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Baking Bonanza & Tying up Loose Ends

Merry Christmas Eve!

I hope all your presents are wrapped, your baking is done, and you’re now able to relax, enjoy, and CELEBRATE the holiday with your family (or enjoy the weekend if you aren’t a Christmas celebrator).

Unlike years past where I have every fancy bow tied and tucked under the tree at least a week ahead of time, I spent the first half of the Packer game wrestling ribbons, bows, and paper in a frantic chaos to get everything done. Whew.

As we did last year, Ben and I celebrated our final working day of the year by having an extremely early breakfast and the little coffee shop by our house. I start my day in the office at 6:30, so we were outside as soon as they opened at 6am. Early, early start!

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But that meant we could enjoy a quiet breakfast and good company. It makes me feel spoiled when we have a special breakfast like this together.

And it doesn’t hurt when we can catch special Pokemon while we eat!

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My boss never does anything special for our department during the year. There’s no activity or free pizza or anything like that, which really stinks. But I planned a food day so at least we could get together as a team right before the holidays. We had lots of really creative and delicious food: homemade chili, chicken curry salad with grapes and cantaloupe (so good!), taco dip, a Christmas veggie tree, homemade spicy pecan cheeseball, cranberry cream cheese tortilla pinwheels, jam bars, and cucumber flower sandwiches.

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Sometimes it can be a pain to have to bring a big dish of stuff to work but it’s always a lot of fun sampling everyone’s favorite dishes.

Yesterday was our official start of “Christmas Vacation” and we did a quick trip to the store for baking items and then hunkered in with Christmas tunes blaring as we baked up a storm (while the actual storm passed through outside).

2pm – about 2 hours into the storm. hard to see on camera but note the accumulation on the branches

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4pm – again, note the branches on the trees:

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We had originally planned to go to the local botanical gardens to see their Christmas display but the roads looked terrible so we opted to just snuggle in at home.

We tried a new eggnog cookie this year: eggnog snickerdoodles. The recipe made a HUGE batch, which means plenty for sharing! Ben has been a nutmeg snob ever since grating his own fresh nutmeg on our eggnogs last Christmas. This was no exception – Ben grated all the nutmeg for every recipe.

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He’s also my official hug-unwrapper!

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Ben also made the caramel puffcorn – which is now becoming the tradition of what we’re expected to bring for Christmas every year.

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I worked on the toffee and just like last year, managed to get a tiny speck on my finger. Ouch! I’ve got quite the red welt now and even a day later, it really hurts. Just before Thanksgiving our grocery store had a mega sale on organic pasture butter (84% butterfat – supposedly amazing for baking). Usually it runs about $4 for the equivalent of two sticks of butter – so it’s something I VERY rarely purchase. But with the sale and in-store coupons, I snagged every single package they had for just $1.50 each. Boom!

I made the toffee with this butter expecting it to be this wickedly luscious and rich tasting melt-in-your-mouth treat, but it never fully incorporated into the sugar. Instead, I had this thin layer of grease (butterfat?) on the top. Luckily when it cooled it absorbed right in and was indeed delicious and buttery, but there was definitely some panic wondering if it was going to work out!

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Another tradition of ours is to have breakfast on Christmas Eve morning and either A: leave the waitress a ridiculously large tip or B: secretly buy someone’s breakfast for them. we ended up leaving the big tip this year and enjoyed massively large specialty pancakes along with eggs, sausage, and hash browns.

Ben with his dark chocolate peppermint pancakes (so outrageous):

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My eggnog pancakes with a luscious eggnog filling:

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We didn’t finish our cakes. They needed to have been half that size. 🙂

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So now that I’m done baking and wrapping, I’m enjoying a little lull before all the hustle and bustle begins. My family is due over in a bit and then we’re off to drive around looking at Christmas lights. Tomorrow morning we’re heading to Ben’s family in the morning and then my family in the afternoon.

Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it!

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