Sunday, January 27, 2013

Queen of Corona

I taught the kids some of the words to "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" recently. It was one of those things where I couldn't get it out of my head. I don't know why - I hadn't heard it recently. But there it was, in my head, so I sang it. I got maybe half the words right. The kids were intrigued. Mama Pajama? Did what? So of course I dug it up on iTunes, since I couldn't rely on my memory to get the words right, and played it for them a few times. Ever since then, Finn likes to call me "Mommy P-Jommy." "Mommy P-Jommy, you are the BEST mommy." He also likes to tell me that he loves me more than anyone. More than I love him. The most, ever. He's all elbows and knees and NOT cuddly, until he suddenly is, squeezed up against my side and kissing my cheek.

Lucy's love for me is not worshipful like her brother's. It's demanding. She is confident in her love for me, in my love for her. And so she demands, constantly, in booming, regal tones. Get me this! I want that! I CAN'T take my shoes off, YOU do it! She tests, and pushes, and aggravates, as three-year-olds should. She can drive us crazy, and turn around a second later and captivate us with a joke (her jokes are not funny, making them endearingly so), or a hug (she gives the absolute best hugs ever), or a sly sideways glance. She calls a wedgie a "woodgie," and it kills me, making me ignore that I'm about to strangle her because of her refusal to get dressed. She grabs my face and leans in uncomfortably close during a cuddle. She is open and unreserved and full of demanding love.


I learned late last week that a work colleague of mine had passed away. She was sick - we knew she was sick. But we also understood her to be recovering, to be doing much better. We thought she was coming back soon. I didn't think that I wouldn't see her again.

She was one of the warmest, friendliest, most unflappable people I have ever met. She always, always had a kind word for me, and for everyone else. She had a difficult job, and often had to work with strong personalities. Yet she had this calm peace about her all the time. In situations where I would have lost my temper, she didn't bat an eye.

You don't always know when it will be the last time you see someone.

I'm not trying to trot out sentiments like "live in the moment," or "appreciate what you have" here. Though we should, when we can, which is not the same as always. Instead, I think what I could do better here, and what my co-worker did so well, is to create more positive interactions. With my kids. With my work colleagues. With M. With the checker at the grocery store. Just leave a trail of positivity behind me, in front of me. Don't focus so much on the negative side, the hard parts, the things that don't work out.

Do more to earn the worshipful, demanding love Finn and Lucy have for me.

And, yeah, of course, savor those hugs. But I already do that ;-).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Birthday #37. And Pasta. But Not Much Snow.

Though I always (always!) complain about the inconvenient timing of M's birthday (still burned out from the Christmas shopping season), I must say that I managed to pull off a pretty good celebration this year. Admittedly, I probably couldn't have pulled it off if it weren't for some excellent shipping services, but I'll take credit where I can get it.

I was a wee bit worried about the "significant snow" we were slated to receive on Friday, as that was the estimated date of the arrival of M.'s birthday present (and also the date of M.'s birthday itself). Fanning the flames of this worry, I started receiving e-mails and phone calls by around 10 in the morning letting me know that pretty much all of Maryland would be shutting down by mid-afternoon, including the schools. Even though nary a snowflake had been spotted yet.

Luckily, I was already working from home, so it was not a problem to pick Finn up early. Also luckily, the "significant snow" was really more of a dusting. But the warning was enough to get M. home from D.C. early, which meant that we had a little extra family time. There was (barely) enough snow for a little late afternoon sledding, but not enough to hinder the delivery of M.'s present or the delicious Thai food we ordered for the birthday dinner (we've had a bit of an obsession with Tom Yum soup lately).

While we waited for dinner to arrive, the kids helped M. open his presents.

 In keeping with his new hobby, I got him a glass carboy secondary fermentor, and a new beer kit to brew, Northern Brewer's La Petite Orange Limited Edition kit (sounds so good!!). He seemed pretty happy with his present, and we are both plotting when the next brew will occur (maybe tomorrow!).

After stuffing ourselves with Thai food, we moved on to cake. The kids requested a repeat of the Wisconsin "W" cake I made last year, but I did change it up a little by going with a vanilla cake instead of a chocolate cake this time. I used this recipe for the cake (I cannot rave enough about this cake - even though it's from scratch, it is so moist and SO GOOD), and the buttercream frosting recipe on the box of the Dominos confectioner's sugar box. I ended up having to make a second batch of frosting for a second layer, because the first layer had a lot of crumbs showing. Does this make me anal? Maybe. Also, the cake recipe makes a three-layer cake, so 3 layers + 2 coatings of frosting = a ridiculous amount of powdered sugar. But let's not think about that, right? :-)

The rest of the night was less thrilling, as once the kids were in bed I discovered I was exhausted, and not good for much but bed. This morning started off with our usual busy Saturday schedule - swim lessons for Finn, ballet/tap class for Lucy, and then a trip to Wegman's for grocery shopping (a bit out of our way, but we were scoping out food options for the "beer party" we are hosting next weekend). We were home by 1 o'clock - plenty of time with nothing to do and nowhere to be, so I? Took a nap. It was great. And while I napped, M. creatively found a purpose for the 6 egg yolks I had leftover from making his cake (it called for 6 egg whites). He dug out our pasta maker, a wedding gift that was used several times just after we were married, and has been gathering dust since ever since kids came on the scene. And he and his helpers turned those egg yolks into a fabulous pasta dough (and made me think of the wonderful friends who gifted us with the pasta maker, and how we invited them over to try out the results with us not long after the wedding, and I served them pasta with LOTS of GRITTY parsely that I decided "didn't really need to be washed" before I chopped it. Oh how wrong I was!) :

The result? Well, Lucy ate two helpings of the pasta WITH SAUCE (jarred, not homemade - what? you didn't think I was THAT Martha Stewart-y, did you?), which is a miracle, as Lucy typically eats her pasta plain. Finn was a bit weirded out by how it was "different" than the usual boxed pasta, though we did manage to get him to eat a few bites. It was a fun dinner and a nice way to involve the kids in cooking. Here is the yummy result:

This girl kills me with her expressions

Finally, I leave you with a couple of impromptu post-dinner videos, where Finn explains what "legs" are for wine, and then does his best to imitate them. I will also note that I didn't know about wine "legs" until I was in my mid-twenties.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Peek Into Our Bedroom

And no, not THAT kind of peek.

Putting aside that M. and I have a goal of moving up to the New England area to be near family (sooner rather than later), and one of the main things holding us back is an albatross of a mortgage that ties us seemingly unendingly to our house, I have to say that I really do love our house. Bitter feelings about the housing crash, underwater loans, and a couple of questionable neighbors don't diminish my fondness for this structure. When we were house hunting, we spent a day driving all over the county looking at a bunch of houses that all seemed rather "meh." One was on a lake but way too small. One was really spacious but over our budget and in a really trafficky area. For one reason or another, none of them, even the ones that were in decent neighborhoods and of a decent size, felt right.

We visited what would become our house last. I think our real estate agent did that on purpose - saving the best for last to make an impression. It just felt *right* as we walked around. Sure, there was no garage, part of the basement was unfinished, the kitchen was ridiculously dated, the lighting fixtures were all wrong, the dishwasher was on its last legs, the two non-master bedrooms were tiny. But there was a deck that backed to the woods, a great open living room/dining room area with high lofted ceilings, and the best master suite I've ever seen in a townhouse. A big, bright room with high ceilings, a sizable closet in the bedroom, and an even bigger walk-in closet in the "up a short flight of stairs" lofted master bathroom that was replete with a double vanity, a soaking tub, a separate shower, skylights, and a separate toilet room. I'm pretty sure that master suite was at least 50% of the reason we bought this house.

And sadly, since then, it has been what I would consider to be the most neglected room of our house. The kids both have nicer furniture than we do, and coordinated decor schemes throughout each of their spaces. We have a jumble of random furniture and practically bare 12-foot walls. Hrm.

We are slowly trying to change that. The master bathroom got a mini-makeover just before Lucy was born, when falling down tiles forced us to re-tile a good portion of the shower. We added in some colored accent tiles, painted a couple of walls, and accessorized with some wall hangings and a rug. Recently, we also changed out the vanity light fixtures. But the bedroom itself hasn't really seen any imrovements.

If this was a proper home impovement blog, here is where I would present some "Before" photos . Except the changes we have made in the bedroom to date are pretty small, and they've happened over time, so I never really had the foresight to collect any Before pictures. For example, I mentioned several months ago that I gave in to my love for the grey and yellow color scheme and bought new bedding for us, but I didn't take any photos of the old bedding. Oh well. It was a light acqua, with flowers, and I liked it, but after 5+ years, I was tired of it. We also bought some new lamps, retiring our dark blue ceramic lamps that I absolutely loved, but were falling apart.

So we start this mini-makeover with new bedding and lamps already in place:

The view from the hallway looking in to our bedroom

One side of the bedtoom

And the other (sorry the lighting's a bit dim in this one!)
Close up of new lamp and ratty old end table. Note the cat scratches on the leg.

Hopefully you can see the blue color of the end tables a bit better here.
As you can see, we have a hodpodge of different types of wood in the room - two dark wood bookcases, a honey wood bureau, a black wood chair with brown accents, and two blue-ish stained end tables. Not to mention a dark green and red bureau in another corner out of view from these photos. Not exactly a harmonious environment, right?

Rather than run out and buy a coordinating set of bedroom furniture, which we clearly don't have the funds to do, I decided to try my hand at painting some of the furniture we already have, namely the end tables. On a sunny September day, I took a day off of work to use up some comp time that was about to disappear. With the house all to myself, I dragged the two end tables out to the back yard, dusted them off, and got ready to spray paint:

I used Rustoleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover spray primer in gray (one coat), followed by two coats of Rustoleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover spray paint in gloss dark gray (two coats). I waited about 15 minutes between each coat. When I was done, they looked like this:

Satisfyingly much, much better! I let them dry outside most of the day, then brought them in to the basement to cure overnight. By the next day, they were ready to be loaded back in to the bedroom. And here is where, if I were a self-respecting DIY blogger, I would show you a picture of that. But I forgot to take a close-up of the tables once they were back in place, and my bedroom is currently a mess so I can't run up and take one, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Once I picked a color scheme of gray and yellow with turquoise accents (aka the lamps), I moved on to finding something to put in the blank space over our bed. I chose to focus on that area, even though it's one of the smaller wall spaces, because it's too small for a headboard. I saw a print of some sort as a good way to make the bed look more interesting and substantial without a headboard. But what to get? I scoured Pinterest, the World Market, Target, and Etsy, looking for some inspiration. And then I stumbed on Jennasue Design Co., an Etsy vendor. She offers custom art prints, and features, among other things, maps. Now, the timing of this was JUST before our 9th wedding anniversary, and I was scratching my head trying to come up with a gift for M. I wanted to get something that wasn't too expensive, but was also something thoughtful. M. loves maps, and Jennasue happens to sell a print of a map of Baltimore, the city where M. and I met and lived in for years and absolutely love, in a turquoise color. Bingo! One Target picture frame later, and we were in business (never mind that it took me about 2 months to actually HANG the picture...):

One other small but very rewarding thing we did was to change out the floor vent covers throughout the house. The original floor vent covers were mud brown, rusty, and very dirty looking. After a couple of mis-steps about the size we needed (we didn't know that some of the vents were different sizes), we successfully switched them all out. It's one of my favorite things that we've done. I don't have the "Before" (of course), but here is what they look like now:

(Tables are still pre-makeover in this shot)

I can't recommend doing this highly enough.

All in all, these were pretty minor changes - new bedding, new lamps, new vent covers, painted end tables, new art. But they've made us both MUCH happier with the space. I even make the bed more often than I used to (and by that I mean maybe one a week instead of never), and it's a nicer space to spend time in.

Hopefully we can keep chipping away at making this even better. Some of the things I'd like to do next include painting more of the furniture, like this bureau:

And this one:

The green and red bureau I mentioned earlier. Those doors to the right are the ones leading out of the bedroom into the hallway, and the stairs to the left lead up to our lofted bathroom.

I'd also like to get some stuff on the wall over by the honey-colored bureau, replace the (very beaten up and scratched) off-white arm chair over by the bookcases, and install plantation shutters over the windows (the horizontal blinds we have now aren't really my thing). But all of those things will require time and/or money, so I have a feeling this room will be a work in progress for a long time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More Quickies: Sibling Affection and New Things

1) I hefted a sleepy, spaghetti-noodle-limbed Finn into Lucy's bedroom this morning so I could work on rousing both kids at the same time. (Goodness they are hard to wake up, every day EXCEPT Saturday or Sunday of course). I rubbed backs with that vigorous "I love you but get out of bed already" rub that one does, I talked in a sing-songy voice and cajoled, I even tickled a little (just Lucy, at Finn's suggestion). And then Finn crawled off my lap and climbed up onto his sister's bed to lie down next to her. She protested with a "Hey!," but Finn just said "I want to hug you." And her Hey! turned into a smile, just like that. Finn hugged Lucy and kissed her on her hip (it's both adorable and frustrating that kids seem to plant kisses on whatever is at mouth level, with no thought to whether it's an appropriate target) and called her "Lucy Goosey," a name that hasn't surfaced in a long time. Lucy kissed his head and responded with a soft "Finny Bo Binney." And they cuddled and smiled satisfied smiles, and I didn't have the heart to dump them out of bed.

Well, at least for another 60 seconds or so.

I just wanted to write that down so I'd remember it. I love how they love each other.

2) In other news, we got a notice last week that Finn's school has been approved for funding to hire another Kindergarten teacher. All of the 5 existing Kindergarten classes are over the allowed limit of 25 students, with all of them sitting at 27 or 28 kids. The notice we received stated that the school has hired the new teacher, and they will be forming a new Kindergarten class by the end of January. This means that a few kids from each existing class will be pulled out to go to a new classroom, with a new teacher and new classmates, 5 months in to the school year. This seems... not right to me. We don't know yet which kids will be pulled from their classrooms. Finn seemed excited at the prospect of having a new teacher, but I don't think he's really given much thought to the idea that it would mean, a) he would no longer have his current teacher, whom he has written little love notes to, so I'm pretty sure that means he likes her, and b) that he probably wouldn't have his very best friend from class with him anymore. As a parent, I am worried about what it would mean to have a new teacher that needs to get to know Finn from scratch - the continuity of learning will be interrupted to at least SOME degree, and we are JUST starting to figure out with his current teacher how to encourage good "green" behavior from Finn (the new year has been rough, with mediocre or poor behavior reports every day from January 2 until this past Monday, when he finally managed a good rating for the first time in 2013). I don't want to start all over again.

I'm also a smidge worried (and tell me if this is stupid - it's probably stupid - maybe?) that the new class will be formed by kids the current teachers recommend for the new classroom, and perhaps the teachers will conveniently recommend those kids that have given them the most trouble (well, *I* might do that!), and the new class will be a class of, um, kids with disruptive behaviors, shall we say. Which might then include my son, who is not exactly the king of good behavior, as I've documented a time or two on this here blog in the past. So then my son might be moved to a class full of kids with behavior issues, and well, I think that might be a less than ideal learning environment. One or two Finns in a class is manageable, but a class of Finns would be pandemonium.

Of course, I also don't want class sizes that are over the limit. But they've been over the limit since school started in August, and I can't for the life of me figure out why they are implementing this change now, so late in the year. If this had been done in September or even October, I would have been far more supportive. Teacher friends (and any parents out there), have you heard of adding new classrooms halfway through the year? When new classrooms are created, how are the students chosen?

Anyway, ack! Hand wringing! We'll find out more tomorrow night, when there is parents' meeting with the principal, and I think we'll know next week whether Finn's class assignment will change. Then I'll know whether I need to ratchet up my concern some more or let it retreat toward complacency.

3) And finally, a more positive new thing (I hope) - a new shirt:

(If you click to enlarge, this is less blurry, but also my eyes look scarier. You've been warned.)

This was an impulse buy from Kohl's when I dashed in (literally - fastest shopping trip ever!) to grab some new pants for both Finn and Lucy, since Finn has apparently passed on the "rips a hole in every right knee" trait to his sister and they both needed new pants. I saw this on the rack and grabbed it (in my defense, I did have the coveted 30% off coupon) without trying it on. It's a bit hard to see in this photo (can I tell you how lame I felt photographing myself? I tried setting up my tripod and using the automatic timer, but those shots were even worse. This was AWKWARD, but would have been even more so if I tried asking M. to snap photos - "and you want me to take these pictures for what, again?" - so camera in the mirror it was). Anyway, it's a chiffon blouse layered over a matching tank (and, um, no bra...). I thought it might be drapey and long enough that I could justify wearing it over leggings, but after trying it on I don't think it's long enough. Or drapey enough. Anyway, here is a link to the item at Kohl's, where you can probably see it better:

What do you think? Is it a keeper? Well, I should rephrase that, since I've already worn it once and I thus MUST keep it. Is it something you would recommend wearing again? I wore it with some dangly gold earrings:

Sorry for the blurry photo. I really LIKE the earrings, and I think I like the shirt. It feels flattering when I'm wearing it, though it's not very figure-shaping. So I FEEL like I look good in it, even if in reality (or, for example, in these pictures) it makes me look a bit boxy. What I'm worried about is that the look might be a bit too... early 90's?? Big gold earrings, bright color, chiffon... Help! Am I dressing like I'm in the wrong decade? Thx!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Quick Takes

I'm keeping M. company while he watches the Packers, sipping a (second) gin and tonic, and trolling the internet to no avail. I WANT to post here - I have the time and the inclination, I just don't have that spark of an idea. My mind is racing through topics and rejecting them - too boring, too short, too introspective, needs photos. What to write? I'll settle for some random quick takes, I suppose.

1. M.'s mom's maiden name is Triplett. I'm pretty sure it means that he was destined to marry a triplet. Just glad I'm that girl. Not the least of which because he just brought me my second G&T with a fresh lime - not everyone would be that considerate ;-).

2. I used to vacation every summer at Cape Cod, and now all of those memories seem to be permanently Instagram'd. Every picture that comes to my mind has the same filters I see popping up in everyone's photos online. Maybe because Instagram was created to make our photos look old, or maybe because I have Instragram envy, not sure which. Because I do not own a smart phone, I cannot use Instragram. But I see it all there in my head, with the same soft faded look. Sparkly diamonds of sunlight dancing on the water. Salty seaweed drying on the sand (I HATED the seaweed!). Sandy paths lined with thorny beach plum bushes. Creaky wooden floors in cottages with greying shingle siding. Outdoor showers, ice cream sundaes, dining al fresco at Thompson's Clam Bar surrounded by squawking seagulls. It's all Instagram'd, baby. And I love it. I wonder which memories of my kids will be the cherished ones they hold forever, that make them smile when they are 30 years older and hundreds of miles away.

3. Not all the memories are super fabulous, of course. I do remember I had a teeny tiny shoplifting incident there once, where my grandmother (I THINK it was my grandmother) caught me after a shopping trip with some purloined candy and made me go back in and return it (Oh! That makes me think of the penny candy shops in Chatham! It was a treat we looked forward to all year! I didn't steal from one of THOSE shops, just a regular old drug store. As if that makes it any better). And also there was the traumatizing trip to see ET on the big screen. An even that will forever live in infamy in my family. Picture three little girls in a movie theatre, screaming their heads off out of terror. That movie was NOT touching, it was awful, and I am so permanently scarred from the experience that nothing will ever convince me otherwise.

Those memories aren't so Instagrammy.

4. I just mistakenly thought that Pitbull's name was Bulldog. Ha? Eh.

5. I think the cat and I are finally starting to get along, nearly 13 years after I adopted her. M. and I picked her out together two months in to our relationship, and she has shown a clear M. preference since then. She sleeps on him, yowls if he's outside, and frequently takes joy in tripping me or attacking me as I try to climb into bed at night. But lately she has taken to settling down between us in the bed (versus curling up next to M. on the outside of the bed), and she has abated in her attacks on me. I hope this doesn't mean she's going to die soon.

I should do seven of these. That's the deal, usually, "Seven Quick Takes." But I need to shower, and take advantage of a free Showtime preview weekend on TV, and maybe have a third G&T. So 5 is all you get, for whatever they were worth. Here's hoping I have some better bloggy inspiration soon!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Final Christmas Rundown: Kids' Gifts and Cookies

Kid Gifts

I'm not feeling any inspiration for a post describing the kids' Christmas gifts. THEY seem excited enough about them, thankfully, but I'm just sort of "meh." I guess because I'm not 6? Anyway, the short version is that they got toys, and they like them. I would recommend them to others for purchase, if pressed to comment on that. I know that Finn and Lucy will play with these toys for about 3 more days, and then abandon them in favor of whining at me that they "have no toys" and "want to watch T.V." But so far, they've been pleasantly "into" these toys.

In brief, Lucy got a lot (A LOT) of Disney princess stuff (Santa brought no less than 3 costumes, among other things), and Finn got a new race track (a Nano Speed Turbo set, which is new for us, but I refused to have Santa bring a Hot Wheels set because they are all designed to stick to a wall) and an Imaginext Space Shuttle. They were happy enough for kids that kept finding new things to add to their Christmas Wish Lists as little as two days before Christmas (as if) - I was sure there would be disappointment, but neither one of them brought up anything they wish they had received instead.

There were also other random small things, like new Magic Tree House books, jewelry, Monster Trucks, etc.

OH! I almost forgot that there is ONE kid gift I am excited about. We bought our very first (and hopefully only, for a long time) family gaming system - a Wii. It was our gift to the kids (and ourselves). We got the original one, not that new confusing one they've been advertising lately (WiiU?). We have a Sports and Sports Resort game pack, and we also picked up Just Dance 4. We've all been having a lot of fun with it, more than I thought we would. Lucy's attention for playing is still only about about 2.5 minutes, but Finn can already do a lot of things independently/intuitively, so I'm sure she'll catch on in the next year or so.

Oh oh! I also meant to mention a couple of things we got for nieces/nephews that I would really REALLY recommend. The first is the Richard Scarry Busy Town board game:

I like it so much that I inadvertently got it for my sister Kristin's kids both this year and last year - luckily I had a sneaking suspicion that I had done this, checked (and confirmed), and was able to turn around and give it to my sister Stacey's daughter instead. Busy Town for everyone! It is a cute game that is way less frustrating for kids (and parents) than Chutes and Ladders or Candyland (no going ALL the way back to the beginning for anyone).

I also found a couple of non-traditional "Princess as the strong heroine" books that I gave to my nieces Penny and JoJo, and now I'm thinking they may need to be a birthday gift for Lucy. They are MUCH better/more interesting than the drivel Disney puts out. One book is called The Apple Pip Princess, and the other is The Paper Bag Princess.

Finally, my newest niece, Alexa, is just a year old (ALMOST! A few days and counting!), and she is preceded by two much older brothers. Her house is sadly bereft of girly things. To help her start the battle against the hockey equipment and Nerf guns, we gave her this hilariously adorable Little People Wonder Woman toy:

Is that not one of the cutest things you've ever seen for a 1-year-old?

She also got a Hello Kitty hoodie, because every girl should have one of those.


Since I'm ready to be done with writing about Christmas, I'm going to mash my Christmas cookie report-out onto the bottom of this post. I went nuts on Pinterest, pinning about a dozen different cookie and candy recipes with the intention of making them all. Reality set in, and I had to scale back my plans a bit. But I still managed to make about 6 different types of cookies. They were all good (hard to beat the butter-sugar-flour-vanilla combination), but some were definite keepers. I'm just going to post a link to the original recipe for each one rather than including the recipes themselves here (credit where credit due, yo), but I will make a note if I substantially changed anything.

Roll Out Sugar Cookies: This is my second year making these (pictures from last year are here). They are delicious, and fun for the kids to decorate. For frosting, I just used the recipe on the Dominos confectioner's sugar box. I made a double batch and then used Wilton gel food coloring to make a bunch of different colors. I will definitely continue making these.

Chocolate Roll Out Sugar Cookies: This was my first time making these. The dough was really hard to work with (I chilled it for the required amount of time, but it almost seemed TOO long, because I had a tough time rolling it out), but the cookies tasted awesome, so I'll probably make these again. These were decorated at the same time we did the regular roll out sugar cookies.

Soft Almond Sugar Cookies: These are not roll out cookies; instead, they are formed into balls and then rolled in Turbinado sugar. They were so soft and yummy - another definite keeper.

Chocolate Chunk Peppermint Pudding Cookies: These were SO GOOD. This is a recipe where I had to make some substitutions. I couldn't find Devil's Food pudding, so I used regular chocolate pudding. I also searched high and low for the Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips the recipe called for, but could not find them anywhere. So instead, I bought a few bars of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint bark and chopped them up. They worked great, and the cookies turned out to be one of my favorites.

Thumbprint Cookies: I think these were my absolute favorite cookies. I made them with strawberry preserves, apricot preserves, and lemon curd. They were awesome. I may need to double the batch next year.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies: These were almost too rich for me. I guess I prefer a little flour in my cookie (they are flourless, which is great for the gluten-free crowd). Not sure I'll make again.

Peppermint Kiss Sugar Cookies: I think I prefer the version of these cookies that are made with peanut butter cookies and regular Hershey's Kisses. Too minty for me, but the kids loved them. I'm on the fence about making them again.

So there you have it - a rundown on the 6 - no wait, 7 - God, I have a problem - batches of Christmas cookies I made this past year.

These pictures were taken when I was only 3 cookie types in to the baking process. Also, what does it say about me that I wrote much of this post while watching the latest Biggest Loser episode?

I may need an intervention next year.