"
"Nothing. I don't think the Elf is real. My sister does and she's been crying all day about how she killed the magic."
4 years old, touching the elf ... a tragedy had fallen upon thier household. I really felt for that mom and the dilemma that she faced. One child in despair over her magic killing hands and another who is a non-believer.

Moms (and dads) seem fall in 2 distinct camps. There's the ones who would come up with an elaborate plan that included a letter to Santa about the dilemma of having touched the elf, a return letter from Santa and some magical dust that will fix that little elf right up and return his magical powers.

In the second camp there's the mom who would hope that the elf would be forgotten. In fact, she rues the day that little guy entered their household. It seemed like a good idea at the time but moving that little guy each night was a lot of pressure.

Here's where the mommy wars come in. The moms can't win. Keep the magic going and you are criticized as an over achieving uber mom. Fall in the category of mom who hopes their kids "forget" about the darn elf and you're a slacker who must not love their children.

Fast forward to conversation with some teenagers recently. The topic of the Elf on a Shelf came up. Each girl had their own unique memory of the elf. One dressed hers, another remembered the elf landing at the bottom of the stairs after a fall and not knowing what to do, the third recalled thinking her Elf was frozen from the cold because he had not moved in 2 days and the last girl got them all remembering their elf's name. None of them brought up their mom or dad as they related to the elf. None of them seemed to have any lasting self esteem issues related to love and their Elf on the Shelf experience. They were all looking back on that time fondly. A fifth friend joined us. She shared she was so glad she never had an Elf because "they creeped me out".

It has always bothered me that I have no idea what happened to Red, our elf. I remember going to the attic one December to bring down the Christmas stuff and the box was there, the book was in the box but no elf. I thought for sure I had carefully stored him away but apparently not. In the craziness of the season he seemed to have been misplaced.
As time went on I was sure I would come across him. He had to be somewhere in the house ... Since that year we have moved and taken out and put away the Christmas decorations, lights and photos many times and still no elf. My conclusion as I write this - Red went back to the North Pole that year and returned the next year to a family with children who believed in him. I told you ... I was more in to it than the kids. I truly believe in Christmas magic and I hope I am right and a lovely young family and Red are making holiday memories.

To the moms and dads of young kids - I hope you are not feeling too much pressure. The good news is the kids will not remember where you fell short, they will remember that once upon a time it was the Christmas season, they were young with imaginations that go along with their age and they had an elf.

And to the parents who don't do the Elf thing, don't worry. As it happened with my son one might show up at college. I am so tempted to say that it must be an uber mom who sent the little guy to my sons school in a handmade outfit that mirrors the uniforms worn by the students ... but why? I hope some kids and parents are getting a huge kick out of it. I know I am.

Wonder what they will name him?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Day 5 of 12 Days of Cookies and 12 Days of Christmas

Sweet and Saltine

It's not just about the cookies. Having a quest or a project always pushes me get in to things more fully. A season, a sport, a collection, something new I want to try ... it's always more fun with a challenge associated with it. I guess that is my personality type showing through.

With my 12 Days project it's  not just about the cookies when it comes to the other people in my life. I've been posting the dirty dish count on my posts so far. To be transparent I am not the only one washing said dirty dishes. My husband has pitched in and has been good natured about it (so far). Poor guy, hoping he can last another week with the bowls, spoons and multiplying dirty measuring spoons and cups. The upside for him is I know his staff is looking forward to this years cookie platter. They tell me each time I stop in!

Day 5's cookie is "Christmas Crack". This stuff really lives up to the name, it is so good. It also has saltine crackers in the list of ingredients so it it hard to know if it's the crackers that contribute to the name or the addictive goodness of it.

Having said all that I have mixed feelings on the name. I didn't give the cookie its name. It strikes me that although I am sure the cookie name is meant to be whimsical drugs are no joke. The harm and hurt drugs cause so many gives me pause.
I have also seen this cookie called "Sweet and Saltine" and that's the name I'll go with.

Fifth day of cookies - Sweet and Saltine 
Fifth day of Christmas - 5 Golden Rings  
Dirty Dish Count -  41
Observation - Be careful with your words. You don't know how the person who is listening to you will take what you say. Most who know me well would agree that I never mean to offend. Sometimes it can happen without meaning to. Trust that most people have good intentions. You can be taken as saltine when your intention really is sweet. Not having all the information is one way to put your foot in your mouth. If you think someone is being unkind with their words seek first to understand. You may be surprised to find that there is some missing information on both sides.  Be kind, be understanding, seek first to understand. 
'Tis the season!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Day 3 and 4 of 12 Days of Cookies and 12 Days of Christmas

Day 3 yielded no cookies. I did, however, stock up on unsalted butter, salted butter and eggs.
We had snow here in my area and I had work to get done before the roads were too bad to be running around on.

Third day of cookies - None
Third day of Christmas - 3 French Hens
Dirty Dish Count -  stands at 23
Observation - Bring your wine glass

My day also had me at the holiday party at my Aunt's Assisted Living Home. It was so nice to see the good cheer all around as my Aunt gets acclimated to her new surroundings. One particularly fun guest brought her own crystal wine glass down from her room to the party.
Another resident was served her heavy appetizers and looked at her plate for a while before asking one of the staff if that was her dinner. Minutes later after considering the contents of her plate for a while, she left the room clearly unhappy.
My  whimsical wine cork
I hope when the time comes for me that I need more help that I am the lady with the wine glass. She was optimism personified.

Time to make up some ground on Day 4 with Candy Canes and Macaroons on the agenda.  The Candy Cane cookie I chose calls for egg yolks and the Macaroons give me a cookie to make with the left over egg whites. Genius!

I haven't had an occaision to separate eggs in a while. Luckily there's YouTube.
There are video tutorials of most anything, including how to separate eggs.

I now remember why I never make Candy Cane cookies. Out of 20 attempts I ended up with 3 whole cookies and am wondering how long my hands will stay red from the food coloring. Anyone with red dye allergies stay away.  I got a bit frustrated and mixed the red and white dough together and used cookie cutters to salvage a few more whole cookies from this batch of Christmas cheer.
Fourth day of cookies - 3 Candy Canes, 1 Pile of Candy Cane parts, 
1 dozen assorted shaped cookies
1 dozen Macaroons
Fourth day of Christmas - 4 Calling Birds
Dirty Dish Count -  37 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Day 2 of 12 Days of Cookies and 12 Days of Christmas

Day 2 is chocolate chip cookie day. Nestle Toll House's recipe is my go to and I added in some multi-colored sprinkles I had in the cabinet. Yum.

Easing in is still my plan. It's going to snow this weekend and that will give me some time to just stay in and work on a more complicated cookie. What it will be is still up in the air, stay tuned!

Betty Crocker did make a contribution to my project in the form of my 20 year old mixer. It amazes me that it has lasted all this time. They don't make them like they used to!

Update: We got our tree. The lights and garland are on. Decorating, Chinese food and The Polar Express movie are on the agenda for tonight.
My college kiddo is home for a brief visit and all is well with the world.

Second day of cookies - Toll House Chocolate Chip with sprinkles 

Second day of Christmas - 2 Turtle Doves
Dirty dish count - 23

Observation - No matter how far behind you feel you are just get started

Stay tuned for more from My Middleton Chronicles. 17 days 'til Christmas and counting ...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

12 Days of Christmas and 12 Days of Cookies

I loved my cookie baking last year and am starting this years 12 Days of Cookies today.
There are only 18 days until Christmas and the timing is perfect to have a nice seleciton of cookies done just in time for the holiday festivities and some giving.

Having done no planning yet I am going to start with sugar cookies, easy peasy. There are so many sugar cookie recipes out there which recipe to choose is the big question ... I want them to be as simple as possible.

I'd love to get fancy and use cookie cutters but I need to just dig in and get started and am not ready for anything more complicated. Yet. I am going to choose some more elaborate cookies as I go along but for today nice, round sugar cookies will have to do!

Searching recipes online I happened upon Martha Stewart's "Basic Sugar Cookies".  Right away I realized this was not the simple, quick recipe I was looking for.
Total time for Martha's delectables: 2 hours
Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Items Martha's recipe calls for that I do not have:
Parchment paper
Time to chill dough
Time or patience to rotate cookies halfway through baking.
Sorry Martha, your recipe is out.

Moving on I checked out Betty Crocker's "Classic Sugar Cookies". Betty is showing her age by calling for margarine in her recipe. Sadly the Betty Crocker classics are also a miss because they call for almond extract and creme or tarter. Not only do I not have those ingredients I don't think my family or friends would be very excited about these cookies. Sorry Betty, your recipe is out too.

So it's back to one of my favorite websites for basic recipes - allrecipes.com
I have all I need to get started and there's no chilling, cutting or parchment needed.

Do you have favorite cookies you make at the holidays? I'd love to hear about them, post in the comments. Any and all suggestions and recipes welcome!

How is decking the halls going for you?
Around the English household we are easing in to the holiday spirit this year. I've still got dead mums hanging around that need to be replaced by wreaths and greens. A few things are out and I am expecting a delivery with a new tree skirt (I have been wanting one for YEARS) and table runner.
The tree buying excursion (a drive around the corner) is happening tonight and the hope is we'll be further along with our decorating by the weekend.

One area that is ready for Christmas is my dining room. It has the 12 Days of Christmas framed and hanging. That was done in time for Thanksgiving and I love it.

First day of Christmas - A Partridge in a Pear Tree
First day of cookies - Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies
Dirty Dish Count - 11
Observation - It's not just about the cookies